Fragment of a Crucifixion

  • 1950
  • Francis Bacon
  • oil, cotton wool on canvas
  • 158,4 x 127,4 x 9 cm (incl. lijst / frame)
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1966
  • Inventory number 14

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A dark T shape and two white human figures are dominant in 'Fragment of a Crucifixion'. The T shape can be seen as a cross, but it can also be read as a wall in a room. In this case the fields on either side are the windows through which you see a 1950s streetscape. The lower figure is reminiscent of a crucified Christ, but he has been painted too small to really be hanging on the cross. Furthermore, his arms seem to be moving. He comes forward into the space, but remains hanging on a structure of wires painted with white lines. The other figure can be related to the deposition from the cross, but also appears to be chasing the crucified figure. Bacon painted the figures like shadowy characters. In some places they have a more physical presence because some cotton wool has been glued to them, but a large part of the canvas remains unpainted.

Bacon did several paintings on the theme of crucifixion. On that subject he said: “So many beautiful paintings have been made of the Crucifixion in European art that it serves as a fantastic peg on which to hang all sorts of feelings and sensations.” He did not paint the crucifixion with reference to the religious theme of self-sacrifice. His crucified figure is a mortal in fear of death and trying to escape his destiny. The upper figure, who could be a persecutor or redeemer, also seems to be a victim: he is hanging over the cross, bleeding. Bacon almost always painted tortured people and in many cases, they are in transparent, cage-like structures. Through them Bacon reflected his own feelings about life: a life full of fear, violence, despair and suffering. In the street scene in Fragment of a Crucifixion Bacon turned “suffering” into a modern theme.

He was interested in film, photography and X-rays. The frequently recurring theme of the scream, represented by a wide-open mouth, was based on a screaming nurse in Eisenstein’s film 'Battleship Potemkin'. The shadowy aspect of many of Bacon’s figures was based on films of people who are moving or blurred recordings on X-rays. Because of their indistinct shape, these figures become pitiable lumps of meat, white and bleeding at the same time. Their position, and the suggested movement above all emphasise their psychological suffering.

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