Francis Bacon Painting 1978

Francis Bacon Painting 1978
Oil on canvas
1980 x 1475 mm each
© The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS 2008 
Private Collection, London Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

References to poetry and drama became a central element in Bacon’s work from the second half of the 1960s. Alongside images of friends and single figures (often self-portraits), he produced a series of grand works that identified with great literature. Imbued with the inevitability and constant presence of death, the poetry of T.S. Eliot was a particular source of inspiration. The sentiments of the poet’s character Sweeney could be said to echo the painter’s perspective on life:

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to
brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.

The works in this room refer to and derive from literature. Some make direct references in their titles, others depict, sometimes abstractly, a certain scene or atmosphere within the narratives themselves. Bacon repeatedly stated that none of his paintings were intended as narratives so, rather than illustrations, these works should perhaps be understood as evoking the experience of reading Eliot’s poetry or Aeschylus’s tragedies: their violence, threat or erotic charge. Thus, of the triptych created after reading Aeschylus, Bacon explained ‘I tried to create images of the sensations that some of the episodes created inside me’.