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	Image: Francis Bacon Study for self-portrait 1976 Art Gallery of NSW © The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy

Study for self-portrait: Francis Bacon’s Britain

An eight-part course on Bacon's life, times and art

Post-war Britain was a nation repairing itself after the shattering effects of World War II. While victory was a source of pride, food rationing was still part of everyday life; austerity and hardship lay like a pall over the British people.

But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, London once again came to play centre stage with an explosion of creativity in the 1960s and 70s across art, design, literature, theatre, fashion, music and popular culture. These were turbulent times as well in the political arena, making for a dynamic melting pot of ideas and social complexity.

The artist Francis Bacon was a giant among London’s artistic milieu of the time, a ‘bad boy’ artist and sexual outlaw whose terrifying vision of the world could not be ignored.

As a preface to the Gallery’s major exhibition Francis Bacon: five decades, the Art Gallery Society presents this lecture series, exploring the political, artistic and social contexts of Bacon’s lifetime, his artistic output and his position as ‘the world’s greatest living painter’ following Picasso’s death.

The course brings together experts from across the spectrum. Each session will be hosted and include readings by distinguished Australian actor John Derum.

Image: Francis Bacon Study for self-portrait 1976 Art Gallery of NSW © The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy

Sundays 16 September - 4 November 2012
(except 30 September & 28 October)
10.30am - 1pm

Full series: non-member $320, member $240
Per lecture: non-member $45, member $35

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Become a member

Link above is for full series booking.

Ticket price includes entry, lecture notes, coffee during intermissions and a glass of wine after each session.

Lectures and lecturers subject to change.
No transfers between sessions.

Three full working days (Mon–Fri) notice is required to qualify for a refund. All refunds attract an administration charge of 25% of the ticket price(s) with a minimum charge of $5. With subscription tickets there are no refunds for single sessions, unless a session is cancelled. Not negotiable.

Duration 2 hours, 30 minutes
Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: Francis Bacon

Proudly sponsored by
Arab Bank Australia

Exhibition overview
Anthony Bond, director, curatorial, Art Gallery of NSW

As curator of Francis Bacon: five decades, Anthony Bond guides you through the exhibition, putting the works into the context of Bacon’s life and exploring Bacon’s place in 20th-century art.

Rainbow scale: Bacon and Roy de Maistre
Terence Maloon, former curator of special exhibitions, Art Gallery of NSW

In 1930s London, Australian painter Roy de Maistre became a friend and mentor to the young Bacon, encouraging him to paint in oils. The two formed a business relationship as interior designers who were at the forefront of British art deco. This lecture looks at the life and work of de Maistre and his rapport with Bacon.


Sunday 16 September 2012 10:30am – 1pm

The road to Carnaby Street
Claudia Chan Shaw, fashion designer and presenter on ABC TV’s Collectors program

Swinging London in the sixties was the most fashionable city in the world. A vibrant energy and creativity was born, and for the first time fashion was created especially for the young. Taking its cue from popular culture, music and art, the London fashion scene was the home of Mary Quant, Biba, the mini skirt, hot pants and two models with the unlikely names of The Shrimp and Twiggy.

In corporeal conversation: Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
Andrew Yip, public programs coordinator, Art Gallery of NSW

In an era in which abstraction began to dominate avant-garde painting, Bacon and Lucian Freud remained staunch advocates for the power of the human figure as an expressive form. Through a reading of the artists’ portraits of each other, this lecture traces the pair’s friendship and explores their experimentation with corporeal and metaphysical identities.


Sunday 23 September 2012 10:30am – 1pm

Online bookings close Friday 21 September 4.30pm

Deeply ordered chaos: Bacon and cinema
Dr Christopher Hartney, lecturer, studies in religions, school of letters, arts and media University of Sydney

Bacon sought shock in a concentration of reality and a shorthand of sensation, ends that British cinema from the lean years of the 1950s onwards was also desperate to achieve. Through ideas of 'framing’, this lecture examines cross-overs in how Bacon and British cinema dealt with the image and how they fed each other until their final consummation in John Maybury’s 1998 biopic of Bacon: love is the devil.

British design and popular culture 1940-80
Professor Adrian Franklin, professor, school of sociology and social work, University of Tasmania and presenter on ABC TV’s Collectors program

As with Bacon’s art, design and popular culture in post-war Britain was awakening. Revolutions in sexuality, popular culture, gender, fashion and lifestyle were given shape and expression through a new material culture that was richly visual. It reviewed the best and worst of Britishness and reorganised it around a new openness to other cultures, traditions and pasts. The result: a fabulously rich fusion, but still distinctly British.


