Francis Bacon at the BBC

The words of the painter and his interpreters have been recorded and are now available to everyone thanks to the BBC Archive Online. Documents one may consult online:
1. "Francis Bacon" (interview by David Sylvester), The Third Program, broadcast 23 March 1963. Bacon discusses his work and methods and reveals his artistic influences, details his tightrope walk between abstract and figurative painting, and describes his work as "one continuous accident." Bacon also talks about the practical side of his art, his application of paint and the glazing of his pictures, as well as the motivations behind his career.
2. Pilot Francis Bacon, excerpt from an interview by Julian Jebb, 1965 (not broadcast). This pilot for a Live Arts Discussion Programme. Bacon talks about his contemporaries in the art world, his working practices and personal philosophies, such as his belief that true abstract painting is nothing more than "lyrical, charming and decorative."
3. "Francis Bacon: Fragments of a Portrait," interview by David Sylvester, TV documentary, broadcast on BBC1, 18 September 1966. The recurring themes in Bacon's work, his influences and his life. The programme features graphic images of butchery that one may find disturbing.
4. "Stripped Down to What's Real," interview by David Jones, exhibit review, broadcast on BBC2, 29 October 1971. Ref. Grand Palais exhibition in Paris, which was marred by the suicide of George Dyer (Bacon's former partner) in a Paris hotel room just two days before the opening. Dyer featured repeatedly in Bacon's paintings throughout the 1960s. The two allegedly met while Dyer was burgling Bacon's flat.
5. "Bacon on Titian's The Death of Actaeon," Arts Commentary, presented by Andrew Forge, broadcast Radio 3, 4 March 1972. Ref. The National Gallery's campaign to keep Titian's painting in London. Forge hosts a discussion between Bacon and Michael Levy about the painting's merits.
6. "Francis Bacon Art Forgeries," News, broadcast on BBC1, 3 April 1976. Radical Italian students produced forgeries to raise money for the Communist Party and to undermine and devalue the art establishment. Bacon, when asked his opinion of the forged paintings by interviewers at the time, grins wryly and pronounces them, "extremely bad fakes."
7. Richard Cork, "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion," One Hundred Great Paintings, broadcast on BBC2, 5 April 1982. Painted in 1944, Francis Bacon's three-panel painting became an art-historical landmark. Art historian Richard Cork explains the background to the painting, including Bacon's influences, from the obvious Christian references to not so evident images of Nazi Germany and its victims.
8. "A Man without Illusions," presented by Richard Cork, broadcast on Radio 3, 16 May 1985. Ref. Reactions to the provocative work of Francis Bacon, ranging from simplistic psychological approaches to appreciation of his manipulation of pigment, which Bacon always put down to intuition and luck, but critic David Sylvester believed to have links to the country house portraits of England's past. Cork explores these and other theories in his discussions with art critics and with Bacon himself to discover the truth behind this "man without illusions."
9. "I'll Go On until I Drop," interview by Richard Cork, Kaleidoscope, broadcast on Radio 4, 17 August 1991. Bacon talks openly about his influences, his work and his ongoing passion for both life and painting; he resists any attempt to eulogise him or his work. The artist restates his famous claim that he doesn't draw, although as visitors to Bacon exhibitions can testify, he actually left behind drawings that suggest that his work was more planned and meticulous than he liked to admit.
10. "Innocent Screams," Centurions, produced by Hellen Castell, broadcast on Radio 3, 24 January 1999. Ref. Why did Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X prove to be such an enduring source of inspiration for Bacon? Although he never saw the original, the many images he collected of it formed the basis for his series of 'screaming popes' paintings. The Velazquez image engendered a number of images that Bacon used, reused and combined with other elements to convey a powerful sense of rage and impotence at the human condition.
11. "Bacon in His Own Words," interviews by Sylvester, Jebb and Cork, BBC4, 31 October 2009.

Picture: Jorge Lewinski, Francis Bacon, photograph, 1985; Lewinski Photo Archive (via BBC Online)

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