Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Richard Curson Smith’s 2017 BBC documentary – Francis Bacon – A Brush with Violence

The painter Francis Bacon was born on this day, October 28, 1909, in Dublin, Ireland, he died in Madrid, Spain, in 1992.

For an earlier posting on Bacon on The Allen Ginsberg Project – see here

Allen first encountered Bacon in Tangier, Morocco.

Here he is, in June 1957, writing to his friend the painter, Robert LaVigne:

“..There is a painter here Francis Bacon, I must have mentioned, just met him the last few weeks, he’s very good, I’d seen a few (only three) pictures by him in NY and SF – in (the) Museum of Modern Art, what looks like gorilla in black tuxedo with his head chopped off over the mouth sitting under a deathly black umbrella, with bunch of Rembrandt butcher cadaver cows hanging around him.

He’s friend of (Paul) Bowles and we see him every other day on street  and stop for coffee or tour bars. Very strange nature, looks like thirty-five or so, rather fat boy but tough, but he’s actually forty-seven with his English sneakers  and leaves and curly red hair – rather spoiled tragic face like Thomas D. (Dylan Thomas) – and quite a sport. A good cook and has worked around , didn’t start painting till thirty and now the best painter in England I think, and says his reputation is a lot of chic shit and will decline and he don’t give a shit, he’s a gambler, won $4000 at Monte Carlo, spent it all in a summer ten years. ago, villa, autos, champagne, likes to be whipped and had six year affair with Peter Lacy, an ex RAF cocktail pianist in a large western empty chic bar here – anyway a very serious painter, has a funny approach. Doesn’t dig abstraction, thinks De Kooning  the great man in U.S. for his attempt to plant an image on the canvas  busting through abstract smash of paint – his approach to painting is gamblers, says he is waiting for some way to paint a picture of someone , but not representation, psychic representation , they and a nose and the mouth, all formed somehow on the canvas, by accident, then the trap shuts on him, and by an accident of sudden brushstroke inspiration, and slip of arm the eye takes on inconceivable painterly and poetic magic – not poetry he’s after, but some dangerous game with the canvas whereby patience and long work and wild splashing of canvas painting a face all of a sudden some spontaneous brushstroke gesture will make it, a great image…and is so hung up on the expressionists, Soutine and Van Gogh, – in fact finished a series of seven pictures modeled on a Van Gogh, showing him walking down the road, the landscape looking upside down, Van Gogh in different ghostly slumping positions on the road with a big shadow hat.

Got drunk here and hurt his arm, and so not painted here yet but will stay a year or so. Spends money like a child and enjoys “gilded gutter” and is really interesting form of man – said he enjoyed gambling, knowledge zenlike that he was making it, so in a half hour piled up winnings , and watched the spirit leave him and exhilarated equally by reverse of fortune and watching the whole pile fade and flow back where it came from – “life is a lie”…(William) Burroughs prose much the same, pure free association of visual images, a sort of dangerous bullfight with the mind, whereby he places himself in acute psychic danger of uncovering some secret which will destroy him…”

March of this year saw the publication of Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan’s magisterial and monumental biography Revelations, masterfully chronicling an extraordinary life and a shocking and controversial life.

Library Journal accurately declared it:

“An appropriately hefty biography of the mercurial artist … In this exhaustively researched, well-rounded profile, which took a decade to complete, Stevens and Swan make one of the few attempts to give a holistic account of the iconic Bacon”

Here is the enthusiastic  New York TImes review
Here is The Guardian
Here are a variety of reviews of the book
Stevens and Swan may also be heard – here, here, and here – speaking about their book and about Bacon

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