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Francis Bacon

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  220 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Britain's greatest 20th century painter - the first biography by art critic who Knew and worked with him.
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by W&N
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(showing 1-30)
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Hannah Green
Francis Bacon has always been, rather aptly, something of an enigma to me. From a relatively young age I appreciated his works simply because of his vivacious use of bright colour and then, as I grew older, I came to appreciate the compelling and dark figures hidden beneath the seemingly bright veneer.

I picked the biography up on something as a whim. It was a book we were planning on getting rid of at the shop I work at and, recognising the name, I thought it sounded interesting. Moreover, as I
I almost went on a date with a girl I met on Facebook once but the day of our date, I called her to confirm and she said that she was sorry, that I seemed like a really nice guy, but it could never work between us. I asked her why, what had I done, we hadn't even been on a single date. And she replied, I'm sorry ... I just need my space? You can understand that right? And I looked deep into the mirror, there's always a mirror in situations like this, and I nodded my head. She couldn't see me nod ...more
Barry Hammond
May 04, 2016 Barry Hammond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who's seen a Francis Bacon painting, either in reproduction or in a museum or gallery, has come away intrigued, disturbed, and probably wondering about this person who painted these images, which stick in the mind like no other artist before or since. Whether his popes, crucifixions, portrait studies, heads, or triptychs, his images have a tendency to invade the subconscious and remain there, leaving the viewer to compose strange narratives to explain what they've seen. This revised and u ...more
Apr 06, 2014 Rj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think artists stay much closer to their childhood than other people. They remain far more constant to those early sensations. Other people change completely, but artists tend to stay the way they have been from the beginning.
Francis Bacon quoted in Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: An Anatomy of an Enigma (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1996), 3,

To find yourself you need the greatest possible freedom to drift.
Francis Bacon quoted in Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: An Anatomy of an Enigm
List of Illustrations

--Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma

Postscript: The Afterlife of an Atheist
Selected Bibliography
Frank Ryan
Mar 28, 2016 Frank Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Francis Bacon, self taught artist, somehow rose from utter obscurity to become one the greatest icons of art in the late twentieth century. His meteoric rise, coupled with the extraordinary carnality and brutality of his art, with its screaming popes and anguished, quasi demoniacal, portraits, marks him out as strange and different to any artist that went before him - even considering Goya and his monsters. Congratulations to Mr Peppiatt for exploring and explaining some of the demons and drivin ...more
Often times, when I am on my various museum travels, I will see, in the distance, a haunting image.
Many times, it seems to be a Francis Bacon painting. Because of his time in art history, I am often in galleries which support his work. Yet, I never really knew anything about him. When I look back at my little journal book - I see the note..."study Bacon." Which always strikes me funny...being a vegetarian and all...but never the less...I finally listened to my notes. This edition is suppose to h
Mar 29, 2009 Fran added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Artists
A fascinating insight into the excesses and extremes of an artist who embraced both life and painting with enviable energy and dedication. Pepiatt’s close relationship with Bacon enables him to provide a an entertaining account of the characters that amused him between painting sessions, some of whom appear in his work. As an artist I was particularly interested in the way Bacon controlled the information about his work and his personal life throughout his career. Like a formidable press agent h ...more
Joanna Hulin
Oct 29, 2014 Joanna Hulin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Although a bit repetitive (however for someone like me, that can be a plus) - extremely profound. I borrowed it from the library in the morning and by seven in the evening I had finished the entire thing. It's an extensive overlook into one of my favourite painters and it felt like a true analysis of one of the biggest enigmas in art. An absolute must if you're at all interested in Bacon and his works.
Jul 15, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, francis-bacon
A former New York Times book of the year (for those who care about such accolades), and I'm all for books that focus on creative artists receiving such recognition (if only for the hope of audience spill over). Yes, you'll find all the juicy details about Bacon's at times scandalous private life, all the more so given that Peppiatt was a close friend of Bacon's for thirty years and confided in him to an uncommon (or, perhaps, calculated) degree. But what really puts this book over the top for me ...more
Jan 15, 2009 Joanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The recent retrospective at Tate Britain got me a bit hooked on Bacon. I picked up this biography randomly and am so glad that I chose this one rather than the range of others which take a more gossipy, scandalous approach to his life. Peppiatt starts of the book by confessing his own near obsession with Bacon and then goes on throughout the book to remain completely professional and genuine. The firm focus of the book is Bacon's art so it helps to either be very familiar with his work or have s ...more
Dec 02, 2010 Susan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Often times, in my many museum adventures I am drawn to various haunting figures. Many of these tend to be Francis Bacon's. Some artists follow you more than you follow them. I only know of Bacon because his time period lives among abstract expressionism...and I can't help bump into him while I am visiting Pollock and De Kooning, In my little museum journal, many times you will see "study bacon," which seems funny to me...being a vegetarian and all, but nevertheless I am finally reading a biogra ...more
Dec 08, 2009 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meat
While biographers can't resist psychologizing their subjects in the worst way -- claiming some cause/effect relationship between the artist's life and his work -- this book is worth that nonsense just for the gems that drop out of Bacon's mouth: his analyses of his own work, which come obliquely from his snarky comments on others' lives and works and some moments when he lets his guard down. I compiled a list so I don't have to dig through the chaff for the wheat next time -- maybe biography jus ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Thombeau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
Written by someone who knew him for over three decades, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma (1997) is a thoroughly engaging biography. The research and resources are impeccable. Anecdotes are balanced by analysis, both of Bacon's life and work, an appropriate approach since the two are so deeply intertwined. Francis Bacon lived from 1909 to 1992, experiencing---and thriving on---any number of extremes. From lowlife and rough trade to the highest realms of society and the art world, Bacon enjoyed ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good biography on the painter Francis Bacon, but still my interest in the book is not really on the subject matter, but his life in Soho London during the 50's and 40's. And this book has a lot of great information on places and Gay London life during that time period. When I think of Bacon, I think of location. Although his painting don't have 'locations' he was a man rooted in a time and culture that's fascinating.

I am going back to London shortly, and if I have the time I am going to c
Jeff Howells
To be fair I didn't actually know a great deal about Francis Bacon before reading this book other than his rather boozy interview with Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank Show. I was, to be honest, as attracted by reading about Chelsea/Soho of the forties onwards. This is a fairly brisk clip through his life and makes a decent effort of balancing a history of the man as well as the artist. He appeared to have a prodigious appetite for both booze and men (young and old) and many were in his thrall...I ...more
Jun 21, 2015 Janette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Better than I anticipated. Suggest readers view the works as discussed online as they read. I now have a greater understanding of this fascinating artists oeuvre.
I have always liked Francis Bacon's work but I didn't know that much about the man behind such great paintings. This was an inspiring, interesting, well written biography about a fascinating artist. His paintings are brilliant but he was every bit as fascinating as the body of work he left behind. Inspiring and interesting. I had to deduct a star for the last chapter which talked more about the not very interesting struggles for power and money over his estate after his death. Even with the some ...more
V Johnson
Jun 03, 2013 V Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read. It goes into great detail about the life and the art of Francis Bacon. I read it on my Kindle so, unfortunately, there were no photos of the art works discussed in the book. However, I just used my tablet to access the images on the internet and that worked fine. Michael Peppiatt give a real sense of Bacon's lifestyle, the places, people and exploits of this artist. Francis himself was not forthcoming about defining his art but Peppiatt give plausible understanding to Bacon's ...more
Jan 18, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this after seeing the Tate Britain retrospective. It gives a good overview of Bacon's life, striking a balance between colourful anecdotes and a more serious exploration of the art itself. The book mentions a number of times that Bacon maintained that only a writer of Proust's stature would be able to produce a worthy account of his life. Well, I'm not sure Peppiatt lives up to those impossibly high standards but he has a good stab at the standard biography format. In places I found mys ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A solid effort that conveys many troubled personal aspects of the painter.
Jan 06, 2013 Luke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography of an undoubtedly difficult, dissembling artist.

I read this after reading Daniel Farson's biography (again) and it's certainly the better of the two. Both are rooted in friendship with Bacon, but Peppiatt places far less of himself in the work, unless directly quoting conversation.

Where Farson's take on the story becomes disjointed and meandering, this work seems much more rigorous, providing much to ponder for those with even the most passing interest in one of the last
Aug 13, 2016 Flob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic biography of a fantastic artist. Very readable.
Carrie McGath
Jul 29, 2015 Carrie McGath rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superbly researched and lyrical biography. Amazing.
Jul 25, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Perfect balance of art history/critique and artistic bitchiness.
David Willis
Jan 12, 2014 David Willis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone interested in Francis Bacon's extraordinary life this is a fascinating read. I'm a huge fan of his art and this made for an interesting insight into the man. Well researched and expertly written.
Wow. It's really amazing to fantasize about being this man. I keep catching myself pretending that we have things in common, but he actually got to live in berlin pre ww2. he loved seducing straight men, and would get incredibly drunk and stumble over to his studio to paint disturbing and beautiful things completely un-british. sigh. je suis un poseur, je crois.
Jul 13, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the moment I am obsessed with Francis Bacon. As with most biographies, parts of his personality and behavior were most likely exaggerated but I enjoyed this book because it balanced discussions regarding his work with information regarding his personal life and social circle. After reading this book I am totally into rough trade. Paint on!
James Haliburton
Jul 31, 2011 James Haliburton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and thorough counterpoint to the Tate restrospective; yes, Bacon was mad, bad and dangerous to know but so much more . . . wonderful insights into his transition from drifting misfit to the most thrilling British painter of the 20th century.
Nov 04, 2012 Carson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and engaging biog. Particularly loved the evocations of his studio environment and how we would use scoopings of filth from the various surfaces in his studio to paint with
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