Francis Bacon Books and Painting

Didier Ottinger, Chris Stephens, Miguel Egaña, Michael Peppiatt, Catherine Howe

A radically new perspective on Francis Bacon’s art, analyzing the ways in which literature inspired the artist’s work.

Published to accompany a major Francis Bacon retrospective in Paris, which will travel to the Fine Arts Museum, Houston, Francis Bacon analyzes Bacon’s works from 1971 onward in light of his relationship to literature. Bacon always vigorously opposed overanalysis of his paintings, preferring to interpret them in purely illustrative or symbolic terms; he admitted, however, that literature was a powerful stimulus to his imagination. The artist was inspired by the images conjured up by certain texts: Aeschylus’s phrase “the reek of human blood smiles out at me” particularly haunted Bacon, while his 1978 work Painting refers to T. S. Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land. An inventory of Bacon’s personal library has identified more than 1,300 books, ranging from Georges Bataille and Joseph Conrad to Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Leiris.

Including twelve of Bacon’s renowned triptychs, this lavish publication features eleven gatefolds and some sixty paintings created by Bacon between 1971 and his death in 1992. Reproduced here with analyses of Bacon’s paintings in the light of some of his most admired authors, these specially commissioned texts reveal new ways of understanding some of the most powerful works in the modern canon.


Didier Ottinger

Series Edited By

Didier Ottinger is assistant director of the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Chris Stephens


Chris Stephens is the director of the Holburne Museum, Bath.

Miguel Egaña


Michael Peppiatt


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.”

Catherine Howe