Study from a human body
Right panel of the triptych
There are three large-format etchings and aquatints, which show his self-portraits and his characters.
These engravings were made in co-edition with the Marlborough gallery in London, which presented them on 7 October together with the artist's latest works, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Marlborough headquarters in Madrid.
Francis Bacon (1909-92) was an exclusively painter almost to the extreme. Only recently had he allowed himself to be convinced by a magician of the press that it is Valter Rossi who tries his hand at engraving. The artist was very old and run down, plus he brought with him a reputation for indifference and rebelliousness that made him ungovernable. The Reds had planned a series of etchings with him, of which only three were successful and completed before his death; the others remained sketchy insufficient even to give an idea of the master's intentions.
Bacon had reported early. A '31 Crucifixion 'had been published by Herbert Read. His production is conspicuous despite the ferocious aesthetic self-censorship that led him to destroy an immense amount of paintings. If the unicum was unlikely to satisfy him, one can imagine how distrustful he had to look at sets of engravings that were all the same: to normalize the exception. It was Fabrizio Clerici who showed me the way to identify with Bacon's work when, cutting short with the discussions on the formal qualities of composition and brushstroke, he said to me: "Look at what Bacon was able to say about the sordidity of 'soul". Bacon, therefore, has abolished for himself the problem of beautiful painting (in this sense a part of his production is poor), giving the contents a violent value of form. When he paints a room he does not allude to "this particular room" rather he wants to make "a claustrophobic sense of enclosure". “Man now understands that he is an accident; to be completely futile that he has to play the game without reason ... every form of art has become a game with which man is distracted ... in my case every painting - and the older I get, the more it is - is an accident ».
With this spirit we understand the difficulties that Bacon has placed in the serial reproducibility of an anguish, of a state of mind. Yet, the collaboration was fruitful, the three licensed prints have the peremptory clarity of the Irish master's postulates plus the search for nuances, delicate transitions, luminescences that the printer managed to preserve as if they were paintings. In the most violent image a man is seated frontally, a newspaper or a poster at his feet. it would seem an African idol were it not for the brutality of the twist and the expressionistic deformation of the face to turn the apparent hieratic nature of the setting into violence. A black crossing the simplified field in two squares, black and orange, is the subject of the second engraving. Also in the third the space is synthesized by three squares one inside the other. It looks like Albers, but the goal is not pacifying and sensual, it is dynamic and strong. In this third engraving with a self-portrait taken from a youthful photograph, Bacon left a sort of spiritual testament: an image of youth and exasperated contentment. To find the exact shade of the. color it took several work sessions and finally it was possible to find the right shade only by working at the same time and with identical daylight conditions.