Bacon vs Moore at the Ashmolean


© Henry Moore Foundation

I will start my post by asking whether curators force a comparison between two artists when there is no obvious relationship between them. The latest example was at Tate Britain, contrasting Gary Hume with Patrick Caulfield, which I failed to comprehend the rationale of. The comparison by the Ashmolean museum between Bacon and Moore is more valid in my view; Bacon had approached Moore for sculpture lessons, as a matter of fact.

Of course, an exhibition that would contrast Moore and Picasso would have been more evident. I can picture a confrontation of Picasso’s monumental women of his neoclassical period to Moore’s female sculptures’ minuscule extremities. Moore admired Rodin and Michelangelo, though they didn’t influence him hugely given the smooth texture of his own sculptures. I never thought of Moore as not joyful; however his body deformations certainly render his sculptures gloomy.

Bacon was perhaps the first artist I changed my mind on after seeing a solo show. I didn’t understand the fuss about him until I saw Tate Britain show in 2008. While Moore deforms human bodies in his sculptures, Bacon not only deforms but removes/mutilates human organs, twists muscles, and punches faces in his paintings. Seeing again his works at the Ashmolean museum made me notice that Bacon’s subjects were often viewed from above; even if raised on a chair or platform. I also became curious about Bacon’s application of paint, which I imagine energetic.

‘Francis Bacon / Henry Moore: Flesh and Bone’ is presented at the Ashmolean museum in Oxford until January 19, 2014 and at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) from April 5 to July 20, 2014. The exhibition is relatively small but worth the day trip from London. You can combine it with a visit of the permanent collection, as well as an afternoon tea at the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, facing the Ashmolean, which we happily did.

20131228-120008.jpg © Estate of Francis Bacon

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