Francis in paint. Yet, the movement of the

Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso are prominent
artists to analyze. Bacon, a British painter, painted Painting with oil and pastel on linen in 1946. On the other
hand, Picasso, a Spanish painter, created Harlequin
in late 1915 in oil on canvas. Bacon represents the existentialism while
Picasso demonstrates the abstract expressionism movement. This analysis will
further compare their differences in style approach, art historical and
societal ideas.

      To
begin with, both Bacon’s Painting
and Picasso’s Harlequin are
portraits. Both paintings present figures in distorted forms with juxtaposing
styles. In Painting, it is
evident how Bacon makes a wild movement with one brush stroke. The viewer can
also tell the artist uses big brushes in order to express the wildness in the
work. Also, the marks made through paint application are very expressionistic,
aggressive, and rough. Moreover, some of his solid shapes are thinly yet
opaquely painted which links back with how Gorky paints in Garden in Sochi, no. 3. In fact, Picasso’s Harlequin does have similar
effect of opaqueness in paint. Yet, the movement of the brushstrokes are not
visible than that of Bacon’s. Another visual difference between these artists
is the range of color. For instance, Bacon uses broad palette in his painting
while majority of the colors remain in the ‘red’ or the ‘blue’ groups. Due to
this, the painting seems to be in same value even though there is clear sense
of light and dark. In Picasso’s Harlequin,
the contrast in light and dark is stronger as the color strongly differs. For
instance, the beige color shapes against the black separate the forms
distinctively. 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 their
paintings, compressing all the subject matters in one space. However, the main
difference is the dimensionality within the painting. The big, solid shapes in
Harlequin are collaged into each other, creating flatness in the work. On the
other hand, Bacon collages his form, provoking clear sense of space of what
recedes and advances. Although Painting also has flat elements, the space Bacon
creates makes the artwork more three-dimensional.

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             There is main difference between Bacon and Picasso in
terms of conceptual approach too. Harlequin is presented in the diamond
patterned costume which the figure evident in Picasso’s painting. The figure
itself is a “symbolic representation1”
of Picasso. Picasso was fascinated by the idea of an outsider as it connects
with his isolation in society as an artist. However, in Bacon’s Painting, the
artist explicates how he paints in his unconscious mind. Bacon once said he was
planning to make “bird alighting on a field2.”
Yet, the artist ended up creating different narrative and scene. His narrative
explicates the brutality and violence in relation to crucifixion. For instance,
the slaughtered meat and curtain-like forms, hanging and stretching across the
canvas, act as strong metaphors to crucifixion. In fact, Bacon did get
inspiration from slaughterhouses and meats too.

 Bacon
adapted to surrealist automatism, which allowed his paintings to provoke peculiar
visual experience, even connecting with the existentialism. He did start off
with conscious subject matter, while freely exploring his feelings within it. The
dream-like quality he brought in Painting
really shows the connection to surrealism. Also, as Bacon emerged at end of
World War II, his experience reflected in his painting. For instance, the black
figure, portrayed in Painting with
only teeth visible, was inspired from wartime news. The raw meat connects with
his personal experience going to butcher’s shop. The artist found inner beauty
within 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. The
figure is highly distorted in terms of proportion too as the diamond patterns
are inconsistent forms. Picasso seems to intend this to blur or abandon the
connection between himself and his identity. For instance, the rectangle shape
beside the harlequin is distracting the attention toward the figure. Even the
brushstrokes are looser and expressionistic compared to his overall strokes in
the 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 the
dead. Also, Gouel’s death acted as “period of social transition3”
in Picasso’s life too.

To conclude, these artworks shed light toward
modernity. Not only these paintings but the artists, themselves, are one of the
epitomes toward modern art. They could be both seen as expressionist. Yet, the
visual impacts brought from Bacon and Picasso highly differ in terms of color,
brushstrokes, societal idea behind and movement they were inspired or exploring
from. Their freedoms in expression and artistic style further inspire the aspiring
artists in the present.  

 

1
http://www.marquette.edu/haggerty/documents/educ_guide_picasso.pdf

2
http://www.theartstory.org/artist-bacon-francis-artworks.htm

3
https://www.swarthmore.edu/writing/self-identity-and-picassos-harlequin