© Estate of Bruce Bernard (Virginia Verran)


Bruce Bernard (1928 – 2000)


40.5 X 51 CM
Accession number


In the exhibition catalogue From London Bernard wrote of his friendship with Francis Bacon: "(He) hit Soho like a welcome and highly stimulating whirlwind in 1948. He seemed quite unique to me at twenty – magical – his extraordinary energy and intelligence allowing him a marvellous overflow of frivolity that came from far too interesting a person to be regarded simply as ‘camp’. Lucian later described him as the ‘wisest and wildest’ person he had even known. Francis’s centre in Soho was Muriel Belcher’s Colony Room, a one-room drinking club singular as its proprietor. Francis and Muriel had a special love for each other and for a time she paid him £10 a night with drinks to bring people with money in. He had little difficulty in finding them and he was also pursued by those who knew what a remarkable painter he was. He could, though, be coldly dismissive and really funnily and mercilessly bitchy when he wasn’t seeming actually to radiate sweetness and light. I remember being a little disappointed by his first show at the Hanover Gallery in 1949, but I thought that there was nothing to compare with the masterpiece Painting 1946 shown at the Redfern Gallery. Not long afterwards, at the Colony, I asked him what he was up to. With a rather wistful smile he said ‘… well, I’m trying to do something with Van Gogh but I don’t know whether it will work…’ Only a few days later I was asked to carry a very wet canvas into the Hanover Gallery which was one of the series based on Vincent’s The Painter on his Way to Work. Perhaps only two of them were really fit to enter the canon but the whole idea was so audacious, and one would have thought anyone else unhinged or simply stupid to have attempted it. Naturally I followed Francis’s work to the end and if I liked very little of what came out of his last decade it was because he seemed to have almost entirely displaced his initial inspired exploitation of chance with preconception and virtuosity (a very drawn out process with many powerful syntheses along the way) and his raw-nerved and realfigures with voluptuous ones or things he only took a curious pleasure in. I very much regret that I fell out with him about a publication idea, because it robbed me of the encouragement his friendship gave me. I wish he could have died laughing at a really funny and entirely new notion. I will never forget what exhilarating company he could be, or my conviction that his greatness as a twentieth-century artist will be acknowledged as long as anyone cares about the painting of pictures."

From London, an exhibition of works by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach and R B Kitaj organised by the British Council in association with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. 1995