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Bacon's "Portrait of Henrietta Moraes", 1969, oil on canvas
Bacon's "Portrait of Henrietta Moraes", 1969, oil on canvas

FLORENCE - It is an obvious point, but holds a hidden meaning. The last century did not have many artists who merit the “adjectivization” of their name, like Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rembrandt or Goya, to define an entire genre.

Writers have given us Kafkaesque and Chekhovian, but can we say “Baconian”? The current exhibition at Florence's Strozzina modern art museum offers Francis Bacon the ‘ancestor’ treatment, and includes his studio from Reece Mews in London.

And something from that well-trodden, metabolized world, with its muscular drawings by Michelangelo, reproduced in magazines and covered with fingerprints, photographs of ill-fated lovers, the "traitor" Lucian Freud, on a daybed that looks as if it came from some lost canvas, outdated ads... creates this original show, which not only boasts some of his important and rarely seen works, but above all, does not give us only the last (rather Marlboroughian) battered triptychs, which have been seen in so manyexhibits recently.

For example, the visionary Marching Figures of 1951 is extremely beautiful, showing diligent little soldiers marching into the distance, walking into one of those classic spiritualist “Bacon-style” cubes under the wild stare of a large frozen head, which some see as that of a polar bear, but which perhaps also refers to the mysterious alchemical meteorite of Dürer’s MelencholiaI.

Both possess the marvelous "eyeless stares" which the great critic Gilles Deleuze mentions in his famous thesis on how to make the visible invisible.

But above all, how did Bacon avoid illustration and figurative art, while still achieving “figuration?” It is illuminating, in front of his final canvases, left incomplete on easels in his studio, to see how his mental-manual laboratory worked.

That Bacon could have been “father” to many children and grandchildren is not a surprise. In recent years he has been dragged into dubiousshows-- for example, the Romeexhibit that arbitrarily and superficially lined him up with Caravaggio, another bad boy.

Even this show could basically be arbitrary (and it is, inevitably and rationally) and yet centrifugal, explosive and radiant. The chosen artists are not necessarily directly linked to or close to achieving the pictorial texture of the ‘maestro,’ so that the show is less educational than it might otherwise be. But perhaps this is fair after all.

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