A decade in the making: the first comprehensive look at the life and art of Francis Bacon, one of the iconic painters of the twentieth century--from the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of de Kooning: An American Master.
Francis Bacon created an indelible image of mankind in modern times, and played an outsized role in both twentieth century art and life--from his public emergence with his legendary Triptych 1944 (its images "so unrelievedly awful" that people fled the gallery), to his death in Madrid in 1992.
Bacon was a witty free spirit and unabashed homosexual at a time when many others remained closeted, and his exploits were as unforgettable as his images. He moved among the worlds of London's Soho and East End, the literary salons of London and Paris, and the homosexual life of Tangier. Through hundreds of interviews, and extensive new research, the authors probe Bacon's childhood in Ireland (he earned his father's lasting disdain because his asthma prevented him from hunting); his increasingly open homosexuality; his early design career--never before explored in detail; the formation of his vision; his early failure as an artist; his uneasy relationship with American abstract art; and his improbable late emergence onto the international stage as one of the great visionaries of the twentieth century. In all, Francis Bacon: Revelations gives us a more complete and nuanced--and more international--portrait than ever before of this singularly private, darkly funny, eruptive man and his equally eruptive, extraordinary art. Bacon was not just an influential artist, he helped remake the twentieth-century figure.
About the Author
MARK STEVENS is the former art critic of New York magazine. He has been the art critic for The New Republic and Newsweek and has also written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times. ANNALYN SWAN is the former arts editor of Newsweek and an award-winning music critic. She teaches biography at the Graduate Center of CUNY as well as at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English. Stevens and Swan won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for their biography, de Kooning: An American Master. They live in New York.
*A Most Anticipated Book of 2021* The Daily Mail; The Guardian; The Financial Times; The Times (UK); The Sunday Times (UK); The Observer
“Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan have produced a biography that no Bacon fan—or indeed foe—can afford to overlook . . . Ten years of work have gone into this thunking great volume. It shows, but thankfully more in the profusion of endnotes than in the prose, which flows swiftly and elegantly. A mountain of research, including great chunks of description (of places and people and paintings and periods), piles of anecdotes, and dense scatterings of detail diffuse effortlessly into the narrative stream . . . What might to many emerge as surprising [. . . ] is the powerful role played by women in Bacon’s life . . . This biography presents a mesmerizing portrait of a performer commanding the stage of the 20th century, delivering his lines to a public at times wildly applauding, at times gawping, appalled . . . Where this biography soars above rivals is where its authors, even while acknowledging the crafted performance, probe beneath the façade . . . This book’s true “revelation” is Bacon in all his mysterious complexity . . . This is not a portrait of a myth. It is the story of a man. And when it comes to the figure of Francis Bacon, a biography that can make manifest this intrinsic paradox must surely count as definitive.” –Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times (UK)
“A captivating triumph . . . This magnificent biography gets to the heart of Bacon as an artist and a man . . . Until now, the best books about Bacon have been the work of his friends: volumes that, however interesting, are muddied with affection (or its reverse), vested interests and, perhaps, a certain complacency. This volume, though, is the opposite. It rings as clearly as a bell. I cannot remember the last time I was so aware of the sheer hard labour involved in biography, even as I was captivated by every line . . . The authors are diligent about the shows, the critics, the mentors . . . But where they really triumph is in their sympathetic, psychologically convincing accounts of his love life . . . This book’s great achievement is that it does not confuse flexibility in the matter of relationships with insincerity, nor ravenous desire with decadence. Bacon, you come to understand, was fundamentally serious, and fundamentally loving. If his heart was often on the hustle, it was also ardent: as twisted and as fervent as his art.” –Rachel Cooke, The Observer
“The artist’s little known prewar years have been illuminated by the authors. . . . Stevens and Swan have succeeded in creating an incomparable resource for art historians, dealers, curators and collectors.” –The Financial Times
“In their authoritative and fascinating biography, [Stevens and Swan] offer us a chronological and in-depth account of [Francis Bacon’s] background, life and times. Like all great biographies, the figure centre stage is seen in the context of the zeitgeist. In this instance, family wealth, social mores, politics and sexuality colour, inform and determine Bacon's Irish upbringing, his time in Berlin, Paris and London and how he, with little or no formal education or training, turned from designer to artist. . . . This book is engaging in so many ways. . . . Stevens and Swan's seamlessly-written double act is a magnificent, monumental achievement.” –The Irish Independent
“A new biography sheds new light on the enigma that is Francis Bacon. . . . Possessed of a lively dry wit, the authors describe Bacon’s childhood in Ireland, and the inevitable traumas of growing up homosexual and asthmatic at the hands of his English father, who believed in the therapeutic powers of beatings and horses. . . . The book is threaded with subtle yet vital insights into how the art world itself operates, and how the artists, writers, makers, moneyed movers and shakers of a particular time in history come together, influence or ignore one another, argue, befriend and fall out, and in the course of it all, change art and cultural history.” –The Irish Times Culture Magazine
“A widely praised portrayal of a man who was both serious and loving, but as warped as his art. It has set a new benchmark for his biographers.” –Christie’s Online Magazine (“Best Art Books 2021”)
“In this exhaustively researched, well-rounded profile, which took a decade to complete, Stevens and Swan make one of the few attempts to give a holistic account of the iconic Bacon . . . this is a forensic, sweeping text from two acclaimed art critics, based on hundreds of interviews. The authors skimp neither on context nor on details regarding Bacon’s friends and lovers, and they are unafraid to dig into the more volatile elements of his character . . . Presented in a linear fashion, the narrative lends a picaresque feel to Bacon’s sometimes tragic, often dandyish life. While his habit of wandering among the pubs of London's Soho is well known, many readers will be particularly enlightened by the chapters about his childhood among the Anglo-Irish gentry, born an outsider in a house dominated by a chauvinistic father during the eruption of the Troubles. The book, featuring photos throughout, also functions as a dynamic depiction of life as a gay man in Europe during the 20th century, constantly reminding readers of the specter of violence that haunted the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Furthermore, the authors’ analyses of individual paintings, mostly free of unnecessarily technical language, are insightful . . . Stevens and Swan are up to the task of demonstrating the many complexities of an intense, significant artistic life. An unflinching portrayal of an often unwieldy character—further proof of Bacon’s enduring influence.” –Kirkus (Starred Review)