Bacon Online Resources

Unless otherwise stated, all sources accessed on January 25, 2008.

General reference
Bacon's Studio. Haigh, Rebeka. United Kingdom
Bullfinch Guide to Art History
El poder de la palabra
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Francis Bacon Web Archive. Witthen, Jay. Pinkfreudian, 2000.
The Estate of Francis Bacon
WebMuseum. Pioch, Nicolas. Paris, October 2002.

Estate of Francis Bacon
Centre Pompidou
Art Gallery Web
Ciudad de la Pintura
El poder de la palabra

• Gale, Matthew. Artist Biography: Francis Bacon, Tate.

Artist's Statements
Kaleidoscope: Francis Bacon, BBC Radio 4 Archive, UK. The BBC Archive celebrates the life and work of Francis Bacon, one of the 20th Century's greatest artists. This collection is inspired by the retrospective of Bacon's work at Tate Britain. This collection charts Francis Bacon's life and career, from the early 1960s until shortly before his death in 1992. The artist discusses his influences, his best-known paintings and his opinions of other artists, while art experts and historians explain the background to his vision. Records: 1963, 1965, 1972, 1985, 1991; broadcast 1999.
1971 Paris Interview, with Jean Clair, Maurice Eschapasse, Peter Malchus.
• Francis Bacon, letter to Michel Leiris, 20 November 1981.
For me, realism is an attempt to capture the appearance with the cluster of sensations that the appearance arouses in me. As for my latest triptych and a few other canvases painted after I re-read Aeschylus, I tried to create images of the sensations that some of the episodes created inside me.
I could not paint Agamemnon, Clytemnestra or Cassandra, as that would have been merely another kind of historical painting when all is said and done. Therefore, I tried to create an image of the effect that was produced inside me. Perhaps realism is always subjective when it is most profoundly expressed. When I look at grass, sometimes I feel like pulling out a clump and transplanting it inside a frame, but of course that would not "work", and we are rightly forced to invent methods by which reality can force itself upon our nervous system in a new way, yet without losing sight of the model’s objectivity.
• David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London: Thames & Hudson, 1988. As a discussion of problems of making art today, this book has been widely influential among artists. It has also been seen as the most revealing portrait that exists of one of the most singular artistic personalities of our time. Bacon's obsessive thinking about how to remake the human form finds unique expression in his encounters with Sylvester over a period of twenty-five years. In these masterfully and creatively reconstructed interviews, Sylvester has provided unparalleled access to the thought, work, and life of one of the creative geniuses of our century. With Bacon's recent death [1992], no other work will ever match this achievement.
• Francis Gacobetti, Francis Bacon: The Last Interview, 1991-92.

Reece Mews Studio
Photographs by Perry Odgen
Hugh Lane Gallery Items
• Cappock, Margarita. History of Studio Relocation, Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
• Williams, Louise. Bacon studio re-created in Dublin, BBC News, 21 May 2001

Exhibition Reviews
1996 Pompidou. Hervé Gauville, Bacon a pleine bouche, Libération, 27 June 1996

