Francis Bacon Pink Crawling Figure c.1957–61

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Artwork details

Artist
Francis Bacon 1909–1992
Title
Pink Crawling Figure
Date c.1957–61
Medium Oil paint and ink on paper
Dimensions Support: 340 x 270 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998
Reference
T07378
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

T07378

Oil and ballpoint pen on white wove paper
340 x 270 (13 3/8 x 10 5/8)
Purchased from Paul Danquah and Peter Pollock with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli, 1998

Provenance:
Acquired from the artist (by 1961)

Exhibited:
Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, Tate Gallery, London, Feb.-April 1999 (28, repr. in col.)

Literature:
Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.25-6

Of the four consecutive compositions of crawling figures, Pink Crawling Figure was probably made first and was the basis from which Blue Crawling Figure, no.2 (T07377) and, in turn, Crawling Figure (private collection),[1] and then Blue Crawling Figure, no.1 (T07376) were traced. In some respects this first attempt was the most resolved: it has been through a number of different stages in which the relationship of the figure to its space has been developed. In common with the following sheet, Bending Figure, no.2 (T07379), the preliminary details were drawn in blue ball-point pen, establishing the location of the figure on some sort of bed in front of an opening or frame. The line was swift rather than anatomically accurate, and this sense of speed was followed in the application of pink and dark blue paint which was also used for the surrounding frames and the smaller opening which isolates the upper body. Though abbreviated as means, the effect of the two melded colours is to suggest the rounding of form in the back and thigh and a sense of the fall of light. Comparable effects are achieved on other sheets from the same spiral sketchbook, such as Figure with Left Arm Raised, no.2 (T07362).


The posture of the figure in Pink Crawling Figure suggests both psychological and physical pressure, as does Blue Crawling Figure, no.2 on the preceding page and Bending Figure, no.2, which (judging by the oils stains) followed it after at least one missing sheet. The bowed head and the body hardly raised from the horizontal seem as much under strain as those bracing themselves to lift a weight. The setting is perhaps more intimate and domestic than that of these other sketches. The pose may loosely relate to and reverse that of Eadweard Muybridge’s wrestlers,[2] which Bacon had used in the mid 1950s.[3] In the light of this, as well as the pictorial resolution of the sketches, it is perhaps surprising that the composition does not appear in any extant canvas.


Note:
This is one of twenty-six works on paper from the same spiral bound sketchbook showing perforations along the left hand side; general issues relating to their creation and preservation are discussed in the entry on Two Owls, no.1 (Tate Gallery T07355).

Matthew Gale
February 1999


[1] Repr. in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.25, fig.15

[2] Eadweard Muybridge, The Human Figure in Motion, London 1901, p.75, series 30
[3] Two Figures, 1953, private collection, repr., Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, p.81, no.75 (col.) and Two Figures in the Grass, 1954, private collection, repr. ibid., p.85, no.80 (col.)

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