Terror and Beauty

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© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013) http://www.henry-moore.org

I jumped on the chance to attend the media preview of the Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibit at the AGO. Henry Moore is one of my favorite contemporary artists and I’ve only seen two pieces by Francis Bacon in person.

The Art Gallery of Ontario in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum brings together 136 artworks by Bacon and Moore. The exhibition was curated by Dan Adler, associate professor of art history at York University.

At first, it seems like an unlikely pairing but when you see the works side-by-side, everything becomes more apparent. Both artists express their experiences through explorations of the human figure; one with brush strokes and the other with chisel and hammer. The affect of war and of suffering, religion, and vulnerability are all themes that are echoed in the artists’ works.

Photographs by Bill Brandt at the start of the exhibit set the scene and bring us back to the Second World War and the underground bomb shelters and blackouts during the German Blitz on England which both artists experienced.

It is because of this experience that the AGO is fortunate to house the largest public collection of works by Henry Moore. Dr. Francis Warner who knew both artists, shared with us a moving passage from a speech he had given earlier:

I will end on a note both personal and public. You have here in this exhibition Terror and Beauty the deeply evocative Second World War photographs by Bill Brandt. I am of the last generation who lived through that crucifixion of London, survived – just – through the heart, and heat, and sorrow of it for five long years. Once we are gone, no one else will know that it was like. No one else will have the right to say what I have come across the Atlantic to say to you, perhaps for the last time.

Your generous parents, and grandparents, came to help save us, and the persecuted minorities, from that monstrous killing machine, that world evil that had swallowed Europe. We alone remained. We had our back to the wall. Your Royal Canadian Navy destroyed at least 27 U-boats as it crossed the infested Atlantic Ocean to bring us food, and weapons, we so desperately needed. Over one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served. Of these, the cream and flower of your nation, 45,000 were killed and 55,000 were wounded; one hundred thousand Canadian families wrecked.

Both Henry Moore and Francis Bacon knew this. We talked of it. We did not forget. We have not forgotten. I am left alive now because you spilt the blood of your young to come to our aid. I embody tonight my country’s, and my own, deepest gratitude a human can bring. God bless you.

 The exhibition is open to the public from April 5th to July 20th, 2014.

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