Friday Two Cents: Powerful Exhibit


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This week is was a quiet one, yet something powerful inspired me and made me think of different possibilities.

I went down to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in downtown Toronto for the new Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibit and it blew my mind. The paintings, sketches and sculptures of these two tortured, yet amazing artists truly moved me. The images and shapes fostered from such emotion were at times, haunting.

For those of you who do not know these two artists;

Francis Bacon 1909-1992

Francis Bacon, an extraordinary artist whose work encompasses expressionism, surrealism and cubism. Born in 1909 in Dublin Ireland, to traditional middle class English parents, he was later thrown out of his home when his father caught him wearing his mother’s underwear. Since the age of 16 he has been on his own in a world that does not understand and rejects his homosexuality. He lived through the London Blitz of World War II, which greatly affected his work. He died in 1992 in Madrid Spain.

 

Henry Moore 1898-1986

Henry Moore’s work is best described as Modernist, semi-abstract. Born in Castleford England in 1898 to working parents, specifically his father worked in the coal-mines. His father was determined that his sons would not work in the mines and encouraged education above all.

At 18 he volunteered for army service in World War I and was a member of the Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles regiment and was one of 56 to survive a gas attack during the Battle of Cambrai. He lived through the war and also witnessed the London Blitz, which also greatly affected his work. He died in 1986 in Much Hanham, United Kingdom.

These two extraordinary artists have different styles, but they did a lot of work centering on the human form, which is displayed at the AGO in the exhibit. Moore’s work is hauntingly beautiful with a lot of his inspiration coming during the Blitz and witnessing how people lived in the London underground during the bombing. Yet Bacon’s work borders on the frightening.

The amazing thing is that these two artists lived during the same time period, yet had such different views of humanity. Bacon thought that humanity was violent, cruel and no good can come from them, yet Moore saw the same but said that there is still hope for humanity. You can see this in their works.

You can see the contrast between the two in the exhibit at the AGO. Moore’s depiction of people laying together in the underground shows how people can come together during times of hardship to comfort one another. Where Bacon’s works are dark and shows the cruel side of what people can do. However the most scary and haunting pieces are that of Bacon’s painting of Velázquez’s great Portrait of Pope Innocent X. Bacon continually painted different version of this portrait of the pope and each one was dark and full of pain. Many speculate why he would paint this pope because the original portrait was painted in 1650, 300 years earlier. Yet it is my belief that the image is a representation of Bacon’s father. Sternly staring at him, passing judgment on him and whatever he is doing in his life.

Velázquez’s great Portrait of Pope Innocent X (left) and Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953 (right)

 

The exhibit at the AGO is a masterpiece of combining and comparing these two great artists. If you are in Toronto and want to see and feel what these artists felt, I would strongly suggest you go to the AGO. I am sure you will find it as moving and powerful experience as I did.

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