© The Estate of Francis Bacon / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013
Study for the nurse in the film “Battleship Potemkin” by Eisenstein
Oil on canvas
Inv. No. SG 1248
198 × 142 cm
The oeuvre of the English artist Francis Bacon revolves around the isolated human body and its injury and disfigurement. Thus it is understandable that his interest was aroused by the figure of the nurse who has been shot in the eye in a scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin, produced in 1925 in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Russian revolution. Bacon worked from a still, using painterly means to translate it onto canvas. The nurse is no longer standing on a stairway landing, as she does in the film, but has been rendered in schematically blurred form, naked, sitting on a fragile swing and screaming in the interior of a confinement-cell-like housing, her glasses shattered, blood flowing from her eye. Bacon has robbed his figure of her spatial anchoring and her relationship to her surroundings in order to intensify the gesture of the scream – a tradition in painting since the Baroque – to a point of violent expressiveness. In Bacon’s works, the mouth opened in a scream is the dominant motif for the evocation of pain, suffering and horror.