Artist of the Week: Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon's artwork is known for its bold, austere, homoerotic and often violent or nightmarish imagery, which typically shows room-bound masculine figures isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Francis Bacon is considered to be one of the most important painters of the figure in the second half of the twentieth century. There is hardly a museum in the world that doesn't own at least one of Francis Bacon's artworks, or wish they did. And invariably they are ghastly, beefy, ugly things even his friends refuse to hang in their living rooms. Often there is a discordant homosexual theme running through his triptychs, usually stopping just short of the obscene, but never in traditional "good taste." Recurring images of popes, sides of beef, wrestling nude men, distorted, cubistic to a point, truncated, but never without a keen sense of sharp insight into himself, others, and society in general. Francis Bacon was born in Dublin to an Irish-born mother, and Australian-born English father. His father, Eddy Bacon, was a veteran of the South African Boer War who became a racehorse trainer. His mother Winnie, an heiress to a Sheffield steel business and coal mine, was noted for her outgoing, gregarious nature, a stark contrast to her highly strung and argumentative husband. Raised with three siblings, Francis Bacon is a descendant of the sixteenth-century statesman and essayist of the same name. A sickly child with asthma and a violent allergy to dogs and horses, Bacon was often given morphine to ease his suffering during attacks. The family shifted houses often, moving back and forth between Ireland and England several times leading to a feeling of displacement that would remain with the artist throughout his life. Though Francis was a shy child, he enjoyed dressing up. This, coupled with his effeminate manner, often enraged his father and created a distance between them. "I've never known why my paintings are known as horrible. I'm always labeled with horror, but I never think about horror. Pleasure is such a diverse thing. And horror is too. Can you call the famous Isenheim altar a horror piece? Its one of the greatest paintings of the Crucifixion, with the body studded with thorns like nails, but oddly enough the form is so grand it takes away from the horror. But that is the horror in the sense that it is so vitalizing; isn't that how people came out of the great tragedies? People came out as though purged into happiness, into a fuller reality of existence". - Francis Bacon


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