Francis Bacon Paintings, Bio, Ideas – The Art Story

Artist francis bacon

summary of francis bacon

Francis Bacon produced some of the most iconic images of wounded and traumatized humanity in postwar art. Drawing inspiration from surrealism, film, photography, and the old masters, he forged a distinctive style that made him one of the most recognized exponents of figurative art in the 1940s and 1950s. Bacon concentrated his energies on portraiture, often representing the regulars of the bars and clubs in London’s Soho neighborhood. His subjects were always portrayed as violently distorted, almost raw pieces of meat, who are isolated souls, imprisoned and tormented by existential dilemmas. One of the most successful British painters of the 20th century, Bacon’s reputation rose further during the widespread return to painting in the ‘art world’ in the 1980s, and after his death he was regarded by some as one of the most successful British painters of the 20th century. one of the most important painters in the world.


  • Bacon canvases communicate powerful emotions: entire paintings seem to scream, not just the people depicted on them. This ability to create such powerful statements was central to Bacon’s unique achievement in painting.
  • Surrealism, and biomorphism in particular, shaped the style of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), the work that launched Bacon’s reputation when exhibited at London in the last weeks of the Second World War. the work established many of the themes that would occupy the rest of his career, namely humanity’s capacity for self-destruction and its fate in an age of global war.
  • bacon established his mature style in the late 1940s when he evolved his earlier surrealism into an approach that borrowed from representations of movement in film and photography, particularly the studies of figures in action produced by the first photographer eadweard muybridge. From these bacons they were not only pioneers in new ways of suggesting movement in painting, but also in bringing painting and photography into a more coherent union.
  • Although Bacon’s success was based on his striking approach to figuration, his attitudes towards painting were deeply traditional. The Old Masters were an important source of inspiration for him, particularly Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Innocent Pope X (c.1650) which Bacon used as the basis for his own famous series of “gritos papas” . At a time when many lost faith in painting, Bacon maintained his belief in the importance of the medium, saying of his own work that his own images “would deserve the national gallery or the dustbin, with nothing in between.” /li>

    major art by francis bacon

    biography of francisco bacon


    Born in Dublin, Francis Bacon was named after his famous ancestor, the English philosopher and scientist. his father, edward, served in the army and then took a job in the war office during world war i. In an interview with critic David Sylvester, Bacon attributed the violent overtones in his paintings to the turbulent circumstances of his early life. a British regiment was stationed near his childhood home, and he remembered constantly hearing soldiers practicing maneuvers. naturally, his father’s position in the war office alerted him to the threat of violence at an early age. Returning to Dublin after the war, he came of age in the midst of the early campaigns of the Irish nationalist movement.

    The young Francisco had little formal education due to his severe asthma and the family’s frequent trips around Edward’s post. Bacon’s mother, Christina, lived the life of a socialite, and with her father at work, Francis was often left alone. Although he had four siblings, Bacon was close to his nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, who later came to live with him for many years in London (the old lady may have been a major help to the self-destructive Bacon).

    family relationships became more abusive as bacon grappled with his emerging homosexuality: the young artist was severely disciplined by his father (his father had him whipped by stable boys, who were also involved in early sexual experiences of bacon). he was finally kicked out of the house in 1926 after his father caught him trying on his mother’s clothes. Surviving on a small allowance, Bacon lived the life of a vagabond, traveling through London, Berlin, and Paris. Despite his father’s hopes, the change of scenery only freed Bacon to further explore his sexual identity; His time in Berlin proved particularly important in this regard and he will later remember it as one of emotional awakening.

    early training

    bacon moved into a london flat in the late 1920s and became involved in interior and furniture design. One of his patrons, the artist Roy de Maistre, became a mentor to Bacon and encouraged him to pursue oil painting. Bacon modeled his early work on Picasso and the Surrealists, whose work he had seen on a trip to Paris. In 1933, Bacon exhibited Crucifixion, a skeletal black-and-white composition that already radiated the shades of pain and fear that would be characteristic of his later work. The painting was simultaneously published in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, and promptly purchased by Sir Michael Sadler. Encouraged by his success, Bacon organized an exhibition of his own art the following year, but it received little attention. his paintings were also evaluated for inclusion in the international surrealist exhibition, organized by herbert read, but were rejected as not surreal enough. discouraged, Bacon returned to the lifestyle of a hobo. he destroyed most of his work from before 1943, and only fifteen pieces from this early period have survived.

