Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso are prominentartists to analyze. Bacon, a British painter, painted Painting with oil and pastel on linen in 1946. On the otherhand, Picasso, a Spanish painter, created Harlequinin late 1915 in oil on canvas. Bacon represents the existentialism whilePicasso demonstrates the abstract expressionism movement. This analysis willfurther compare their differences in style approach, art historical andsocietal ideas.
Tobegin with, both Bacon’s Paintingand Picasso’s Harlequin areportraits. Both paintings present figures in distorted forms with juxtaposingstyles. In Painting, it isevident how Bacon makes a wild movement with one brush stroke. The viewer canalso tell the artist uses big brushes in order to express the wildness in thework.
Also, the marks made through paint application are very expressionistic,aggressive, and rough. Moreover, some of his solid shapes are thinly yetopaquely painted which links back with how Gorky paints in Garden in Sochi, no. 3. In fact, Picasso’s Harlequin does have similareffect of opaqueness in paint.
Yet, the movement of the brushstrokes are notvisible than that of Bacon’s. Another visual difference between these artistsis the range of color. For instance, Bacon uses broad palette in his paintingwhile majority of the colors remain in the ‘red’ or the ‘blue’ groups. Due tothis, the painting seems to be in same value even though there is clear senseof light and dark. In Picasso’s Harlequin,the contrast in light and dark is stronger as the color strongly differs. Forinstance, the beige color shapes against the black separate the formsdistinctively.
Yet, Bacon’s work seems to infuse all the colors into one. In addition,it is interesting how both artists have collage-like compositions in theirpaintings, compressing all the subject matters in one space. However, the maindifference is the dimensionality within the painting. The big, solid shapes inHarlequin are collaged into each other, creating flatness in the work. On theother hand, Bacon collages his form, provoking clear sense of space of whatrecedes and advances.
Although Painting also has flat elements, the space Baconcreates makes the artwork more three-dimensional. There is main difference between Bacon and Picasso interms of conceptual approach too. Harlequin is presented in the diamondpatterned costume which the figure evident in Picasso’s painting.
The figureitself is a “symbolic representation1″of Picasso. Picasso was fascinated by the idea of an outsider as it connectswith his isolation in society as an artist. However, in Bacon’s Painting, theartist explicates how he paints in his unconscious mind. Bacon once said he wasplanning to make “bird alighting on a field2.
“Yet, the artist ended up creating different narrative and scene. His narrativeexplicates the brutality and violence in relation to crucifixion. For instance,the slaughtered meat and curtain-like forms, hanging and stretching across thecanvas, act as strong metaphors to crucifixion.
In fact, Bacon did getinspiration from slaughterhouses and meats too. Baconadapted to surrealist automatism, which allowed his paintings to provoke peculiarvisual experience, even connecting with the existentialism. He did start offwith conscious subject matter, while freely exploring his feelings within it. Thedream-like quality he brought in Paintingreally shows the connection to surrealism. Also, as Bacon emerged at end ofWorld War II, his experience reflected in his painting. For instance, the blackfigure, portrayed in Painting withonly teeth visible, was inspired from wartime news. The raw meat connects withhis personal experience going to butcher’s shop. The artist found inner beautywithin fear, and translated this visual language in his own expression in art.
On the other hand, Picasso at this time was still focusing in abstraction. Thefigure is highly distorted in terms of proportion too as the diamond patternsare inconsistent forms. Picasso seems to intend this to blur or abandon theconnection between himself and his identity. For instance, the rectangle shapebeside the harlequin is distracting the attention toward the figure. Even thebrushstrokes are looser and expressionistic compared to his overall strokes inthe painting. Moreover, when Picasso was creating Harlequin, Eva Gouel, his mistress, passed away.
As such,the black background of this painting became the artist’s way of mourning thedead. Also, Gouel’s death acted as “period of social transition3″in Picasso’s life too. To conclude, these artworks shed light towardmodernity. Not only these paintings but the artists, themselves, are one of theepitomes toward modern art. They could be both seen as expressionist. Yet, thevisual impacts brought from Bacon and Picasso highly differ in terms of color,brushstrokes, societal idea behind and movement they were inspired or exploringfrom.
Their freedoms in expression and artistic style further inspire the aspiringartists in the present. 1http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/documents/educ_guide_picasso.pdf2http://www.theartstory.org/artist-bacon-francis-artworks.htm3https://www.swarthmore.edu/writing/self-identity-and-picassos-harlequin