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The Francis Bacon Web Archive

"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."

Triptych May-June 1973

One of the most genuinely dark pieces, Triptych May - June 1973, was painted after the death of his tormented partner George Dyer who died, seated on the toilet in a Parisian Hotel, after an overdose of drink and drugs.

"My way of deforming images is what brings me much closer to the human being, than if I would just sit and make a portrait."

"I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of the past events as the snail leaves its slime."

Francis Bacon arguably is the most influential painter to emerge in this century. A true innovator, he first appeared during WWII with morbid visions of monsters derivative of the horrors of the war. Throughout his career Bacon has constantly evolved his style, and left fans and critics amazed. A Bacon painting encompasses within its boundaries all of it's environment and manipulates with a unique touch.

Lacking formal training in art, he acquired some knowledge of technique from a friend, the Australian painter Roy de Maistre, with whom he had a joint studio exhibition in 1930. Bacon's first major work, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), is now in the Tate Gallery, London. Always an individualist, with a satirical eye for the nightmarish or repulsive, he once was described by the American artist R. B. Kitaj in 1976 as 'arguably the finest painter alive'.

It was not until the 1940s that he discovered his own artistic idiom. In the following years Bacon turned his attention to the human figure and its expressions, a subject which remained the main theme of his work until his death. It was never the human being as a triumphant or glorious individual that Bacon sought to depict, but rather individuals trapped in impotence and despair.

His paintings were projections of his own nervous system, based on an aesthetic ideal which he himself named "the brutality of reality". Bacon has stated that his work sprang from an "exhilarated despair". Bacon attempted, by the use of bizarre or sadistic subject matter, to shock the viewer into an awareness of cruelty and violence. He developed a style of his own characterized by a morbid sensibility and metaphorical and anthropomorphic transmutation of reality inspired in part by the paintings of Velasquez as well as graphic newspaper photos. Bacon was openly gay. He ignored society's rituals and observed none of its canons or taboos. In his youth on the streets of London he supported himself through theft and prostitution. As an artist he saw himself as a grand artiste, a divinely inspired purist with links to the Renaissance, reacting to forces beyond the petty concerns of day-to-day living. An isolated and fiercely private individual, Bacon nevertheless, was extremely successful during his lifetime and lived to see his work in all the great museums of the world. His brutal art contains elements of pessimism and love for life. "Since the fact that we exist at all is nothing more than banal, we might just as well make something grand out of it "

Homage to van Gogh is a true expression of what Bacon called his "riotous despair" - a document on the theme of magnificent, intensive vanity. Without the help of a model but instead relying on photographs he has recreated a resemblance, only to sabotage it by the "pointless" positioning of - for instance - eyes and ears. He casts paint into the picture and rubs in these intentional defects so as to give the painting a stronger feeling of immediacy and the power to "etch the nervous system of the viewer". "I'm consumed by the question, how close a likeness can I achieve through the most irrational means?"

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