Publication Date: 21/01/2021 ISBN: 9780007298419 Category:

Francis Bacon

Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 21/01/2021 ISBN: 9780007298419 Category:




The Times Art Book of the Year 2021

‘Must surely be the definitive life of Francis Bacon … A biography that no Bacon fan – or indeed foe – can afford to overlook … Mesmerising’ THE TIMES

‘A magnificent triumph … I was captivated by every line’ OBSERVER

A decade in the making, based upon hundreds of interviews and extensive new material, Pulitzer Prize winners Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan have written a startlingly original portrait – rich, complex, and subtle – of a commanding modern figure.

Bacon concealed many important aspects of his life. He described himself as an asthmatic child in Ireland with foxhunting parents and a tyrannical father, but he was also rescued by a series of formidable women – women who in this biography emerge in their own right. He was never just a dissolute young man but was also a passionate reader, largely self-taught. Early on, influenced by Eileen Gray, he became a hard-working and ambitious designer, a brief career explored here in detail for the first time. He dreamed of remaking the modern room.

Bacon worked no less hard or ambitiously as a painter, at first with little success. Throughout the 1930s and early ’40s he suffered ongoing failures, growing isolated and often ill. His health issues throughout his life were far more significant than he revealed. Then came his astonishing breakthrough in 1944, with Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. In the following decades, he emerged as one of the great iconoclasts and bon vivants of his time, a Wildean figure whom one friend called ‘a terrific grandee.’ Bacon was typically celebrated as a sexual adventurer who liked rough trade, but he never stopped longing for a serious committed relationship, however painful. He continued to make disturbing images of the strangeness within, but developed into a more varied artist than has been recognised, creating in particular an extraordinary series of self-portraits. He was an artist who believed in chance and paradox: the iconoclast eventually became an icon.

This is a story, deeply researched and masterfully told, of a sickly boy who became one of the great figures of his time. The twentieth century does not know itself without Bacon.

Publisher Review

Early praise for Revelations: PICKED AS A BOOK TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2021 BY THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, THE SUNDAY TIMES, THE FINANCIAL TIMES AND THE OBSERVER '[An] exhaustively researched, well-rounded profile, which took a decade to complete ... A forensic, sweeping text from two acclaimed art critics, based on hundreds of interviews. The authors skimp neither on context nor on details regarding Bacon's friends and lovers, and they are unafraid to dig into the more volatile elements of his character ... the authors' analyses of individual paintings, mostly free of unnecessarily technical language, are insightful. "Like Aeschylus," they write, "Bacon hoped to capture the inexpressible" and "reach some deeper, more visceral nerve." Resisting attempts at biography, Bacon once "remarked that it would take a Proust" to do him justice. Hyperbole, to be sure, but Stevens and Swan are up to the task of demonstrating the many complexities of an intense, significant artistic life ... An unflinching portrayal of an often unwieldy character - further proof of Bacon's enduring influence' Kirkus, Starred Review Praise for Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan's previous works: 'A wise and delectable biography....To read [this] book is to spend hours in the company of the most interesting of men, ever on the threshold of moments when mere interest dissolves into hot, stammering creative bliss' Peter Schjeldahl, New Yorker 'One of the great strengths of this book is its sense of an artist in his studio. At times the authors disappear, and we watch [him] apply paint, scrape it off and attack again, trace sections of a painting and pin them on other parts to see how they work, stare at pictures for hours, destroy canvases, fly into rages of frustration ... An important book' New York Times Book Review

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