Sunday, March 21, 2021

Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion: Studies by Francis Bacon

Who do we usually see at the foot of Jesus' cross? The Beloved Disciple. Mary, Jesus' mother. Other women who had followed and supported Jesus. Sometimes the Roman centurion who confessed this Jesus as the son of God. These figures are sometimes stoic, sometimes emotional. Sometimes the look at Jesus, other times they weep. Sometimes their hands look like they are folded in prayer, sometimes they look like they are clenched in fists. Do they ever look like this? Or do the figures in more realistic works look like they feel like this? 
Francis Bacon. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. 1944. London: Tate Gallery. 

Irish-born painter Francis Bacon created Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944. The work was first exhibited in April 1945. World War II engulfed the globe, but the world was just beginning to see the horrors of Nazi concentration camps through footage released. Experiences of horror and revulsion are readily present in the world. 

The artist said the figures were inspired not by images of Jesus' crucifixion, but rather by the Furies, goddesses of vengeance in Greek mythology who dispensed judgment to those who committed crimes. The format of the triptych (with its three panels) and the use of the word crucifixion nevertheless call to mind the tradition of paintings of Jesus' death. 

Consider other images of the crucifixion (here, here, and here are three). Who is at the foot of the cross in your image of the crucifixion? How are they responding to what they see?

On Facebook this week, see Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Crucifixion.

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