While some artists are establishing contacts with others in order to acquire useful, and sometimes even profitable acquaintances, others are sorting out the relationship throughout their lives. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, two of the world's most famous contemporary artists who have cleverly combined friendship and rivalry for years, were no exceptions.
Lucien was born to Ernst Freud, a Jewish Austrian architect, and was the grandson of the world renowned neurologist Sigmund Freud. In the early 1930s, he emigrated with his family to England, where he was educated at an art school. After serving in the Merchant Marine, Lucien began painting. Freud's early paintings had a surrealist influence, but as his style matured, his art took on a pronounced realism each time.
For decades, Lucien painted intense, dramatic portraits, asking friends, family members, and sometimes even acquaintances to pose for him. Freud's art was very unique, and although he often painted nude men and women, he destroyed the excessive eroticism of nude paintings by showing bodies in a more grotesque and even at times dilapidated light.
Francis Bacon was born to British parents in Dublin, Ireland in 1909. He was simultaneously a descendant and namesake of the famous philosopher, attorney general and Lord Chancellor of England, another Francis Bacon, who lived in the mid 1500s and early 1600s until his death in 1626. Francis grew up in both Ireland and England, studying at home rather than attending school due to severe asthma. His childhood was difficult, in particular due to a difficult relationship with his father, who repeatedly showed cruelty towards the boy.
At seventeen, Francis was kicked out of the house after his father caught him trying on his mother's clothes. The young artist decided to travel to Berlin and France, cities much more acceptable for his homosexuality. In the late 1920s, Bacon returned to London and began working not only as an artist, but also as an interior decorator. His work attracted the attention of critics, and Francis began to sell his art in exhibitions, and his popularity grew steadily.
Francis's paintings distort his plots, often intrusively, in a distinctive style influenced by surrealism. In Bacon's paintings, bold, vibrant colors come together to create the familiar shadows and highlights of the human face. His paintings share strong emotions, both in the faces of his subjects and even in the details of the background. Francis turned to the Old Masters for inspiration, saying that his works "deserve either the National Gallery or the trash can."
In the mid-1940s, Lucien and Francis met and an instant connection was established between them. Although it was a closely guarded secret, the two remained friends for decades, talking almost every day. Together they drew, drank, gambled, and argued frequently. Soon, due to the eternal rivalry, this led to the fact that Lucien lost most of what he had, including his own car.
The men furiously studied each other's work, both literally tore each other to shreds and regularly exchanged harsh criticisms. But at the same time, each of them tried to paint a portrait of the other, thereby expressing their respect and reverence, regarding this as a tribute to friendship.
In addition to his scandalous friendship with Bacon, it was also known that Lucien had several affairs, as well as fourteen children from various mistresses. And it is not surprising that Freud's relationship with children remained difficult throughout his life.
While some of the works of Freud and Bacon bear similarities to each other, they had very different ways of drawing. Francis was quick and spontaneous, portraying more of the subject matter than a realistic depiction of what they looked like. On the other hand, while Lucien was painting the portrait of Bacon, the artist spent much more time, finally completing his friend's portrait three months later. Unfortunately, Freud's portrait of Francis Bacon was stolen in the late 1980s and has never been found.
Working on a series of paintings by his mother, Lucien spent about four thousand hours. While the artists played to the audience, expressing contempt for each other's styles, one thing was clear that despite all their public dislike, they had a significant and significant influence on each other's work and style.
In 1969, Francis wrote Lucien's triptych, but soon after the work was completed, the friendship came to an end. Apparently, the quarrel was the result of Freud's snobbery and Bacon's great dislike for it. However, despite the fact that the couple's paths diverged, the portrait continued to enjoy immense popularity.
In the painting, Freud is sitting on a wooden chair, in a geometric box that frames his body. His face is depicted as an almost swirling, distorted and fragmented mask of flowers. Reds and pinks contrast with deep blues and grays. In each individual painting, the angle at which viewers see Freud changes, at times becoming almost dizzying. A greyish brown color covers the lower half of the paintings, its horizon connecting each painting to each other.
A bright yellow covers the upper halves, creating an even sharper contrast than the colors shading Lucien's face. Like other portraits painted by Francis, one gets the impression that a psychological reflection of the subject is drawn, and not the subject himself. Freud's legs are crossed, each painting depicts a different angle of his feet and legs. While the portrait may have expressed some of Francis Bacon's personal feelings towards Freud, in all of Bacon's paintings there is a feeling that he is painting his own psyche more than the psyche of his subject.
In 2013, this work was sold at Christie's for nearly one hundred and forty-three million dollars, breaking the record for the most expensive artwork sold at auction. The sale broke the previous record for the Scream by Edvard Munch sold at Sotheby's.
While they had a lot of contempt for each other, both personally and artistically, it is clear that the artists had a strong bond. Freud hung one of Bacon's early paintings on his bedroom wall, stating: “I've been looking at it for a long time, and it doesn't get any worse. This is really extraordinary. " Beneath the surface of insults and bickering, there seemed to be a deep admiration and respect for each other.
In 1992, at the age of eighty-two, Francis Bacon died of a heart attack while on vacation in Spain. Lucien passed away in 2011 in London at the age of eighty-eight due to years of fighting disease combined with old age.
Taking into account such a peculiar relationship between the two artists, it is worth noting the fact that each of them left an indelible mark on the history of art, both individually and together, giving the world a lot of impressions from the paintings, looking at which there is definitely something to think about.
In the next article, read also about which famous artist died suddenly under mysterious circumstances and why there is still a lot of disagreement on this score.