Inspiring Master Artists - Frances Bacon

I have always been excited by the emotionally bold images that Frances Bacon's work presents. For me he is a clear lineage of the cubist and a direct artistic descendent of Picasso. The intensity and power of his figurative expressions in his paintings always stops me in my tracks, I find myself fully engaged in his communication. The work is a mixture of representational, surrealism and almost a flat graphic style that seems to command my attention.

You can get a real sense of the artist from his self-portrait alone and by the other paintings that I selected for this notation. His self-portrait from 1971 (Figure 1) shows the artists vision of himself distorted and grotesque, however he is still able to capture his facial structure enough so that he is recognizable. Compare his self-portrait to the photo of him at the beginning of this note. Just this portrait alone makes me want to explore more about France Bacon, the man and his life.

His painterly technique in juxtaposition to his flat and more linear graphic elements frame, isolate or capture his subjects, and masterfully creates an austere environment or stage for the main figures in his paintings. The figures are often in triptych showing the same figure from different vantage points (see figures 2 and 3). The human forms are often expressed in what seems to be a very tortured and contorted way. This seems to reflect his sense of self and his relationship to society and religious beliefs (see figures 4 and 5).

Recommended websites to explore Frances Bacon's life and art:

Tate Gallery

The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)


About this artist
Source: Tate Gallery

Francis Bacon, born on October 28, 1909 and died on April 18, 1992. His figurative work is renowned for its boldness and barrenness that contained an unfiltered visceral intensity. Isolated, abstract figure frequently appear in distinct and desolate landscapes in Francis Bacon’s paintings. Although Francis Bacon began painting in his early twenties, his career as a painter was stalled since he could not find a subject that truly interested him. In 1944, Francis Bacon showed his seminal Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Francis Bacon gained the reputation for being an observer of the darker aspects of humanity. The darkness inherent in Francis Bacon’s work, many observers say that Francis Bacon seemed quite joyful in his personal life. He was associated with Muriel Belcher, John Deakin, Daniel Farson, Lucian Freud, Patrick Swift, and Henrietta Moreas. Many of Francis Bacon’s detractors included politicians like Margaret Thatcher who described Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures.” Despite the like of political support, Francis Bacon has been the subject of three Tate retrospectives.

Photo of Artist France Bacon
Frances Bacon

“Self-portrait�, 1971
Figure 1 - “Self-portrait”, 1971

Francis Bacon Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion c.1944
Figure 2 - "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion", c.1944
Frances Bacon Three Studies of Lucian Freud 1969
Figure 3 - "Three Studies of Lucian Freud", 1969
Bacon’s study of Velazquez's “Portrait of “Pop Innocent X�, 1953
Figure 4 - Diego Velazquez “Pope Innocent X”, 1650 and Bacon’s study of Velazquez's “Portrait of “Pope Innocent X”, 1953
Frances Vacon “Fragment of a Crucifixion� 1950
Figure 5 - "Fragment of a Crucifixion”, 1950