• John Berger, "Francis Bacon: The Worst is Not Yet Come", in; Paul Barker, ed., Arts in Society, 1977.
Bacon questions nothing, unravels nothing. He accepts that the worst has happened … it becomes clear that you can live with the worst, that you can go on painting it again and again, that you can turn it into more and more elegant art, that you can put velvet and gold frames around it, that other people will buy it to hang on the walls of the rooms where they eat. Bacon’s art is essentially conformist.
• Nochlin, Linda. On Triptych—May-June 1973, Tate Etc., issue 14, September 2008.
Francis Bacon created this ambitious Triptych in May and June of 1973. In the artist’s terms, as scrupulously articulated in the letter to the French critic Michel Leiris cited above, it is certainly a realist work, although it hardly corresponds to less personal definitions of realism. Its iconography refers to a real event, the death of his lover; its mode of expression to the visceral profundity – Bacon’s reality – of the effect produced by this terrible occurrence.
It was in the late 1960s and 1970s that Bacon created his series of triptychs, not all of them completely successful, but many of them powerful and disturbingly original. According to the French theorist Gilles Deleuze in his Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation (Francis Bacon: the Logic of Sensation, 1981), the triptych form enabled the artist to engage with the human figure without being drawn into the conventional storytelling mode. "It’s not only that the painting is an isolated reality, and not only that the triptych consists of three isolated panels and the fundamental rule that they never be united into a single frame: it’s rather that the Figure itself is isolated in the painting… And Bacon has often told us why: in order to avoid the figurative, illustrative and narrative character that the Figure would necessarily assume if it weren’t in isolation."
In this work, however, one of the most memorable of the great triptychs of the 1970s, Bacon is less set than usual on staving off the demon narrative. Here, contrary to Deleuze’s assertion that the form serves an isolating function, it seems to me that the images beg to be read as a story, from left to right. And the story, at once personal and melodramatic, is riveting: the suicide, just before the opening of a major retrospective of Bacon’s work in 1971–1972 at the Grand Palais, of George Dyer at the Hôtel des Saint-Pères in Paris. The ignoble furniture of daily recuperation – the toilet, the sink, the starkly singular light bulb – become the instruments of Dyer’s Passion. To the left, he shits; to the right, he vomits; in the centre, he hovers against the black background, which is transmuted into a giant shadow, his shadow. In the opaque darkness, death itself assumes the form, however inchoate, of a giant bat, a consuming demon, a revenging angel. Sex, death and the throes of creation are at one here, as Jean-Claude Lebensztejn pointed out in a brilliant catalogue essay for the 1996 Bacon retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, an extended analysis of the recurrent squirt of white paint streaking across the surface of many of the artist’s most intense canvases of the period. Figured as a kind of materialised sexual spasm, a jet of sperm, the white spurts up in the final, right-hand image of the triptych, in which Dyer, who has overdosed, spews up his soul into the hotel washbasin.
Why this persistent "fear of narrative", permeating not only Bacon’s own statements about his work – "I could not paint Agamemnon, Clytemnestra or Cassandra, as that would have been merely another kind of historical painting when all is said and done" – but most of the critical analyses of his work, both pro and con? Almost everyone who has discussed Bacon – most prominently Deleuze, but David Sylvester as well – hastens to defend the artist from charges of illustrativeness, calling attention to his anti-narrative strategies, strategies in which the format of the triptych, the isolation of the human figure and the patent flatness of the pictorial siting play an important role. Yet if one examines the formal structure of Triptych – May–June 1973, one cannot help but be struck by Bacon’s deliberate effort to create connection among the three images, rather than isolation of the individual elements. The human protagonist at various stages of his dying is bound to his tragic fate by the repeated vertical counter­point of the architectonic framework of wooden panelling, a motif that plays against the dynamic curvilinear interjections of the human form and its appurtenances, and is bracketed at either end by a realistic light switch and wire, such as might be found in the Hôtel des Saints-Pères and marks the event’s specific time and place. The story is narrated in terms of this structure, its sequential agonies staged against the repeated greyish blankness of the rug at the bottom of each panel. Certainly in terms of Bacon’s definition of realism, it is a realist work, but, to me, it is a realist narrative as well.
Anti-narrative defensiveness is understandable enough in the context of the heady days of Abstract Expressionism (which Bacon ostensibly hated, but which obviously exerted a certain seductive power on his formal language), an era when "illustration", "decoration" and "narrative" functioned as the signs of artistic failure. Nobody, however, really explains just why illustration and narration are such terrible sins, temptations to be avoided at all costs. After all, British art, from Hogarth to the Pre-Raphaelites and beyond, has had a considerable positive engagement with narration – and often narration in the service of morality at that.
Perhaps that is why Bacon and his supporters have been particularly keen to separate the artist from this tradition, to make sure that he is seen and judged as a player in the game of international modernism,as a painter whose formal inventiveness and up-to-date kinkiness and anguish sever his work completely from all connection with the fuddy-duddy past of British pictorial history. But this would be a shame, especially in the case of the 1973 Triptych and some of the other ambitious works relating to it, such as Triptych – In Memory of George Dyer (1971), or Triptych – August 1972, also three-part pictures, recalling, however dimly, the religious triptychs of Christian art.
Almost from the beginning, Bacon’s work has been engaged with temporality, making, at the very least, a flirtation with narration almost unavoidable. Or one might say, more accurately, that Bacon’s imagery, his considerable formal gifts and his technical bravura have been harnessed to change – sexual struggle, the metamorphosis of man into meat, or vice versa; the disruption or coagulation of the structure of face and body, the blatant reduction of the dignity of the human form into a trickle or a puddle of paint; and, at the end, time’s grimmest depredation: the horror, bestiality and meaninglessness of death itself.
• Morris, Desmond. On Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c. 1944, Micro Tate 8, London: Tate Gallery, 1 September 2006.
The face of the figure is distorted into a scream of horrific intensity. He painted many screams in later works, but none can match the impact of this one. It is the scream of the torture victim at the very moment that the lash cuts the flesh. The victim, of course, is Bacon himself. He was heavily into bondage and masochistic ritual in his private life, and he relived his painful eroticism in many of his images of trussed up, agonised, distorted figures.
Francis was fascinated by extreme forms of facial expression, and the mouth stretched open to full gape was his favourite. One day he amused me by saying, in an apologetic tone: ‘You know, I think I’ve got the scream, but I am having terrible trouble with the smile.’ The truth was that he could get no kicks from an image of a smiling face. It was not part of his complex sexual obsession.
Others may see in this screaming face a reflection of the agonies of war-torn Europe, a statement about the horrors of modern existence, or the entrapment and isolation of modern man in his urban cell. I see nothing of the sort. I see a devout masochist enjoying the thrill of encapsulating the secret joys of his most private moments. The great mystery about Bacon’s work is why this lifelong fetishistic indulgence should have resulted in the creation of such truly great art. But then mystery is the very essence of art. As Picasso once said: ‘I don’t understand it and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.’

Enthusiastic Despair: Resources, 20 March 2009

• Akerman, Luis Mariano. "Bacon: Painter with a Double-edged Sword," Blue Chip Magazine, Vol. LXXXVIII, No. 8, February-March 2012, pp. 29-33; online version (2013).
• Ebert, John David. On Francis Bacon, Cultural Discourse, 21 June 2012.
• Löhndorf, Marion. Francis Bacon: A Portrait, DB ArtMag (Deutsche Bank Art Magazine), 2003-4. Ref. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Francis Bacon und die Bildtradition, October 2003 - January 2004.

Bacon's Arena, 2005. Since his death in 1992, Arena is the only broadcaster to be granted exclusive permission by the Estate of Francis Bacon to make a film about his life. Bacon's paintings are some of the most vivid, haunting and ferocious in art history, and his life was as outrageous as his art. The film is saturated with Bacon's forceful presence, his imperious and seductive voice - a testament to the unparalleled range and originality of Bacon's insights into his own work. Even more appreciated abroad than in Britain, Bacon is revealed as a global phenomenon. The documentary extends far beyond the Soho caricature of the Bacon legend, featuring visits to Paris, Madrid, Tangier, Ireland and New York.

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