Francis Bacon [1909-1992]

Self portrait
Irish-born English figurative painter

Francis Bacon

was born,
October 28, 1909
in 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland

Focusing on the human form, his subjects included crucifixions, portraits of popes, self-portraits, and portraits of close friends, with abstracted figures sometimes isolated in geometrical structures. Rejecting various classifications of his work, Bacon claimed that he strove to render “the brutality of fact.”

Bacon said that he saw images “in series”, and his work, which numbers c. 590 extant paintings along with many others he destroyed, typically focused on a single subject for sustained periods, often in triptych or diptych formats. His output can be broadly described as sequences or variations on single motifs; including the 1930s Picasso-influenced bio-morphs and Furies, the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s “screaming popes,” the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures, the early 1960s crucifixions, the mid-to-late 1960s portraits of friends, the 1970s self-portraits, and the cooler, more technical 1980s paintings.

Whenever I begin working on an artist tribute, I more or less have already seen / admired their work and know what I’m in for. There are some painters though that never seize to amaze me every time I look at their work. Bacon is one of them.

So here’s a glimpse of his work & words
After Velasquez Pope Innocent X

“It’s always hopeless to talk about painting – one never does anything but talk around it.”

Beauty In The Slaughterhouse

“Some paint comes across directly onto the nervous system and other paint tell you the story in a long diatribe through the brain.”

Figure in a Landscape [Tate]

“The chief consideration for a good painter is to think out the whole of his picture, to have it in his head as a whole… so that he may then execute it with warmth and as if the entire thing were done at the same time.”

Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror

“You see, painting has now become, or all art has now become completely a game, by which man distracts himself. What is fascinating actually is, that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artists, because he must really deepen the game to become any good at all.”

Sketch for a Portrait of Lisa

“If you can talk about it, why paint it?”

Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh IV [Tate]

“All of our actions take their hue from the complexion of the heart, as landscapes their variety from light.”

Sleeping Figure

“If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is called appearance into image.”

Study For A Head

“If I sit and daydream, the images rush by like a succession of colored slides.”

Study for Velazquez Pope II

“The feeling of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.”

Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne [Tate]

“The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love.”

Seated Figure 1961 [Tate]

“Painting today is pure intuition and luck and taking advantage of what happens when you splash the stuff down.”

Horror in Oil

“Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence – a reconcentration… tearing away the veils that fact acquires through time.”

Dying on the toilet

“I would like my picture to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime.”

Study for a Portrait [Tate]

“I would like, in my arbitrary way, to bring one nearer to the actual human being.”

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion [Tate]

“If my people look as if they’re in a dreadful fix, it’s because I can’t get them out of a technical dilemma.”

Second Version of Triptych

“Painting is the pattern of one’s own nervous system being projected on canvas.”

Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake) [Tate]

“Even within the most beautiful landscape, in trees, under the leaves the insects are eating each other; violence is part of life.”

Head VI

“My painting is not violent; it’s life that is violent.”

Study for Portrait II

“Great art is deeply ordered. Even if within the order there may be enormously instinctive and accidental things, nevertheless they come out of a desire for ordering and for returning fact onto the nervous system in a more violent way.”

Study for the Portrait of Pope Innocent X

“I paint for myself. I don’t know how to do anything else, anyway. Also I have to earn my living, and occupy myself.”


“The mystery lies in the irrationality by which you make appearance – if it is not irrational, you make illustration.”

Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach

“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”

Study for Portrait VII [MoMA]

We only have our nervous system to paint.

Triptych August 1972 [Tate]
Triptych August 1972 p1 [Tate]
Triptych August 1972 p2 [Tate]
Triptych August 1972 p3 [Tate]

I believe in deeply ordered chaos.

Study of a Bull

Self Portraits


Bacon in his studio
His …”ordered chaos”!

Unlike my usual addition of music in these posts, I shall respect the painter’s wish to concentrate on a painting without listening to music.

However, I have added three videos about his work and life which I found very very interesting .

Here they are:

Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence

Francis Bacon • Art documentary

A film by David Hinton, London. (1988)

Francis Bacon: A collection of 369 works

For more information on Bacon:


Be Safe

46 replies »

  1. He is definitely unique!
    That studio… who am I to judge 😉
    Thanks for sharing… not one I would put on my wall, but interesting nonetheless!

  2. OMG!
    How apropos that I opened this post on Hallowe’en!
    Egads & without prejudice … the horror…. the horror …
    His studio is awesome. My fave shot of all.
    Putting the docus on hold for a rainy day!


  3. Ahhhh now then, Bacon is one of my favourites from my youth. I always found a very strange beauty in his ‘grotesque’ images. I don’t know if that tells you more about him or me! Still to this day, I love his works. They remind me of Gerald Scarfe’s images from the 80s (particularly political ones and images from Pink Floyd’s The Wall) and the works of David Lynch. Great thought-provoking stuff!

Happy to hear your thoughts

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