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Edition size: 150
Size: H 40cm x W 30cm
Format: Unsigned Print
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|Swann Auction Galleries - United States
|Oresteia Of Aeschylus (centre panel) - Unsigned Print
The oeuvre of Francis Bacon is macabre and haunting, populated by disturbing figures that speak to the traumatic after-effects of his childhood. Oresteia of Aeschylus (centre panel), from his monumental work Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus, unites many of the creative influences on Bacon: from Greek tragedy to his own troubled biography. Cascading from the top of the composition, a maroon banner sweeps towards the viewer, drawing their immediate attention to the contorted form that stands on a geometric plinth. This uncanny body, evidently made from human flesh and bone, is twisted into an inhuman form. The peak at the top of the form leads the viewer's eye down a curved spine, culminating at an oval stomach-like void. Perhaps the only feature that marks the form as distinctly human is its foot, which seems to disappear behind a small, white doorway attached to the plinth. Flanked by the two other panels in the triptych, this particular work appears like a harbinger of torturous death and self-destruction.
Bacon's original painted triptych, from which this lithograph was printed, was inspired by the The Oresteia, a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus in the 5th century BC. The third part of the tragedy, which had a lifelong influence on Bacon, follows Orestes' attempts to kill his own mother to avenge his father, Agamemnon. Though the work inspired many of Bacon's works, this is the only instance in which he payed direct homage through the title of the work. However, Bacon never sought to illustrate the tragedy, as he once remarked: "I could not paint Agamemnon, Clytemnestra or Cassandra, as that would have been merely another kind of historical painting... Therefore I tried to create an image of the effect it produced inside me."
Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus is one of the most distressing of Bacon's so-called 'Black Triptychs'. Themes of loss, grief, and guilt underscore much of the artist's work produced after the death of his long-term lover and companion George Dyer in 1971. Though this guilt is perhaps most pronounced in works produced immediately after Dyer's death, like Triptych August 1972, Oresteia Of Aeschylus (centre panel) reveals the prevailing psychological trauma effected by his death. The contorted figure appears almost to consume itself, a poignant reminder of the horrors Bacon saw and experienced in his lifetime which he unleashed onto canvas and printing plate with unparalleled grit.