New show examines artist Bacon's debt to Rembrandt

Fri Oct 7, 2011 6:07am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - An exhibition at a new London gallery examines what its owner believes is a long overlooked subject -- 20th century painter Francis Bacon's debt to 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt.

It was Rembrandt's Spanish contemporary Diego Velazquez who is most closely associated with Bacon in the minds of most art lovers, due to the Irish-born painter's famous series of interpretations of the 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent X.

While the relationship between Bacon and Rembrandt is less obvious, gallery owner Pilar Ordovas believes it was nonetheless crucial to the way the modern artist worked.

"There have not been any exhibitions, any publications, nothing dedicated to the importance of Rembrandt in Bacon's work," she told Reuters at her new Ordovas gallery in central London.

"I really felt that it had been overlooked," added the former Christie's executive who helped negotiate some of the biggest art sales in recent years before leaving for a two-year stint at the Gagosian gallery in London.

"He (Bacon) really looked at Rembrandt, and what he loved about late Rembrandt was the use and the application of paint, how incredibly loose it is and how almost abstracted, but at the same time full of meaning."

The exhibition, "Irrational Marks: Bacon, Rembrandt" opens on Friday at the new space in an exclusive area of the city.

It takes up two of the gallery's white-walled rooms and features several Bacon self-portraits, photographs, a video of Bacon in which he discusses Rembrandt, and, perhaps most impressively, the Dutch master's "Self-Portrait with Beret" from 1659.   Continued...