The Controversial Screaming Pope
Written by Oskar
Francis Bacon was a painter from Ireland born in the year 1909. One of his first paintings that made the headlines was the painting Crucifixion (1933). It is commonly said that Bacon used “violent brush strokes”, and this can already be seen in his early works. The most commonly-used words to describe his art are pain, violence and fear. His themes of monstrous figures and ghosts created an uncomfortable atmosphere for critics and viewers.
In 1948 Bacon created a series of paintings of 6 different heads. All the heads are emotionally similar to his work and all have a pattern of evolution until the 6th head that might seem familiar - it was an uncomfortable painting of the pope. He created over 50 different paintings of the pope over the years but this one caused the biggest controversy.
Foto: The painting of pope Innocent X on the left. The painting of Francis Bacon on the right, -Phaidon.com
Velazquez is an artist who painted Pope Innocent X in the year 1650. Bacon's interpretation of this pope was scary and fearful. The top part of the head was missing and the pope seemed “ghostly”. In the Velazquez painting the pope is calm, relaxed and is dressed in red. In Bacon's painting the pope has purple clothes and is screaming and tightly gripping the golden throne he is sat upon. The creepiest part of the painting are Bacon's vertical brush strokes that create a violent and uncomfortable atmosphere.
There are many theories that Bacon disrespected the pope and the church. Many critics believe it is because the church denied Bacon because of his sexaulity. It could also be because of Bacon's atheism. When interviewed Bacon simply answered this question with the point that he wanted to draw someone wearing purple. He said there is no deeper meaning intended behind the painting and that he just simply likes it. Strangely enough, Bacon was in Rome for two months while completing the painting, close to the original Pope Innocent painting, but he never went to see it. He admits he was very unhappy emotionally during this time and he spent most of his time just wandering around outside.
In conclusion, when the two paintings are compared we can see how one picture was painted to keep the memory of someone's looks and how the other memory was painted from frustration and unhappiness. The most interesting part is the theory that the two pieces would be painted exactly the same if they were made at the same time, but because of historical context art has changed over the years.
Phaidon.com, “The Truth Behind Francis Bacons Creaming Popes”
Wikipedia, “Portrait of Pope Innocent X”
Museio.org “Francis Bacon's Screaming Popes”