DAILY ART FIX: The Philosophy Books that Inspired Francis Bacon’s Art

Art world links which caught my eye…

Francis Bacon- Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud

Francis Bacon “Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud” (1964)

Painter Francis Bacon lived in his infamously messy studio. Books of all kinds were amongst the detritus, including works that shaped (or misshaped) the intellectual life of the 20th century.

Francis Bacon read books just like he painted: deep, dark, and complex. The Irish figurative painter was said to have had an enormous library of books sprawled across his London studio, from modernist giants like T.S.Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Marcel Proust, to Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Sigmund Freud, and Jacques Lacan reflecting the artist’s explicit interest in philosophy and psychoanalysis. In a 1966 interview with British art critic David Sylvester, he claimed to know some of these books “by heart”.

“I call it my imagination material,” he told French photographer Francis Giacobetti in 1991, during what would become his final interview before his death the following year. “I need to visualise things that lead me to other forms or subjects, details, images that influence my nervous system and transform the basic idea.” Like Bacon’s own artwork, which could be described as spectacles of horror – visceral, distorted images of crucifixions, mutilations, and monsters – his chosen literature was equally transgressive, often opposing existing philosophical and political ideas of their time…

Bacon’s artworks, while extremely personal, are also a product of their time: the shadowy aftermath of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. It’s a subject explored by Steiner in In Bluebeard’s Castle, which – originally published in 1971 – is one of the key cultural texts on post-World War II society, and a popular read for artists and cultural critics alike. Best described as a reflection on the death of western culture, Steiner argues that classical culture died with the Holocaust.

Read the full article here: DAZED – The Philosophy Books that Inspired Francis Bacon’s Art


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