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Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends

17 Nov 2022-28 Jan 2023

Overview

The photographer never knows quite how the best pictures are going to turn out any more than the painter does, and the best ones are very little concerned with cleverness.
—Bruce Bernard

Gagosian is pleased to present Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends, opening on November 17 at the gallery’s Grosvenor Hill location in London. The exhibition features a selection of photographs by the distinguished picture editor, author, and photographer Bruce Bernard (1928–2000) and is on view concurrently with Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, which elucidates connections between the four painters’ respective practices, and also includes some of their portraits of each other.

Bernard established close friendships with Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon, and Freud in the 1950s and beyond. His photographs of the artists offer insight into these relationships, which were sparked by mutual respect and a shared knowledge of painting. The painter Virginia Verran, who represents Bernard’s estate, notes: “The link between painting and photography was a vital one throughout his life and the chance to bring his photographs together with paintings in this way is a profound one.”

Bernard’s environmental portraits depict the artists in their studios. Direct and informal, the photographs powerfully and intimately convey the character of their subjects and were made possible by the depth and longevity of Bernard’s friendships with them. In keeping with the theme of Friends and Relations, the images feature the artists accompanied by their models as well as friends and family members. Several works are exhibited publicly here for the first time, released by the estate as posthumous prints, including a group of photographs of Lucian Freud, Bella Freud, and the painter Celia Paul, and three portraits of Frank Auerbach.

Bernard was in turn portrayed by these four artists. Freud painted him twice, in 1992 and 1996, and captured his likeness in the etching from 1985 included in this exhibition. He was the subject of the left-hand panel of Bacon’s small triptych Three Studies for Portraits (including Self-Portrait) (1969). Auerbach drew a portrait of him in 1975, and Andrews, who was one of his closest friends, sketched him in pencil in preparation for his landmark painting The Colony Room (1962), in addition to painting another portrait three decades later, in 1992.

Bruce Bernard was born in 1928 in London, where he died in 2000. Among his publications was the popular series Photodiscovery, compiled in the 1970s when he was picture editor of the Sunday Times Magazine and subsequently produced in book form by Thames & Hudson. Visual arts editor of The Independent Magazine from 1986 to 1990, he edited books including Vincent by Himself (1985), The Impressionist Revolution (1986), The Queen of Heaven (1987), and a monograph on Lucian Freud (1996). He also edited About Francis Bacon, a publication that was cancelled by the artist near its completion. Bernard curated the 1994 exhibition All Human Life at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, and his book Century—which presents ten photographs for each year of the twentieth century—was published in 1999, shortly before his death. The Bruce Bernard Collection, an exhibition of photographs he assembled for a private collector, was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2002–03. Bruce Bernard: Photographs of Painters was exhibited at Tate Britain in 2002, and the Hayward Gallery organized Bruce Bernard: Artists and Their Studios, an exhibition that toured throughout the United Kingdom from 2002 to 2005.