Bacon, Freud & The School of London at the Chiostro del Bramante

Bacon, Freud and the School of London exhibition Rome 2019-2020
Paula Rego, The Dance, 1988, Acrylic paint on paper on canvas, 2126 x 2740 mm. Tate: Purchased 1989. © The Artist, courtesy Marlborough London. Photo: © Tate, 2019

More than 45 paintings portraying a revolutionary period in London

The Chiostro del Bramante, located only a few minutes away from Piazza Navona, opens with a new impressive exhibition dedicated to Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and four other artists of the so-called School of London. The exhibition, result of a second successful collaboration with Tate, London, comprises more than 45 paintings, drawings, and incisions, produced between 1945 and 2004. 

In addition to the two eponymous artists of the exhibition, the show also includes works by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, and Paula Rego, other notable members of the School of London, a group of 20th century artists that preferred figurative art to other artistic movements prevalent at the time. The works of these six artists, despite the different approaches and techniques employed, all “reveal the human condition, with all its frailty energy and contradictions; its excesses, lack of filters, and truths”. According to Elena Crippa, the curator of the exhibition, the Second World War and the post-war years are important for the understanding of these artists. Both Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, for example, had to flee the Nazis, and the artists’ work shown at the Chiostro, to some extent, can be interpreted as the attempt to restore to the human figure its humanity that had been lost in the course of the war. 

Lucian Freud, Girl with a Kitten, 1947, Oil paint on canvas, 410 x 307x 18 mm. Tate: Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008 © Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images. Photo: © Tate, 2019

The exhibition starts with some of the artists’ earliest works, produced in the 40s and 50s of the 20th century, as for example Girl with a Kitten (1947) by Lucian Freud, one of several portraits of his first wife, executed with a careful and meticulous brush stroke technique. The large ground floor room, on the other hand, is dedicated entirely to works by Francis Bacon. Highlights include Study for a Portrait (1952) and Seated Figure (1961). Both paintings employ Bacon’s “trademark ‘space-frame’ technique, which seems to trap the central figure in a transparent cage”.

Francis Bacon, Seated Figure (CR 61 – 16), 1961, Oil paint on canvas, 1651 x 1422 mm. Tate: Presented by J. Sainsbury Ltd 1961 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved by SIAE 2019. Photo: © Tate, 2019

Moving on, visitors will then be able to admire works by Paula Rego, the only female artist included in the exhibition at the Chiostro del Bramante. Born in Portugal, Rego came to England to study art. Her painting The Dance (1988) shows groups of dancing figures that might be reminiscent of the folk dances of her native Portugal, while at the same time alluding to the more symbolic theme of the dance of life. In her pastel work Bride (1994), part of the series Dog Woman, Rego shows a woman dressed in bridal attire reclining on her back in a ‘canine’ position. 

Michael Andrews, A Man who Suddenly Fell Over, 1952, Oil paint on
hardboard, 1206 x 1727 mm. Tate: Purchased 1958.
© The Estate of Michael Andrews, courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London. Photo: © Tate, 2019

The ground floor exhibition concludes with works by Michael Andrews, among which an intimate portrait of the artist and his daughter, Melanie and Me Swimming (1978-1979). Visitors will then be able to go upstairs and enjoy further works by Leon Kossoff, Frank Auerbach, and Lucian Freud. Kossoff stands out with his painting Children’s Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon (1971), which aptly evokes the light, movement, and buzz of an overcrowded indoor pool. The paintings by Auerbach, on the other hand – among which Head of E.O.W. I (1960) – canvases thickly layered with paint, present themselves with an almost sculptural quality. The exhibition concludes and culminates in the larger upstairs room showing several of Lucian Freud’s most famous works: visitors will be able to admire the large-scale painting By the Rags (1988-1989), hung directly opposite to the room entrance, that shows a nude female figure leaning against a pile of dirty rags. Other notable works to be admired are David and Eli (2003-2004), a portrait of artist David Dawson and Freud’s last unfinished work, as well as Girl with a White Dog (1950-1951), another portrait of Freud’s then wife, executed with a similar attention to detail that characterizes the portrait on the ground floor.

Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake) (CR55 – 02), 1955, Oil paint on canvas, 610 x 508 mm. Tate: Purchased 1979 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved by SIAE 2019. Photo: © Tate, 2019

In addition to the paintings, visitors will also be able to watch The Naked Truth, a short film directed by Enrico Maria Artele and produced specifically for the exhibition. The short film aims to evoke and interpret four works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, and stars Italian actors Stefano Cassetti, Adamo Dionisi, Lucrezia Guidone and Sarah Sammartino.


Till February 23, 2020

Chiostro del Bramante

Arco della Pace, 5 (Piazza Navona)

Mon-Sun 10am – 8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-9pm

Entry fee: €9.5-17.5

(Italian audio guide included in the price)

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