Let us first know his “habitat”. Francis Bacon in his chaotic workshop at 7 Reece Mews Street in London (South Kensington), 1980. Photograph by Jane Bown. Her studio, a pile of waste materials, was the extension of her work and Bacon himself. There he lived and produced much of his work for 30 years. Today it can be seen recreated at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where it was moved piece by piece in 1998. When the painter had to order his studio for any circumstance (visits, tv), in the following days he was unable to give a single coherent brushstroke, because he lacked inspiration. He once acknowledged: “From this chaos arise images that are very useful for me. Moreover, the places where I live are passages from my autobiography. Their traces are part of my memory and I don’t touch them”.
In addition to the tools for painting, he surrounded himself with books and a multitude of newspaper clippings and photographs, which he stored chaotically and without caring whether they were stained by the paint or torn. Photograph by Perry Ogden. He worked only in the morning, with the light. “In the afternoon, I go to bars or game rooms. Sometimes I see friends. To work I have to be completely alone. Nobody in the house. My instinct can’t work if others are there, and when you love them it’s worse. I can only work with freedom.
Small biography and influences.
Born to English parents, Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909. At the age of sixteen (1925), he leaves his family to travel through Berlin and Paris for a serious confrontation with his father because he does not accept his homosexual status. In Paris, where he lived until 1928, his artistic vocation arose after admiring the work of Pablo Picasso, who, in the Paul Rosenberg Gallery, exhibited his new surrealist paintings and drawings with a marked emotional violence and expressionist distortion of his figures. Surrealism also trapped him through Sergei Eisenstein’s famous film, The Battleship Potemkin (1925). From this film, the image of the nurse screaming with her face splashed with blood remained permanent in the artist’s retina, a cry of almost unrepeatable anguish that he struggled to achieve in many of his paintings.
To the left, close-up photograph of the silent film “The Battleship Potemkin”, 1925. On the right, Francis Bacon’s painting entitled “Study for the Head of a Shouting Pope”, 1952. Oil on canvas, 49.5 x 39.4 cm. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, United States. According to Bacon: “There was a time when I hoped […] to make the best picture of the human cry. Eduard Munch’s work is at the origin of everything.
In Paris, he also had a predilection for the work of Chaim Soutine and Giorgio De Chirico. In Soutine, he found a tormented spirit like his, capable of making a wild painting for the subject and for the way of approaching it, like the open ox in the channel that Rembrandt had already made. The application of the paint has a material touch to get the colors of blood and flesh mistreated. De Chirico is attracted to his frozen scenarios, like dreams, where the characters are shadows or inert statues, strange to the landscape and lonely.