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  • ‘”… to give the sensation without the boredom of conveyance”: Francis Bacon and the Aesthetic of Ambiguity’

Walsh, Victoria, 2009, Journal Article, ‘”… to give the sensation without the boredom of conveyance”: Francis Bacon and the Aesthetic of Ambiguity’ Visual Culture in Britain. ISSN 1471-4787

Abstract or Description:

Walsh was invited by Professor David Mellor to write this 5,000-word article for a special volume on the artist Francis Bacon following a major international conference she conceived and organised at Tate Britain to coincide with a retrospective of the artist’s work in 2008.

Based on Walsh’s primary research into and comprehensive knowledge of Bacon’s collection of books, journals and other literary material - made accessible to the author by the rare permission of the artist’s estate - as well as the libraries and correspondence of Bacon’s small circle of friends, this article re-situates Bacon’s practice in the tradition of Romantic art and late-nineteenth century thought, which art historical accounts have previously overlooked. In particular, Walsh reconnects Bacon’s practice of painting with J.A.M. Whistler, and a canon of English Romantic literature that was deeply rooted in the writings of Charles Baudelaire, namely the ‘Fleshly School of Poetry’ represented by Algernon Swinburne and the later writings of Walter Pater. Detailing Bacon’s attachment to this literary lineage, Walsh retrieves the artist’s investment in the historical and academic arguments about the differences between the concepts of analysis and synthesis in art, primarily understood in English painting as the difference between an aesthetic of narrative and realism and an aesthetic of ambiguity and sensation.

In retrieving this context in which the legacy of British aestheticism and international symbolism had come to frame ideas of an aesthetic of ambiguity the article argues that Bacon’s complex negotiation of Anglo-French cultural and intellectual thought, not only provided the artist with a working philosophy of art but also provided a range of strategies and discourses to stage the perception and reception of both his work and persona, such as the ‘aesthete’ and ‘dandy’.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2013 17:57
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2014 12:25
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1597

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