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 listsof 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 are the records of dreams 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.” Author Michael Peppiatt explores the personal legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most important painters and presents a compelling verbal self-portrait that reveals both man and artist.
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' 2022 exhibition “Francis Bacon: Man and Beast.