Velázquez and Bacon, Pope Innocent X, 1650 / Pope I – Study after Pope Innocent X by Velázquez, 1951
To me, the mystery of painting today is how can appearance be made. I know it can be illustrated, I know it can be photographed. But how can this thing be made so that you can catch the mystery of appearance within the mystery of the making? … One knows that by some accidental brush marks suddenly appearance comes in with a vividness that no accepted way of doing would have brought about.
Francis Bacon, one of the Great Masters of the twentieth century. His paintings are raw, emotional, dark, haunting and often grotesque.
He said he always admired ‘the magnificent colour’ of the Velázquez painting of Pope Innocent X. And that he had nothing against the Popes but merely sought an excuse to work with these colours.
His goal with this series of paintings that he worked on throughout the 50s and 60s (45 in total!) dedicated to the Great Spanish Master was to go beyond both pure representation and pure abstration.
I am sure if we got both Diego and Francis in the same room together they would have much to talk about!
Tid-bit: Bacon’s great-great grandmother Lady Charlotte Harley (apparently a great beauty) was closely associated with Lord Byron.