Francis Bacon And The Masters at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

April 27, 2015


Visit Norwich kindly invited me to attend the launch of the Francis Bacon and the Masters exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich last week.

Norwich is just an hour’s drive or 45mins on the train from Ipswich and is a hive of activity and creativity. I love paying a visit to Norwich as I feel like I get the shot of energy and inspiration I would normally get in London but without the crowds and extortionate prices of London.

Norwich is full of lovely places to eat, independent coffee shops, history and architecture and of course, art.

The Hermitage museum in Russia teamed up with the Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts in Norwich to bring us the Francis Bacon and the Masters exhibition where Bacon’s work is showcased alongside the works of the masters such as Michelangelo, Cézan, Gauguin and even Picasso, that inspired him.

The exhibition forms the culmination of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg coinciding with the UK/Russia Year of Culture in the UK. The exhibition, a result of four and a half years of planning is a historic collaboration between the Sainsbury Centre and State Hermitage Museum and is the first in an ongoing relationship.

Curated by Dr Thierry Morel, the exhibition explores Bacon’s obsession with the art of the past, examining how he consistently drew on the work of masters such as Michelangelo, Velázquez and Degas, as well as to the stylised forms of ancient Greek and Roman works.

Francis Bacon Exhibition Norwich

The exhibition is beneath the ground floor of the centre and opens with large photos of Bacon’s studio. It was a no photos zone however I snuck these few on my phone to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Having an intimate view of Bacon’s studio and private thoughts through letters he wrote reminded me of growing up with my father who was also an artist and also collected magazines and art books to be inspired by.

Bacon’s work is troubled and to my eye, amateurish. His paintings seemed to me to be unfinished and some, not even started with simply the outline of a figure on a vast canvas. His work is not to my taste and perhaps I am missing something, but then art is subjective after all.

I was far more interested in marvelling at the actual original pieces of some of the masters. Michelangelo sculptures really amazed me, such incredible strength and definition in his figures, so much expression, drama and power, whereas Bacon’s inspired pieces just felt under par. I remarked that perhaps this is why he was such a troubled artist because he wasn’t as talented as the masters that he admired.


This Picasso really made me stop and marvel for a while. I had never seen a real Picasso before and I thought to myself how lovely it would be to own one.

I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to stand two feet in front of these masterpieces and really understand just why they are masterpieces that have stood the test of time, and I felt so blessed that I grew up with an artist father so that I could really appreciate the works I was looking at.

The master artists that feature in this exhibition include: Rembrandt, Velasquez, Cézane, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rodin, Gauguin, Matisse, Soutine and Ingres.

It is absolutely worth the visit, as is Norwich itself.

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Set in the grounds of the University of East Anglia, the centre is a place for students to come to learn and be inspired by some 5000 pieces from the personal collection of the Sainsbury family.

sainsbury centre for visual arts

Designed between 1974 and 1976, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts was the first major public building designed by now renowned architect Norman Foster.

Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre Cafe Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre

Within the vast, cool interior can be found a very interesting collection of pieces from all across the world showcasing a variety of cultures and styles of art.

Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre IMG_7478 IMG_7475 IMG_7484

In the middle of the centre are areas for students to work and hold meetings and lectures, as well as study from books and enjoy new exhibitions.


The exhibition runs until the 26th July, tickets are £12 / £10.50 concessions.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, NR4 7TJ

Why not make a full day of art in Norwich and visit the Koons exhibition while you’re there!

You Might Also Like