I love listening to Francis Bacon speak. He’s enchanting. Naturally, barriers of time, space, genius and death kept me from ever getting within earshot of the man, but hearing him timecapsuled up in Youtube clips and BBC documentaries has revealed a marvelous discrepancy to me.
As easily witnessed in the brief video just below, Bacon’s voice was luxuriously crystalline, his diction precise and pristine. He never picked up the lilt of Dublin, where his English parents brought him up (today marks the anniversary of his birth there in 1909). Instead he inherited their crisp, contained tones and elucidated upon his points as a professional artist with calculated delicacy and a certain philosophical, fidgety blithesomeness.
Conversing in French brought a particularly sportive flair to his words and pert glimmer to those magically bulbous blue eyes.
Of course, the pieces of Bacon we can watch and replay on screens reflect him in choice settings — interviews in which it was best to sound shrewdly posh, and boozy home videos demonstrating his unquenchable thirst for revelry. His darker low points played out off-camera, before select eyes, across Europe’s underbelly, in utter solitude and especially on canvas.
That a such an outwardly engaging, even graceful nature could also possess the ability to spew out a deeply perturbed stream of raw, writhing, violent, animalistic paintings is extremely telling. Telling about all our natures, as we battle our own dualities.
What people find debauched or horrific about Bacon — gay sex, sado-masochism, lovers’ overdose-suicides, supreme confidence in the short senselessness of existence — are certainly not specific to each of our lives. Yet we all cling to our own proclivities, tone down or alter facets of ourselves from family, friends and followers.
Human beings are complex, shifting creatures. Observing both the waggishly smart and irreparably mutilated sides of Bacon in a non-judgy way lends a unique chance to more affectionately embrace the grisly bits of our inner workings, and hold back on harsh sentiment towards others.
We may not all cut as monumental or captivating a figure as Britain’s biggest, baddest painter; though we are all brittle, flawed, and yet resounding with fetching qualities.