Couplings, an exhibition of Francis Bacon’s raw, physical, and somehow controversial paintings presented at Gagosian until 3rd August, is an absolute must-see; one the Summer season’s highlights.
This remarkable exhibition explores Bacon’s interest in the physicality, voyeurism, sexual tension and intimacy. Central to the exhibition are two of the most graphic visuals that Bacon ever painted: Two Figures (1953) and Two Figures in the Grass (1954). These works have not been publicly juxtaposed since Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971.
After completing Two Figures in the Grass, Bacon did not return to the subject until 1967, the year that homosexual acts in private were decriminalized in England and Wales. That same year he painted Two Figures on a Couch (1967), which was last exhibited in London in 1968 and is also included in the show.
Finding that the physical presence of his subjects could prove inhibiting, Bacon painted his figures and portraits both from memory and from photographs—his own, as well as Eadweard Muybridge’s dynamic studies of people in motion, including male wrestlers.
“Although Bacon was sometimes reluctant to specifically identify the subjects of his paintings, a number of the works in Couplings (a term the artist himself used) were inspired by his violent and passionate partners. His affair with Peter Lacy, a former fighter pilot whom he met in 1952, cooled off after Lacy moved to Tangier, Morocco, in 1956, where Bacon visited him every summer until 1961. But even after Lacy died in 1962, Bacon continued to paint portraits of him, recalling intensely intimate moments in their relationship.”