The Sacred and the Profane

Francis Bacon, it seems liked to drink and talk day and night (Hui commented in that way I am like him). That was part of the personal insight into the life of this provocative artist provided by author Michael Peppiatt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 23 in his lecture titled Francis Bacon: The Sacred and the Profane.

Peppiatt is in a position to know much about Bacon, having spent a considerable amount of time with him–drinking and talking. Peppiatt says Bacon brought with him a aura of freedom and vitality, with the power of the man not unlike the power of his paintings.

“The paintings would get into your blood and you were never the same again,” Peppiatt says. “They would poke and disturb the most fundamental areas of our identity.”

That identity, he continues, is stretched between irreconcilable extremes. One stretch perhaps being between Bacon’s professed atheism and the religious themes of his paintings.

But why did an artist so profoundly atheist return time and time again to paintngs of the crucifixion and popes?

I’m not sure the question was answered, but I suppose it’s more important it’s asked. Peppiatt conveyed that Bacon refused personal or biographical interpretations of his art. After his death in 1992, however there have been freer and more diverse interpretations.

Bacon, it seems, may have come to the profane through the sacred and were in a way an enactment of a ritual.

“We live in a period lacking in contemporary myth,” Peppiatt says adding that for Bacon the sacred and profane are so intermingled they become indistinguishable. In his works, myths may be crystalized in an intensity of (profane) feeling. For me it would seem that feeling is more introspect than it is aggressive, though admittedly I have not spent much time with his work (hey, life is short and there’s always more to drink, right?)

Francis Bacon’s Provocative Works are featured in a major retrospective through August 16 at the Met. Drawn from public and private collections around the world, this landmark exhibition consists of some 65 paintings, complemented by never-before-seen works and archival material from the Francis Bacon Estate, which will shed new light on the artist’s career and working practices. The Metropolitan Museum is the sole U.S. venue of the exhibition tour.

Click here for the audio slides show from the New Yorker.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url will point to the latest updates on this weblog.


I guess it is hard to deny the existence of religion and how it influences people and artists. The representation of crucifixions and popes in Bacon’s art may be the artist trying to deal with his struggle with religions’s power and allure, while also trying to minimize it.

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