"I've never known why my paintings are known as horrible. I'm always labelled 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? It's 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
vitalising; 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".
Figurative, expressionist, sometime surrealist, and borderline abstract painter who never attended art
school, Francis Bacon was born on October 28th 1909 in Dublin, Ireland. He moved to London at 16 years old,
when his father kicked him out after catching him dancing in front of a mirror in his mother's underwear. Two years
later, he travelled to Berlin with his uncle and there he encountered the violent images of contemporary german
art. He began to draw and work, in watercolour, about 1926.
He went to Paris in 1929 where he saw Picasso's paintings for the first time which had a huge influence on him.
When he returned to London he became a furniture and interior designer and began to use oils for his paintings.
Asthma prevented him from serving in World War II but he did go into civil defence and while working during The
Blitz on London he experienced many scenes of violent and bloody death.
His work was first shown publicly in a group exhibition in London at the Mayor Gallery in 1933, then in 1934 he
organised his own first solo show at Sunderland House, London which he titled 'Transition Gallery'. He didn't
paint very much after this show and in the early 1940s destroyed many of his works which had not been well
received. He did not begin to paint intensively again until 1944.
In April 1945, 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' was exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery and
made him the most controversial painter in Britain - it is now on display in the Tate Gallery, London. His
first major exhibition was at the Hanover Gallery, London in 1949; his first outside of England was held in
1953 at Durlacher Brothers, New York.
In 1958 he rented 7 Reece Mews, a bedsit, in South Kensington, London for his studio which contained a kitchen with
a bath in it, and a combined bedroom and living room. There was also a room which he used as a studio and which was
in complete disarray. Although he bought houses in both England and France he always returned here to paint. John
Edwards, an amateur photographer and Bacon's closest friend and heir donated the bedsit to the Hugh Lane Gallery
in Dublin. It was dismantled piece by piece and re-constructed there on the 23rd May 2001.
His paintings depict scenes of violence, tension, human cruelty and vulnerability, and figures in various
states of indignity. They can be beautiful, frightening, tense and bewildering but always leave you in no
doubt as to his absolute genius.
The life of Francis Bacon was depicted in the 1998 film, Love is the Devil, directed by John Maybury and
starring the marvellous Derek Jacobi who looks incredibly like Bacon himself.
Francis Bacon died in Madrid on 28 April 1992 of a heart attack.