“Francis Bacon: Revelations” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan— The Life and Art of Francis Bacon

Stevens, Mark and Annalyn Swan. “Francis Bacon: Revelations”, Knopf, 2021.

The Life and Art of Francis Bacon

Amos Lassen

“Francis Bacon: Revelations” is the first comprehensive look at the life and art of Francis Bacon, one of the iconic painters of the twentieth century.Bacon’s role in 20thcentury art created an image of modern man. 

He was an openly gay male at a time when many others stayed in the closet and his sexual exploits were unforgettable as he moved through of London’s Soho and East End, the literary salons of London and Paris, and the homosexual life of Tangier. The authors, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Aswan conducted hundreds of interviews, and new research to bring us Bacon’s childhood in Ireland, his i open homosexuality; his early design career, how he formed his artistic vision, his early failure as an artist; his uneasy relationship with American abstract art; and his late entrance upon the international stage as one of the great visionaries of the twentieth century. This is a complete and nuanced look at Bacon than ever before and at his art. We see Bacon as not just an influential artist but as a man who helped remake the twentieth-century figure.

Bacon chose not to be a member of a historic movement and this became a consistent thread in his art. He seems to have come upon painting whilst working as a furniture and interior designer but his paintings only began to be noticed when he was in his late thirties, and even then it he did not gain popularity. His works were difficult to place in either the Paris or New York art scenes because of his violent images yet he continued to pursue his own artistic tradition until he eventually became one of the most celebrated artists of the last century.

Chronicling his professional and personal life, we see a lot more about Bacon ever before. Here was a man who  lived in societies that grudgingly accepted his existence yet he was able to find and maintain deep relationships with both lovers and friends, who in turn shaped his life.  He was charming wherever he went and loved parties, drinking, and gambling.  He remained loyal to his family and adopted families and loved meeting  new people. He flirted with others right up to his death.

Bacon cultivated the myth about himself, his persona as an artist and as an important man. He was a very complex human being, with characteristics that were contradictory and opposing c. He defied some conventions yet stayed true to what he considered to be proper. While eager to flaunt his carelessness about money, class and status, he  worked hard to remain on top.

We have the personal stories behind every painting and how each corresponds to the events in the life and how the perception of the work changed.

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