Foam of Feeling and Existential Wasteland

Art-critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston from The Times reminds us of the "foam of feeling" and "existential wasteland" in Bacon's pictures, while describing his exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London as "a marvellous retrospective which gives us a haunting vision of life stripped to the bone and a sense of macabre desolation."[1] Here are our additional remarks concerning the work of "the most extraordinary, powerful and compelling of all painters."[2]

1. Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963) is Bacon's earliest portrait of his favorite model and companion. It includes to what Bacon once referred as pictorial "injury." The painter declared in 1966, "I've always thought of friendship as where two people really tear one another apart and perhaps in that way learn something from each other."

2. A visual reminder of man's vulnerability and isolation in the central panel of Triptych May-June 1973 or, as Bacon already noted in 1962, "man now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason."

3. Triptych March-June 1973, showing Dyer's 1971 miserable end in elegant tonalities, sophisticated sheets of perspex and expensive golden frames.

4. Dyer knock-out in the left-hand panel of Triptych 1971.

5. Depicted now as a fallen boxer, Dyer looks much better in Triptych 1971 than in any of the Studies Bacon painted in 1963, when he was still alive (Fig. 1). "Waldo is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death." - Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), "The Feast of Nemesis," Beasts and Super-Beasts, 1914

7. No accident at all as Bacon uses inversion tactics in Painting 1978, suggesting an upside-down world of his own.

8. Figure in Movement (1985) is a double-edged monster, some kind of simultaneously anxious and orgiastic cyclops that recalls Bacon's last companion, John Edwards.

Addendum. Bacon and Edwards, London, 1985. Their companionship is said to have been a father and son relationship. "Francis was a real, true father to me," Edwards told The Daily Telegraph in 2002. Yet, a photograph published by Daniel Farson in 1993-4 suggests otherwise, adding spice to gossip.

References: 1. "Francis Bacon: Touching the Void" (video), The Times Online, 9 September 2008; 2. Louise Cohen, "Francis Bacon at Tate Britain," ibid.

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