Tate Britain presents an exhibition entitled All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life which showcases around 100 works by some of the most celebrated modern British artists featuring many works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.
The exhibition explores how generations of British artists began to explore some of the boundaries of figurative painting in the 20th century. Central to the exhibition is the work of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon who began to present more honest depictions of models of all shapes and sizes.
Both Freud and Bacon were following a theme going back to artists like Walter Sickert and Chaïm Soutine in the early 20th century. The first room in the exhibition features work by Sickert, Soutine and Stanley Spencer.
The next room pairs together a series of works by Francis Bacon alongside a sculpture by Giacometti which explores the themes of alienation and isolation.
The exhibition highlights the teaching of William Coldstream at the Slade School of Fine Art and David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic who were considered influential in the encouragement of later artists like Michael Andrews, Euan Uglow , Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff .
All these artists developed their own particular style and the exhibition features Auerbach’s and Kossoff’s fascination with London’s streets and public spaces, F.N. Souza’s spiritual and symbolic figures, and Michael Andrews’s and R.B. Kitaj’s interest in group scenes and storytelling.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the room entitled Lucien Freud: In the Studio in which has a number of the artist’s works including Sleeping by the Lion Carpet 1996 and David and Eli 2003-4. In the preview, two of the models for the paintings were present to come face to face with their representations.
Freud is often associated with Francis Bacon and the next room explores how Bacon often worked from photographs, John Deakin’s portraits of friends and lovers were often the starting point for some of Bacon’s work.
The exhibition also explores how women artists have developed in the traditionally male-dominated field of figurative painting. The works of Paula Rego explores the roles of women in society such as in The Family 1988.
Later Contemporary artists like Cecily Brown, Celia Paul, Jenny Saville and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye began to find ways of taking the painting of figures in new directions.
This fascinating exhibition provides plenty of evidence of the ways that British figurative painters found new and interesting ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th century. Many of the artists moved beyond the superficial to explore some of the deeper elements of the human condition. As the exhibition illustrates, these sometimes expose some of uglier elements of human nature. Artists like Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon and others influenced by the often tragic and dramatic events of the 20th century, perhaps developed more honest depictions of the different sides of human beings.
Video Review available here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here
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