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Exerpt from Interviews with Francis Bacon
by David Sylvester, 1993

DS: What do you think are the essential things that go to make an artist, especially now?

FB: Well, I think that there are alots of things. I think that one of the things is that, if you are going to decide to be a painter, you have got to decide that you are not going to be afraid of making a fool of yourself. I think another thing is to be able to find subjects which really absorb you to try and do. I feel that without a subject you automatically go back into decoration because you haven't got the subject which is always eating into you to bring it back - and the greatest art always returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation. And then too, to be a painter now, I think that you have to know, even if only in a rudimentary way, the history of art from prehistoric times right up to today. You see, I have looked at everything in art. And also at many kinds of documentary books. I have looked at books of wild animals, for instance, because those images excite me and every so often one of them may come up to me and suggest some way to use the human body; and there was a book that I bought years and years ago somewhere of images of filters - they were just filters of different kinds of liquids, but the way they were formed suggested all sorts of ways in which I could use the human body (after all, the human body is in a sense a filter, apart from its other attributes). And I have also looked a great deal at the cinema. I was certainly, when I was much younger, influenced by the films of Eisenstein, and then after that I was also very influenced by the films of Bunuel, especially the early ones, because i think that he too had a remarkable precision of imagery. I can't say how they directly affected me but they certainly have affected my whole attitude to visual things - by showing the acuteness of the visual image that you have got to make.

DS: Have you come across a remark of Andre Bazin's that Bunuel's cruelty was a means to rediscover humanity in all it's grandeur?

FB: Is it real cruelty in Bunuel? Anything in art seems cruel because reality is cruel. Perhaps that's why so many people like abstraction in art, because you can't be cruel in abstraction."