• BACON, Francis

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      • Francis Bacon was a self-taught painter who destroyed a large part of his output, so much so that virtually nothing of his early work has survived. In 1944 he exhibited a triptych of three distorted figures at the base of a crucifix, in a violent orange colour, who appear to be howling desperately. Through his highly personal subject-matter, which includes a Self-Triptych (1986) expressing his mental conflict and turmoil, he concentrated chiefly on dogs, carcasses, and evocations of men, including elderly tycoons and Velazquez's Innocent X, caged in plate glass and screaming in a silent world of horror, dissolution and fear, and expressed with energy and singleness of aim all the gradations of emotion from pity and disgust to horror, traumatic revulsion and the unbalance of panic. His work, which can be interpreted as an attempt to evoke an essentially partial, since incomplete, catharsis in the spectator, raises in its most acute form the problem of the relationship between art and pleasure. He considered his paintings to be the reflection of his nervous system projected on to canvas, and his opinion, expressed in 1953, that painting is pure intuition and luck, was the presage of the action painting and Abstract Expressionism that was soon to dominate the scene, although he rejected abstract art for himself, since he felt that it evaded the problem of the representation of the human figure which he regarded as the artist's principal challenge. He has been acclaimed as the greatest English artist since Turner. He may have a few imitators, but his art is so extremely personal that he has no successors.

        There are pictures by him in Aberdeen, Batley, Belfast, Birmingham, Berlin, Brussels, Buffalo NY, Canberra, Chicago, Detroit, Edinburgh (M of MA), London (Tate), Manchester (Whitworth), New York (M of MA, Guggenheim), Ottawa, Paris (Pompidou) and Yale.

      • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)

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