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How To Talk About Francis Bacon

I love the occasional feature in Hyperallergic called “How To Talk About Art.” Today the online magazine takes up Francis Bacon, in honor of the coming sale at Christie’s of Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud (below), in an amusing piece by Cat Weaver.


…you won’t have to LEARN much in order to talk about Bacon. He really has been boiled down to a pastiche of sensitive artist tropes. That’s because there really isn’t that much to say. The man did talk a lot, but he mostly repeated the same things. Life is full of horrors, and he was just painting it like it is.

…he liked “rough trade” and had a disastrous love affair with a dangerous fellow named (no kidding) George Dyer who committed suicide in 1971, leaving the already macabre Bacon just a little more “death obsessed” than usual…

…you can call Bacon an existentialist. Even though prose writers have to go a little deep in order to win the existentialist title, painters need only be postwar and have a veneer gritty enough for “the human condition” to stick to…. For Bacon that would be screaming popes, vaguely abstract sides of beef, twisted and blurred faces, and nightmare concoctions of teeth, necks, and talons, usually against an empty background or in a cage of sorts….

There’s one very key word to remember when talking about Lucian Freud: TRUTH. Even though the man made every human he ever painted look like a rotten tuber, you are supposed to keep a perfectly sober face while proclaiming that his works were “truthful.”


There’s more on the site.

We’ll see what the painting brings on Nov. 12. It’s an “estimate on request” at Christie’s but Hyperallergic says the figure is $85 million.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s via Hyperallergic



  1. Whatever anyone thinks of the paintings of Francis Bacon, he really could paint. The surfaces of his pictures are very beautiful up close–as smooth as silk and very subtly colored. They are also very very fragile, which is why his pictures are almost always shown under glass. Unfortunately, the glass completely masks the subtlety of his brush. Hopefully that won’t be the case at Christie’s.

  2. Jim VanKirk says:

    I disagree Bob in an area of 35 sq ‘ the only trans-formative painting takes place in less than 1 and as a rule that ratio is good for his smaller works as well.

  3. Morris Mitchell says:

    Your endeavor to write about culture and the dissection of Francis Bacon.
    Francis Bacon is a product of our contemporary culture worldwide. He reflects the pain and suffering of all society and tis subtle nuances.
    Just turn on the television and view how America’s taste has turned to blood, gore and trite benile subject matter. Bacon’s work is one example of how internalized and mirror the complexities of our confused angry out of control culture.
    He is a fine painter who endeavors to make paint talk. The work is wreathing with emotional and intellectual pain and condemnation. The paint is laced with incisive use of color and physical manipulation. Color has intellectual and emotional power and is a form of psychological symbolism.
    If you must condem Bacon then you must rule out Rembrandts painting of the slaughtered ox. Soutine also painted dead chickens as well as a slaughtered ox. Defending at the time the aesthetic powers and cultural impact.
    Miss Dobrzynski please check and study the contemporary meanings of aesthetics and its powers over our contemporary culture.

    • I appreciate your commnent, but you have misinterpreted my post completely. I linked to a light-hearted commentary about Bacon (not my “dissection” at all), which is not to be taken completely seriously — though, like all jokes, it contains a few elements of “truth.” I actually appreciate Bacon’s work.

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