Sunday 7 October 2012 10:30am – 1pm

London after the rain: Francis Bacon
Tom Wright, associate director, Sydney Theatre Company

London in Bacon’s time was a city of destruction; swathes of what was once civilisation lay in rubble and were gradually cleared, leaving vast scars. And around those scars was a society trying to re-imagine itself. New theatre emerged, a drama of kitchen sink realism and a generation of the Angry and the Young. But there was also a theatre of the city, a city producing gangsters, depraved killers, the perambulations of Orwell and the strange circus of 'Swinging London’.

A world in transition: Francis Bacon and the modern world
Meredith Burgmann, councillor, City of Sydney Council and consultant to the United Nations development program

Francis Bacon created bleak and bad-news art in a time of social and political transition. From the Britain of Churchill, Macmillan and Profumo to Tariq Ali, Robin Blackburn and the LSE riots, politics was changing.


Sunday 14 October 2012 10:30am – 1pm

The body in motion: Francis Bacon and the influence of Eadweard Muybridge
Macushla Robinson, curatorial assistant, Art Gallery of NSW

The 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge was a seminal influence on Bacon. Muybridge’s sequential photographs of figures in motion functioned as a visual lexicon that formed the basis of many of Bacon’s paintings. This lecture will analyse the relationship between Muybridge’s scientific depictions of figural movement and Bacon’s sensuous and often disturbing adaption of these figures.

Bertrand Russell: revered rebel
Professor Robert Spillane, professor at the macquarie graduate school of management, at Macquarie University

Bertrand Russell is one of the most remarkable intellectual figures of the 20th century. Logician, mathematician, historian, essayist, social critic, he is remembered as a philosopher who followed in the footsteps of David Hume and Enlightenment thinkers. He led the revolt against idealism in philosophy and promoted 'atagonistic atheism’ to one of the widest audiences ever enjoyed by a philosopher.


Sunday 21 October 2012 10:30am – 1pm

Bacon and beefcake: the influences of Michelangelo and the masters
Lorraine Kypiotis, lecturer in art history and theory, National Art School

Inspired by the monumentality of Michelangelo and the psychological insight of Velázquez, Bacon interpreted the human form with a new and unsettling intensity, deforming and distorting appearances with his penetrating gaze.

From ballet clubs to British ballet as export
Lee Christofis, critic, broadcaster, curator of dance, National Library of Australia

This lecture traces the evolution of modern English ballet, from that championed by former Ballets Russes dancers Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert in the 1930s to choreographers Antony Tudor and Frederick Ashton, the neoclassical ballets of Kenneth McMillan and the ultra-modern Glen Tetley, the explosion of male talent that developed in the aftermath of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection from the Soviet Union in 1961 and the emergence of a truly modern British dance in the 1970s.


Sunday 4 November 2012 10:30am – 1pm

British poetry in the post-war era: Larkin, Hughes and Plath
Professor Barry Spurr, personal chair in poetry and poetics, University of Sydney

In the decades following World War II, British poetry reflected, in diverse and inventive ways, the complex and evolving intellectual and cultural world of British society in that period. Prominent among these poets, but very different from each other, thematically and technically, were Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and his wife, Sylvia Plath. Readings from several of their poems reflect this new age of anxiety, compounded of material prosperity, increasing political and religious scepticism and, often, intense personal despair.

John Wolfenden and his friends
Justice Michael Kirby, former judge of the High Court of Australia

Published in 1957, the ground-breaking Wolfenden Report aimed to decriminalise homosexuality. Justice Michael Kirby examines the report and its passage into law in Britain ten years later and in Australia in the decades after. The report had an impact on British society and is still working its influence in Commonwealth countries. It provides a critical context for Bacon’s attitude to his own sexuality.


Sunday 11 November 2012 10:30am – 1pm

Francis Bacon: disputed master
Craig Judd, independent curator, arts writer and lecturer

This lecture examines the broader contexts of visual culture and art in Great Britain from 1945 to 1960 to reveal how artists exulted in quiet grim stoicism (that most English of characteristics) to create an extraordinary archive of responses to their rapidly changing world. In this terrain Bacon towers above the rest, a disputed problematic master.

Picasso and Bacon
Terence Maloon, former curator of special exhibitions, Art Gallery of NSW

Bacon was crucially influenced by Picasso as a young artist, and this final lecture examines the parallel careers of the two giants of 20th-century art, focusing on their subversive but ultimately redemptive re-interpretation of the great figurative tradition.


Sunday 18 November 2012 10:30am – 1pm