    Because of his asthma, Bacon was unable to join the armed forces during World War II. he was accepted as a member of the air raid precautionary sector, which involved non-military search and rescue, only to be released when he became ill from the dust and debris. “If he hadn’t been asthmatic, he may never have taken up painting,” he admitted. After the war, he took up painting with renewed passion, considering Three Studies for Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion (1944) as the true beginning of his work. the long necks, gaping mouths, and contorted bodies featured in the painting express horror and suffering, a forceful comment on the aftermath of war. Bacon modeled the figures after photographs of animals in motion, showing an early interest in the movement of the body that became a strong theme in his later painting. During the exhibition of him at the Lefevre Gallery, most critics were shocked by the blatant images, but the many reviews put bacon in the spotlight.

    period of maturity

    His great success at the 1944 exhibition gave him more opportunities to show with Lefevre. Graham Sutherland, a friend and fellow exhibitor, also recommended him to the director of the Hanover Gallery, where Bacon had his first solo show in 1949. For this show, Bacon painted a series entitled Heads, significant for being the first series that introduced two important motifs: the first was the scream, derived from a film taken from sergei eisenstein’s battleship potemkin, showing an injured schoolteacher screaming (probably in pain ); The second is the Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez (c. 1650), a painting that Bacon only knew about through reproductions (and that he would always maintain that he had never seen the original). . the series the heads also made greater use of closure devices that suggest a pervasive sense of claustrophobia and anxiety, in this case a shallow, cage-like outline that bacon had also employed in >three studies from 1944.

    In 1952, Bacon began one of his most powerful relationships, with former World War II fighter pilot Peter Lacy. Lacy was attractive, well educated, and very self-destructive. The two had a powerful and violent relationship: on one occasion, while intoxicated, Lacy threw bacon out of a window, and the artist suffered a large number of (minor) injuries. Through various escapades and encounters abroad (with both men enjoying a variety of sexual partners in between their time together) their relationship soured in 1958. Several of their relationships, and especially the many close years with Lucian Freud are discussed in sebastian smee’s book “the art of rivalry”.

    in 1953, hannover held an exhibition of bacon’s paintings that included two figures, a depiction of two men embracing in bed, an image that created quite a scandal. The composition was based on photographs taken by Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge. he said that “the thing is, unless you look at those very bridged figures with a magnifying glass, it’s very hard to see if they’re fighting or having sex.” in fact, bacon often preferred to work with photographs. , relying on his friend John Deakin to take photographs of his subjects, but he was fascinated by Muybridge’s attempts to capture and record moving bodies. Bacon kept a collection of Muybridge’s books in his study as a constant source of reference, and even suggested that his intensive study of these sequential photographs sparked his own interest in serial work.

    Bacon’s tendency to draw inspiration from personal experiences also drew him to portraiture. he often painted close friends (lucian freud, isabel rawsthorne, michel leiris), and the results convey a surprising emotional and psychological intensity. One of Bacon’s most famous characters was his friend and lover George Dyer, whom he met in 1964. Over the course of their relationship, Bacon executed numerous portraits of Dyer that juxtaposed strong musculature with a feeling of vulnerability, as in portrait of crouching george dyer (1966), which suggests an affectionate but protective attitude towards the young man. Dyer suffered from alcoholism and bouts of depression, until she finally committed suicide the night before the first French Bacon Retrospective in 1971.

    last years and death

    after the paris exhibition, bacon moved increasingly towards self-portraiture, stating, “people around me have been dying like flies and there is nothing else to paint but myself.” While continuing to work steadily, he also completed a series of paintings paying homage to the dyer’s memory. Many of these took the form of large-format triptychs, including the well-regarded “Black Triptych” series chronicling the details of Dyer’s demise. In 1973, Bacon became the first contemporary English artist to have a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His work was exhibited internationally during the last years of his life, including retrospectives at the Hirshhorn Gallery and the Tate. In the mid-1970s, Bacon met John Edwards, who replaced both Dyer and Deakin as Bacon’s constant companion and photographer. In his later years, Bacon withdrew from the old boisterous social life, focusing on his work and his platonic relationship with Edwards. He died of a heart attack in Madrid at the age of 81.

    the legacy of francis bacon

    Bacon’s unique interpretations and the intensely personal nature of his work make it difficult to visually trace his influence on contemporary art. however, his paintings have inspired some of the most prominent artists of this generation, including Julian Schnabel and Damien Hirst.

    John Edwards, who inherited the property, played an important role in promoting Bacon’s work until his death in 2003. He was responsible for the donation of Bacon’s studio to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, and this became a permanent exhibition and research archive.

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