It has become a commonplace to describe Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon as the new Old Masters, but now the Kunsthistoriches Museum has gone one step further with Bacon: it is exhibiting 50 of his paintings alongside 40 Old Masters to demonstrate that Bacon truly is one of them (15 October-18 January). The brainchild of director general, Wilfried Seipel, and curated by Barbara Steffen,who worked for many years at the Guggenheim in New York, the exhibition hangs six of Bacon’s “screaming pope” portraits, such as the “Study after Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X” (detail below) next to Titian’s portraits of Cardinal Filippo Archinto and of Pope Paul III. Other artists on display, such as Rembrandt, Ingres, Picasso and Van Gogh, show the extent to which Bacon absorbed their influence and that his motifs of screams, mirrors and cages have easily traceable art historical antecedents. Also included are various Bacons from US collections that have rarely been seen abroad, in particular “Studies for a Crucifixion” (1962) from the Guggenheim. Sixty-five objects from Bacon’s reconstituted studio in the Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery, Dublin, such as photographs and magazine pages illustrating the artist’s familiarity with the Old Masters are also on show.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Francis Bacon and the tradition of art, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna'