‘The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery’- Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon is a painter who is famous for his surreal, harsh, expressionist portraits of the human condition. His work reflects some of the deepest emotions he felt during his life, and I plan to analyse these in my essay.
Francis Bacon’s works are striking portraits of his subjects in states of emotional - sometimes physical – pain, and though he denies his personal connection to the subject matter, many parallels can be found between his work and his life. After the death of his lover George Dyer, he painted ‘Triptych’ which featured Dyer vomiting and hanging over a toilet as he neared his death.
Bacon’s models were always friends, lovers or fellow artists, along with some self portraits. In the 1950s he also worked exclusively from photographs he found in newspapers, often combining them with works from old ‘master’ painters.
Bacon’s deep connection to his models and his subject matter was always conveyed in his style of painting which was often dark, with each stroke placed with power and emotion. His subjects are sometimes placed in small rooms without windows, which further conveys emotions of loneliness and isolation.
Bacon states Picasso as one of the biggest influences for his paintings: “Picasso is the reason why I paint. He is the father figure, who gave me the wish to paint”. His work follows a surrealist style, and his odd take on perspective can be traced back to Picasso’s portraits. Bacon uses rags, dust and his own hands in addition to paint and brush, which gives his work a different texture and style as a result.
Works like ‘Head VI’ are noticeable for their dusty paint quality, especially towards the end of the strokes. The strokes are also quite violent where they pull away from the face, almost like the head itself has been pulled out of shape and the subject is screaming in pain. The viewer can only stare at the mouth, with no eyes to assist the face in conveying emotion. It’s quite painful to look at for too long, as I find a lot of Bacon’s works are, simply because of the pure, unaltered, raw pain in each piece he creates. However, Bacon has stated that “my painting is not violent; it’s life that is violent”, which to me states that anyone who is uncomfortable looking at his work is probably uncomfortable facing the harsh reality of life itself. This is a very strong message to leave with his audience.
In conclusion, I find Francis Bacon’s work to be a deeply moving statement on the meaning of pain and the emotions of the human condition, but I find them very hard to look at for too long. His techniques do not really interest me, as I find surrealism quite hard to grasp, but I am always drawn to his images based on the pain of his subjects and his portrayal of that pain in his work. His work will always live on because it addresses a subject that is totally relatable – pain.