The Hermitage stages Francis Bacon exhibition in the UK

Mikhail Piotrovksy, director of the Hermitage, visited the opening of Francis Bacon exhibition. Source: Press photo

Mikhail Piotrovksy, director of the Hermitage, visited the opening of Francis Bacon exhibition. Source: Press photo

St. Petersburg museum shares works of the artist with the Sainsbury Center in Norwich.

Russia's famous Hermitage Museum is hosting a major new UK exhibition of art by Francis Bacon and the work of the classical masters that inspired the Dublin-born figurative painter.

Based at the University of East Anglia's Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts in Norwich, the show "Francis Bacon and the Masters" is being held with the support of the Christie's auction house.

Center founders, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury of the famous British supermarket family, were among the early patrons of Bacon. Thirteen works of the artist from their collection form the basis of the exhibition, with paintings and other pieces sourced from some of the largest private and museum collections in the UK and Ireland.

The Hermitage has provided works by classical masters and archaeological exhibits.

Last December, as part of a series of events marking the St Petersburg museum's 250th anniversary, Bacon's works were exhibited at the Hermitage. The Norwich exhibition, which opened April1 8, runs until July 26.


Intellectually surprising

"In St. Petersburg, it was a huge success, the show itself is beautiful, interesting, and reflects the principles of how the Hermitage works with the art world, Mikhail Piotrovksy, director of the Hermitage, told RIA Novosti, adding: "There are a lot of different, rather unexpected intellectual things here."

He is convinced that, despite the fact that the trip to the University of East Anglia from the center of Norwich takes 20 minutes by car, and more than two hours from London, the Sainsbury Center will be besieged by visitors.

"I think people will go there on purpose, since there have been already a lot of interesting articles about the exhibition, and it draws attention," Piotrovsky said.

Professor Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Center, noted that cooperation with the Hermitage represented a major achievement for the Norwich museum.

"It's an incredible honor for us, and not only because we are involved in a project of such a high level, but also because this exhibition marks the continuation of scholarly collaboration with the Hermitage," Greenhalgh told journalists at a preview of the exhibition.


Old and new

In the works of Francis Bacon – one of the most expensive, mysterious and dark contemporary artists – one can observe the interpenetration of many cultural eras and influences.

Enlarged photographs from Bacon's workshop literally 'scream' about the range and diversity of his interests: hundreds of books on art, architecture, cinema, scientific treatises, art albums, paints, palettes, unfinished paintings, reproductions, newspaper clippings, and torn-out book pages form piles so high it is unclear how Bacon was able to move freely about his studio.

"Bacon was revolutionary in many ways, but he knew that every modern artist must learn the art of the past. Of course, exhibitions on Bacon and Velázquez and Bacon and Rembrandt have been held previously, but until now there have been no studies on the scale of this exhibition," said chief curator Thierry Morel, whose last project in 2013, "Houghton Revisited" - an exhibition drawing on paintings from the 18th century collection of the first British prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, was also held in cooperation with the Hermitage.

This is an abridged version of an article first published in Russian in RIA Novosti


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