The destruction of the mouth in Bacon’s painting...
be interpreted as a symbol of rape, castration, and above all
the twisted relationship between the central figure and his back-ground.
A metaphor for broken communication.
began where others finished. From abstraction in applied art he
moved towards painting in which he was never formally trained.
At the beginning his style showed similarities with the thorny
work of Graham Sutherland. For some time he lived in the shadow
of others' fame. Considered as a painter of figurative grotesques
- the exception proving the rule. But with the passage of time
when he was tired of geometry and British artists began to feel
nostalgic for the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, when more and more
young people were returning to figurative art, the painting of
Bacon began to suggest that all the possibilities of figurative
painting had not been exhausted.
Bacon a great artist? Or is his work important merely as a psychological
phenomenon, as a form of sensationalist art in a journalistic
It’s not easy for his contemporaries today in 1967 to answer
that question. It seems to me that his art has some basic inadequacies
which conflict with his own assertions. For example – the
brushstroke suggests a painterly, not graphic approach but the
range of colour he uses is incidental, vulgar and automatic, at
times purposely gaudy like a child’s collage. The unity
of composition is broken. His themes, if one can talk here of
themes, are the main source of sensationalism through endless
allusions to bodily rape, decomposition and the painful delights
of the divine Marquis De Sade.
the romantic tradition there were always parallel currents. One,
on the side of the fighting man at odds with the world, the Prometheus
current sometimes tempered with the tragi-comedy of Don Quixotery.
The second current – though similar in some external and
superficial aspects, is that of Tantal where terrible punishments
followed horrible crimes. Where humanity struggles in unending
agony alone in deadly isolation and without a smile. . And though
I am certain that the painting of Bacon has greater weight than
purely decorative utterings, it seems to me that it does not reach
the formal values which would help him outlast an era which promises
popularity merely for the evocative atmosphere of a butcher’s
stall or a Dublin ham on a toilet seat.