In a “blockbuster” pairing, the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland has mounted an exhibition of the works of two giants of 20th-century art, Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti, either of whom would ensure crowded galleries alone.

Why these two? It transpires that no exhibition had ever paired these two artists, in spite of the fact that they were contemporary (Giacometti was born in 1901 and Bacon in 1909) and good friends, and that their apparently very different productions actually contain parallels and similarities. First and foremost, both took the human body as the starting point for their works and both had studied the old masters in depth. Both implemented cage-like structures in their works with the purpose of isolating their subjects, perhaps more notably Bacon in his series of Popes. And though the human figure was the centre of their focus, both artists took its depiction to an extreme that bordered on abstraction, experimenting on the boundary of the figuration/abstraction antagonism that so affected 20th-century art.

Another similarity between the two was the fact that the painter Isabel Rawsthorne was a central figure in the relationship between Giacometti and Bacon. She posed for both and was the Giacometti former’s lover for a few years. In all Bacon painted 14 images of her.

A feature of the exhibition is full-scale reconstructions of both artists’ small, cramped studios, which offer insight into their working environments.

Exhibition Bacon – Giacometti, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland – Until 2 September 2018

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