In Camera Francis Bacon Paperback – Sep 26 2006
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About the Author
Martin Harrison is a leading expert in the fields of art and photography, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
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In five chapters Harrison explores different type of media and images and how these affected Bacon's painting: Motion pictures, Interior Design, different artists such as Picasso and Michelangelo, the photography of Eadweard Muybridge, and the photographers that he hired to take photographs for him such as Deakin and Edwards. From the thousands of objects found in Bacon's studio at his death many were photographs from the above mentioned sources, but also taken from magazines and torn from books. Of these many had paint splatters and finger smudges in paint proving that Bacon used these for his paintings. A cut out photo of George Dyer, Bacon's lover from the 60's until his suicide in 1971 was even used as a template for several paintings. For many paintings Harrison shows the painting and the image or photograph that it was based on side by side. For example the Triptych (1991) used a front cover of "The Correspondent Magazine", a Muybridge photograph of mane wrestling, and a photo of Bacon. The book has over 270 excellent illustrations, of which at least 100 I saw for the first time and I own an extensive collection of Bacon books and catalogs.
The fact that Bacon used other images for inspiration does not mean that he merely copied these. One look at Bacon's paintings will prove that this is not the case. It is well-known that Bacon did not use models for his paintings and the images acted as catalysts for Bacon triggering other images, emotions or memories which then manifested themselves in his extraordinary paintings. Bacon was always reluctant to discuss the meaning of his paintings, insisting that they had none. Harrison goes farther than any book since the Sylvester interviews in proving that this is not the case and that the paintings were highly personal. The following two quotes from the end of the book are in my opinion right on the mark:
"..it should be remembered that most of Bacon's paintings were explorations of selfhood". (p.228)
"He conveyed his inner life without compromise, but in code, in his paintings." (p.229)
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Bacon's art and Bacon the artist and man. The book is well presented, written and organized and the many images are fascinating. Though published by Thames & Hudson, it is printed and bound by Steidl an excellent German printer.
For more information on books about Francis Bacon, please see the listmania list I compiled. Readers are also welcome to email me for more information on Bacon books and web sites.
Review by Walter O. Koenig
Bacon, unlike most artists of his time and even of the present, had no problems discussing the fact that he utilized the art of photography in gathering information and inspiration for his huge canvases. Bacon saw the camera as a ready resource of information from which products he then could study, cut and paste, distort and wildly mix as the impetus of his own painted creations. But the extent to which Bacon immersed himself in the images he collected and deposited in the ungainly mess of his studio at 7 Reece Mews is now brought to light by author Martin Harrison.
Harrison not only understands photography's history and impact, he also understands painting. He wisely interviewed Bacon's last lover and inheritor of Bacon's estate until his death, John Edwards, and through Edwards' auspices Harrison gained access to many of the never before seen images that grace this book. Here are sketches, manipulated and notated photographs, photographic images of some of Bacon's destroyed canvases and plates of drawings and paintings not included elsewhere, making this volume of information invaluable to the Bacon devotees, no matter the number of volumes on their library shelves!
Harrison writes with the style of the scholar he is and at times the writing itself is rather dry and academic. But if the reader perseveres these thick passages of documentation, the reward is new knowledge of just how Bacon utilized photos, newsprint snaps, movies, and all manner of the camera's output to gain the spark of brilliance that resulted in his amazing output. The book is on the finest paper and is filled with superb reproductions of the photographic stimuli and the resultant paintings. This is an invaluable volume for the study of Bacon's art. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, January 06
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