" Vincent van Gogh is one of my great heroes," said Francis Bacon " He is one of the great geniuses of painting." in Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo, Bacon found a precept for realist painting which he adopted as his own:
"[...] to make changes in reality, which become lies that are truer than the literal truth.
"[...] I believe that reality in art is something profoundly artificial and that it has to be recreated."
Bacon painted many portraits of his kindred spirit - the first , Head , in 1951 and the last , with the same title , in 1962.
In 1959 he produced Head of a Man - Study of a drawing by Van Gogh, and in 1960 Homage to Van Gogh, a paraphrase of Van Gogh's Self - Portrait with a pipe of 1889.
In Addition, in 1956/57 he produced the series Studies for Portrait of Van Gogh I - VI as well as Van Gogh going to work, Van Gogh in a Landscape and Study for Landscape after Van Gogh.
The nine landscape pictures refer to van Gogh's the painter on the road to Tarascon of 1888, in which van Gogh portrayed himself as a traveling painter, complete with straw hat, painting equipment and walking stick, on the way to work.
Bacon said of this work, which he only knew from catalogues; " i'd always loved that picture [...] and as nothing else had gone right [ regarding an approaching deadline for an exhibition at London's Hanover Gallery, I thought I'd try to do something with it. Actually I've always liked early van Gogh best, but that haunted figure on the road seemed just right at the time - like a phantom of the road, you could say."
Moreover around this time, the Dutch painter was very much in vogue, in large part due to Vincent Minnelli's 1956 film Lust for Life, which Bacon had seen. " I remember seeing it once not a very good movie in my opinion. Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh and Hanthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin I guess it is very difficult to portray the Genius and at the same time madness that associates with the life of Vincent ".
He presumably also new Antonin Artaud's great essay Van Gogh the Man Suicided by Society, were the author describes the Landscapes as showing their hostile flesh, scratched open by Van Gogh's nail.
Bacon scratched too, and even more violently than Van Gogh. While The Painter on the Road to Tarascon Measured 48x44 cm, bacon's Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh VI and Van Gogh in a Landscape measure 198x142 cm and 153x120 cm respectively.
Broad brush-strokes plough across these overpowering canvases and the paint is heaped on thickly.
There is no more expressive style in all Bacon's painting.
The Colors, too, especially for Study for Portrait of van Gogh VI, are extreme-setting a landmark in Bacon's oeuvre.
The power of the Mediterranean sunlight transforms the figure into a black lump of coal.
The horizon tilts out of the horizontal, the trees are set at an angle. The figure runs into a curved, wall-like surface made of colored stripes. In Van Gogh in a Landscape the figure depicted becomes a phantom, a miniature who disappears in a landscape from which centrifugal forces seem to be ejecting him.
Yet this inhospitability reflects the reality of the setting.
Bacon also said of Van Gogh.
" Vincent Van Gogh is one of my great heroes because I think that he was able to almost literal and yet by the way he put on the paint give you a marvelous vision of the reality of things. I saw it very clearly when I was once in Provence and in going through that part of the Crau where he did some of his landscapes, and one just saw in this absolutely barren country that by the way he put on paint he was able to give it such an amazing living quality, give that reality the Crau has just plain, bare land "
PS, Google is great but there is nothing like a Library Card and some good reference art books.