Francis bacon as an essayist

In 1962, the London Tate Gallery staged a Francis Bacon retrospective, which travelled to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Other significant exhibitions of his paintings were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1963); the Grand Palais in Paris (1971); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1975); the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, . (1989); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1990); and the Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris (1996).

STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment, and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best, from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body, may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study 197 the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind, may have a special receipt.


Because of its importance in Bacon’s later works the mouth has become a study in itself. In 1966, the artist spoke of the admiration he had had since the 1920s for the screams of the wounded nurse in Serge Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin (1925) and of the mother in Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents , 1630-1 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). [41] He professed: ‘I did hope one day to make the best painting of the human cry.’ [42] He is known to have had an operation on the roof of his mouth, [43] but he traced his interest in the imagery to a medical treatise with coloured illustrations, La Maladie de la bouche which he acquired around 1935; it appears that one of its plates served as the model for the central panel of Three Studies . [44] Although such ambitions and associations were explored in retrospect and frequently in relation to later works - notably the paintings of Popes derived from Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X - the artist may also have seen something in common between the outburst of both oppressor and innocent. In 1974, he told David Boxer of his interest in ‘the visual scream ... this image where you see the gums, the teeth, the saliva, the lips, the flesh outside’, and he added: ‘The scream can be the scream of the aggressor or ... the victim.’ [45] The persistence of the open mouth as a locus of pain in Bacon’s work, together with the complex of images of beauty with which he would associate it - the wish, in 1966, ‘to be able to paint the mouth like Monet painted a sunset’ [46] - reinforces the tone in Three Studies ; there it is simultaneously expressive and bestial, luscious and aggressive while screaming or biting. Furthermore, these concerns may be seen partially to circumscribe the use of photographs of Nazi leaders as source material.

However, Bacon's real interests lay in science. Much of the science of the period was based on the work of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. While many Aristotelian ideas, such as the position of the earth at the centre of the universe, had been overturned, his methodology was still being used. This held that scientific truth could be reached by way of authoritative argument: if sufficiently clever men discussed a subject long enough, the truth would eventually be discovered. Bacon challenged this, arguing that truth required evidence from the real world. He published his ideas, initially in 'Novum Organum' (1620), an account of the correct method of acquiring natural knowledge.

After Dyer's suicide he largely distanced himself from this circle, and while his social life was still active and his passion for gambling and drinking continued, he settled into a platonic and somewhat fatherly relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards. The art critic Robert Hughes described him as "the most implacable, lyric artist in late 20th-century England, perhaps in all the world" and along with Willem de Kooning as "the most important painter of the disquieting human figure in the 50's of the 20th century." Francis Bacon was the subject of two Tate retrospectives and a major showing in 1971 at the Grand Palais. Since his death his reputation and market value have grown steadily, and his work is among the most acclaimed, expensive and sought-after. In the late 1990s a number of major works, previously assumed destroyed, including early 1950s popes and 1960s portraits, reemerged to set record prices at auction. In 2013 his Three Studies of Lucian Freud set the world record as the most expensive piece of art sold at auction.

Francis bacon as an essayist

francis bacon as an essayist

However, Bacon's real interests lay in science. Much of the science of the period was based on the work of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. While many Aristotelian ideas, such as the position of the earth at the centre of the universe, had been overturned, his methodology was still being used. This held that scientific truth could be reached by way of authoritative argument: if sufficiently clever men discussed a subject long enough, the truth would eventually be discovered. Bacon challenged this, arguing that truth required evidence from the real world. He published his ideas, initially in 'Novum Organum' (1620), an account of the correct method of acquiring natural knowledge.

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