For Lent 2017 St Stephen Walbrook is exhibiting Crucifixion drawings by Francis Bacon from “The Francis Bacon Collection of the drawings donated to Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino”. Between 1977 and 1992 Francis Bacon donated to an intimate Italian friend a considerable number of drawings, pastels and collages. Today those drawings are part of a collection which has previously been exhibited in Bologna, Venezia, London, Madrid, Zurich, Buenos Aires, Twain and Treviso among other locations
The image of crucifixion was consistently utilised by Francis Bacon in his art to think about all life’s horror as he could not find a subject as valid to embrace all the nuances of human feelings and behaviours. This exhibition of crucifixion drawings by Bacon provides an opportunity to explore why the image of the crucified Christ retained its power for an avowed atheist such as Bacon and to reflect on the horror of the suffering that Christ endured for humanity.
Revd Jonathan Evens says: ‘Francis Bacon rather obsessively revisited religious imagery in his iconic paintings. The subject of the crucifixion preoccupied him throughout his life as he made at least eight major Crucifixion paintings, spanning five decades, including the work that launched his career, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Bacon thought that this subject, more than any other, had the validity to embrace all the nuances of human feelings and behaviours that enable us to think about all life’s horror. Bacon’s basing of his godless images on an image freighted and weighted with salvific power highlights its enduring impact, even in the secular West and even in the work of an avowed atheist. The bleak obscuring of features in Bacon’s images of Christ reveals the emanation of love which leads Christ into nothingness. For all these reasons, Bacon’s crucifixion drawings deserve the interest of Christians, as well as that of art historians or art lovers, and reward informed reflection and contemplation.’
In his recollections of Francis Bacon, Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino suggests that: ‘It is completely wrong to see Francis Bacon as a determined blasphemer and convinced atheist. As a matter of fact, and paradoxically, Francis was almost more fascinating in what he thought about religion than in what he actually painted. This man frequently described (first, by we journalists) like a merciless satanic drunkard was one of the most pitifully charitable people I ever met.’ He suggests that ‘Bacon was a gambler, but he was a gambler more in hiding himself from people than in actually playing roulette.’
London based public art collaborative Art Below will feature selected works from the exhibition in stations including Bond Street, Green Park and St. Paul’s from the 13th March for two weeks. www.artbelow.org.uk
• Monday 6 March, 5.00pm: Francis Bacon & The Crucifixion – lectures by Edward Lucie-Smith & Revd Jonathan Evens • Monday 6 March, 6.30pm: Preview & opening night reception
• Monday 13 March, 6.30pm: The Crucifixion in modern art & Poetry reading – Revd Jonathan Evens (lecture) & Rupert Loydell (poetry reading)
• Wednesday 29 March, 7.00pm: concert by Claudio Crismani
Edward Lucie-Smith is an internationally known art critic and historian.
Revd Jonathan Evens is priest-in-charge of St Stephen Walbrook and Associate Vicar Partnerships at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
Rupert Loydell is Senior Lecturer in English with Creative Writing at Falmouth University, a widely exhibited painter of small abstract paintings, and a much-anthologised and -published poet.
Italian pianist Claudio Crismani ‘is an amazing, daring and magnetic artist.’