Lord Sainsbury visits Francis Bacon exhibition in Norwich

Lord Sainsbury at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts as the finishing touches are made to the new

Lord Sainsbury at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts as the finishing touches are made to the new Masters exhibition. Picture: ANTONY KELLY. - Credit: Archant

The work of Francis Bacon and great masters of art who inspired him are soon to take centre-stage in the latest exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Today Lord Sainsbury paid a visit to the gallery, based at the University of East Anglia, to see the finishing touches being made to the show.

His parents, Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury – who donated their entire art collection to the university in the 1970s – were friends of Bacon and began buying his work when he was an unknown artist. Bacon painted both their portraits and these feature in the new exhibition, placed alongside portraits of a man and a woman by Rembrandt.

Lord Sainsbury said the juxtaposition summed up the essence of the show, which is called Francis Bacon and the Masters.

He said: 'Francis Bacon was a man who was hugely influenced by the great masters but equally if you put his paintings alongside a great masterpiece, they look pretty good. You don't say, 'there's an amateur and there's Rembrandt', you say, 'here are two great painters'...

'There can be no greater test of a painter than to put his work alongside a couple of Rembrandts.'

Picasso, Van Gogh, and Matisse are among the other artists featured in the show alongside Greek, Roman and Egyptian sculpture.

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Lord Sainsbury said his favourite moment was seeing a replica of a Michelangelo figure of a crouching boy – which he described as one of the greatest pieces of sculpture ever – displayed in front of a similar image painted by Bacon.

Francis Bacon and the Masters is at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from April 18 until July 26. The show was previously at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. For more information visit www.scva.ac.uk

Do you have an arts story? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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