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Francis Bacon: Books and Painting

Didier Ottinger


A radically new perspective on Francis Bacon's art, analysing the ways in which literature inspired his work

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Francis Bacon loved books. The many volumes in his library are evidence of his deep engagement with literature. Bacon’s condensed statements in paint often seem to echo telling phrases from the literature that he admired – among his favourite authors were Aeschylus, T. S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille. Occasionally the titles of his paintings acknowledge a literary source; however, Bacon consistently and vigorously resisted over-interpretation: his images take flight from their original literary source, owing more to a poetic visual or conceptual universe.

Brought together here are five thought-provoking texts on Bacon’s relationship with literature, a chronology of his life, and an inventory of the books found on Bacon’s shelves after his death. Sixty of Bacon’s paintings, including twelve triptychs presented across gatefolds, are reproduced with excerpts from the writings of the authors who inspired him.

Accompanies the exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, from 11 September 2019 to 20 January 2020

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'Makes a clear case for the rich relationship between Bacon’s art and the books he read, as well as illustrating some of Bacon’s best paintings'
The Art Newspaper

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 30.0 x 23.0 cm

Extent: 242 pp

Publication date: 24 October 2019

ISBN: 9780500239988

About the Author

Didier Ottinger is assistant director of Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris.