All Too Human, Bacon, Freud And A Century Of Painting Life

A crucial but often overlooked part of anatomy is the study of morphometry, understanding how parts of an organism vary quantitatively, it gives us information about how form and function varies with age, gender and also can help us know how we’ve changed as a species through our evolution. Appreciation for the shape and proportions of the human form isn’t limited to scientific disciplines, but also permeates every style of art. So when I heard about the All Too Human exhibit, I had to go and see it at the Tate Britain, especially as it contains one my favourite artists, Lucian Freud. I’ve tried to take plenty of photographs for you to enjoy and also given you some rambling commentary.

I’ll be straight with you now, I’m not a huge Francis Bacon fan, without sounding like a complete philistine I admit I’ve not actually seen any of his works in person until today, I can hear the gasps! One of my early lessons on my journey to appreciating art was that the real work, in the flesh so to speak was nearly always a more intense sensory experience than even the best published image. So I came here with eyes and mind wide open.

Out of all of his paintings displayed, the Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X was stunning. This haunting painting was Francis’ reinterpretation of Diego Velazquez original painting of Pope Innocent X. The wall panel description mentioned that Francis had shown the Pope as a secular-looking individual, which I completely agree with, to me it was like Francis was mocking the very piety of the Pope portrayed in Diego’s work, almost as though Francis is exposing the person beneath the religious garb.

The other painting, which unfortunately isn’t in the photographs I’ve taken, was his Study of a Baboon, this image beautifully captures the shrieking baboon with vivid intensity, almost like you could hear it.  So how do I feel about Francis Bacon now, I’m not saying I’m now a convert, but I can certainly see that all of the paintings I saw today, capture a raw intensity and energy, and for me, Art has to stir some sort of response, his work definitely does. I think I ‘ll certainly be spending more time looking at his work.

Another artist that particularly caught my attention was Francis Newton Souza. I’d never come across his work before, F N Souza was an Indian artist who was particularly known for his depictions of Christ and his erotic nudes. I never thought I’d use Christ and erotic nudes in the same sentence. Anyway, I’ve included a couple of photographs of his works, Crucifixion and Black Nude.

In the last room, there was a particular painting, a large piece which was causing people to stop suddenly as they walked into the room and turn around. This piece shows a girls face on its side, looking straight at you, it appears as though her skin is damaged, though I wasn’t sure whether she had blood on her face or she was burnt, see what you think, the image is in the gallery. Interestingly the artist Jenny Saville prefers not to use life models, instead, prefers painting from photographs of pictures of burns and skin wounds. The painting, its orange hue, piercing eyes and damaged skin had everyone enthralled.

Finally, Lucian Freud, a large room in the gallery was dedicated to his work, I’ve taken several photographs for you to enjoy. To me, a lot of his work doesn’t appear to be particular lifelike, in the photographic sense of the word I mean. I can imagine people freaking out over that comment. As an anatomist, I’ve seen more lifelike painted renditions of the human form, but its his appreciation for the varying morphology of the human form which is so engaging. He’s painted the young, old, thin and obese all in a captivating and aesthetically pleasing manner. I can stand in front of his painting for ages, trying to understand the mood of his subjects, thinking about what had possessed them to pose for him. Many of his subjects seem so far from the idealised concept of the perfect body propagated today. Reading about him, you realise he didn’t care about conforming, to him human flaws and our deterioration as living beings was more important than seeking perfection.

If you are going to be in London in the next few months (exhibition ends 27th August 2018), I would thoroughly recommend a detour to the Tate Britain. It is a paid exhibit, but there are concessions for students. As well as the artist mentioned above, the exhibition also contains works by Frank Auerbach, R.B Kitaj and Paula Rego to mention but a few.

Categories: Art