Manchester Art Gallery

Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch

Object description

This painting is a portrait of Henrietta Moraes, a companion of Bacon's who, like him, often frequented The Colony Room Club in Soho, London. This work was executed from a photograph of Moraes, taken by John Deakin, a Vogue photographer; it displays Moraes naked and distorted upon a large couch trimmed with flesh-pink, which seems to be engulfing her. Moraes' reclining body is painted in flesh and white tones, the body has a distorted, broken syntax making the figure appear to be exposing muscular structure. To the right there is an open door with a key in the lock. The strip of colour on the right also suggests a red room beyond. There is a charcoal grey interior, which creates an oppressive atmosphere within the portrait. This was created by applying a thin wash of paint to bare canvas. The paint is experimentally applied; some sections are smudged with expressive colour, and paint is applied thickly in others using large brushes. Bacon also used everyday materials to apply paint such as his pullover. The face is thoroughly distorted, although it is clear that the subject is looking to the right with her face half in shadow because only one eye is visible.

Display label

Radical Figures Post-war British Figurative Painting This display places works by Bacon, Freud and Hockney from the collections of Manchester Art Gallery and The Whitworth Art Gallery alongside works from the Arts Council Collection, London. In Post-war British art radical work tended towards various styles influenced by the modern art of Paris and New York such as Surrealism, abstraction and Pop Art. Alongside these parallel movements there existed another kind of art pioneered by a group of loosely associated artists later labelled The School of London. What they had in common was a firm belief that they could find new ways to create realist paintings and reinvent the representation of the human figure to make it relevant in a world traumatised by the Second World War. Many of this group of figurative painters were to be found drawing in the National Gallery, London when not in their studios. They studied the art of the Renaissance and of Impressionism with a passion, seeing the pioneers before modern art as their teachers. Their work also had origins in pre-War British art: in the painting of Walter Sickert, David Bomberg and the realists of the Euston Road School. Through the 1970s and 1980s their work gradually began to be recognised as amongst the most important British art of its time. Who could be considered part of this undeclared group has always varied but Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Euan Uglow and the more Pop Art-associated David Hockney are regarded as the key artists. Between them they found new ways of looking intensely at the world around them; to combine in paint what they saw, with what they felt. An Arts Council Collection Partnership supported by Christie’s. Selected by Tim Wilcox South Bank logo group set (our logos ?)