Starting on 7 December 2014, the Francis Bacon and the Heritage of the Past exhibition is opening at the General Staff Building to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage. This exhibition is part of the 2014 UK-Russia Year of Culture and was prepared by the State Hermitage in collaboration with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts of the University of East Anglia, Norwich.
The exposition includes thirteen paintings by Francis Bacon from the collection of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. They all come from the collection of Lisa and Robert Sainsbury, the painter’s first and most generous patrons who gave him substantial moral and financial support during his hardest years. Most of these paintings were produced in the 1950s — early 1960s and form the basis of the collection to which other works by the artist were added later. The exhibition also includes paintings from the Tate Gallery, London; the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, USA; the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, as well as from private collections. Thus, Lord Douro’s collection provided Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X which is a version of the painting from the Doria Pamphilj Gallery. The image of the Pope created by the great Spanish painter served as inspiration for many of Bacon’s paintings.
The exhibition is complemented by works of art from the collection of the State Hermitage, from ancient Egypt’s masterpieces and Greek and Roman plastic arts to paintings by Velazquez and Rembrandt, Matisse and Picasso, and sculptures by Michelangelo and Rodin. Francis Bacon, like many other artists, looks back at his predecessors, studies and uses the experience of the great masters of the past as well as his contemporaries. The materials that used to be preserved in his studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London and that are now at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin give us an opportunity to reflect on the artist’s world, get to know his creative method, identify the sources of certain images in his works, to which ancient, classic and contemporary art made such an important contribution.
The main purpose of the exhibition is to get people to think about art and creativity. Nothing facilitates reflection as much as comparison. This exhibition provides the ground for such reflection.
The British painter Francis Bacon (1909–1992) is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. His works constitute some of the most important exhibits in contemporary art galleries throughout the world; private collectors invest fortunes into his paintings. Numerous exhibitions are dedicated to his art, which became the object of study by art historians, psychologists and philosophers. Like any other major cultural phenomenon, Bacon’s works don’t only reflect the artist’s complex inner world, but also represent the times and circumstances in which he lived and worked.