Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigmaby Michael Peppiatt
Francis Bacon was one of the most powerful and enigmatic creative geniuses of the twentieth century. Immediately recognizable, his paintings continue to challenge interpretations and provoke controversy. Bacon was also an extraordinary personality. Generous but cruel, forthright yet manipulative, ebullient but in despair: He was the sum of his contradictions. This… See more details below
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Francis Bacon was one of the most powerful and enigmatic creative geniuses of the twentieth century. Immediately recognizable, his paintings continue to challenge interpretations and provoke controversy. Bacon was also an extraordinary personality. Generous but cruel, forthright yet manipulative, ebullient but in despair: He was the sum of his contradictions. This life, lived at extremes, was filled with achievement and triumph, misfortune and personal tragedy.
In his revised and updated edition of an already brilliant biography, Michael Peppiatt has drawn on fresh material that has become available in the sixteen years since the artist’s death. Most important, he includes confidential material given to him by Bacon but omitted from the first edition. Francis Bacon derives from the hundreds of occasions Bacon and Peppiatt sat conversing, often late into the night, over many years, and particularly when Bacon was working in Paris. We are also given insight into Bacon’s intimate relationships, his artistic convictions and views on life, as well as his often acerbic comments on his contemporaries.
Bacon created a closely guarded myth of his excessive, tumultuous personal life, never wanting his enigmatic, powerfully disturbing paintings to be explained away with a simple biographical anecdote. He also blocked biographies from being published, and destroyed many of his paintings that didn't pass muster. Peppiatt, a friend of the artist's and the editor of Art International, respects Bacon's controlling, antireductionist instinctnot out of deference, but because no brief catalog of life experiences could explain the complex horror of any one of Bacon's paintings. The artist spent his early years in Ireland and England. He was as flamboyantly gay as the times would allow and was thrown out of the family by his father, who caught him wearing Mrs. Bacon's underwear. He traveled to Berlin and Paris and lived on the edge, associating with high society and low-lifes alikea social fluency he retained his entire life. He endured, and sometimes enjoyed, beatings from various lovers. He drank to excess, took pills, and slept little. Ultimately, Bacon synthesized an artistic territory distinctly his own; he was "insufficiently surreal" to join the surrealists and too figurative to be an abstractionist. The unsettling power of his work eventually brought throngs of visitors to the most prestigious galleries in Europe and America. And his appeal endures: A recent exhibition in France drew up to five thousand visitors a day.
Peppiatt stalks and bags elusive prey: a better understanding of a disturbing body of work created by a man who lived inscrutably, in purposeful chaos.
- Skyhorse Publishing
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Meet the Author
Michael Peppiatt served as literary editor for Le Monde and arts correspondent for The New York Times and the Financial Times. He is considered the world expert on Bacon and has curated several groundbreaking Bacon exhibitions, notably 'Francis Bacon: The Sacred and the Profane' and 'Francis Bacon in the 1950s'. He lives in London and Paris.
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