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Francis Bacon: A Self-Portrait in Words

Michael Peppiatt, Colm Tóibín


A new selection of letters, statements and interviews reveal the preoccupations, thoughts and ideas of Francis Bacon, one of the 20th century’s most influential and important artists

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The documents selected for Francis Bacon: A Self-Portrait in Words illustrate Bacon’s sharp wit and ability to express complex ideas in highly personal, memorable language. Included here are not only letters to friends, patrons and fellow artists, but also intriguing notes and lists of paintings. They often come with a sketch as an aide-mémoire or an injunction to himself as he worked in the studio, and many have only come to light since his death.

Bacon’s letters mirror and reveal his dominant preoccupations at different points throughout his long career. Most of Bacon’s letters have never been published and include several that he wrote to the author. Particularly intriguing is the record of a dream that he jotted down, outlining impossibly beautiful paintings he had conjured up in his sleep. Together with photographs, archive material and works by the artist are numerous reproductions of Bacon’s characteristic handwriting, from the briefest jottings and notes to more extensive letters and statements.

Bacon frequently came up with memorable epithets and definitions. He delighted in doing with words what he set out to do in painting: 'I like phrases that cut me.' Michael Peppiatt explores the personal legacy of one of the 20th century’s most important painters and presents a compelling verbal self-portrait that reveals both man and artist.

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'An insightful new work tries to pin down the painter Francis Bacon via documents he left behind'
Financial Times

'A book for the Bacon completists ... a stream of morning-after apologies — plus a few catty gems'
The Times

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 480 pp

Illustrations: 209

Publication date: 16 May 2024

ISBN: 9780500021866

Contents List

Statements and Quotations (1949 – 1989)
Letters (1943 – 1992)
Studio Notes (1954 – 1990)
Selected Interviews (1958 – 1986)

About the Author

Michael Peppiatt is a well-known writer and curator, who began his career as an art critic in London and Paris in the 1960s. Described by The Art Newspaper as ‘the best art writer of his generation’, his previous books include Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma and Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait. He was guest curator of the Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition ‘Francis Bacon: Man and Beast’ (London, 2022).