- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Thames & Hudson; Subsequent edition (January 17, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0500274754
- ISBN-13: 978-0500274750
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Interviews with Francis Bacon (Subsequent) Paperback – January 17, 1988
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From the Back Cover
This book with its subsequent revised and augmented editions--has been considered a classic of its kind, and that reputation has become worldwide. As a discussion of problems of making art today it has been widely influential not only among artist but among writers and musicians. It has also been seen as the most revealing portrait that exists of one of the most singular artistic personalities of our times.
About the Author
David Sylvester was a prominent writer, art critic, and leading authority on Francis Bacon. He lived in London and wrote for the Tribune before heading to Paris and working as a translator and reviewer.
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Top customer reviews
"The Brutality of Fact" is a rich treasure trove gleaned from a series of discussions between the master artist and one of his most perceptive and sympathetic critics. Obviously, this book will therefore be invaluable to those who appreciate Bacon's work, but it is equally invaluable to anyone interested in art, art theory, and the creative process in general.
As an interlocutor, David Sylvester asks the questions you'd want asked; for his part, Bacon is as forthright and forthcoming in answering them as you could hope him to be.
From the images and artists that obsess him to the way he "throws" paint and rubs out images, from the role of chance in both his work and his life to the way he manipulates the accidents he encourages, Bacon seems to be holding nothing back. He speaks plainly of his goal as an artist and what he feels to be the goal of every serious artist: to rework reality by artificial means to create a new vision of the world truer and more intense than anything ever seen before. And he offers an insightful and incisive critique of what he perceives to be the shortcomings of abstract art, which eschews the world of objects altogether, and illustrative realism, which is simply redundant in an era with ample means of mechanical reproduction. His discussion of these two extreme attitudes towards the phenomenal world and his explanation of the way his own art seeks to mediate between the two are in themselves worth the price and time this book costs you to read.
One of the best books by or about an artist that I've ever read, I found myself underlining passage after passage for future reference and inspiration. I don't think it too much to say that "The Brutality of Fact" amounts to a mini-course in modern art by one of it's most profoundly committed and surprisingly eloquent practitioners--a book that will open your eyes in more ways than one.
The final chapter is the most biographical. Bacon, 77, recaps his life and career in detail, including his "coming out," at a time homosexuality was illegal in Britain, the relationship with his intolerant father coming to an end as a result. Overall, the book forms a clear portrait of an intellectually restless artist, demonized by the struggle to express satisfactorily the horrific images which constantly stream into his head. There is no overarching structure to the book, thus many interviews cover the same ground different ways, with illuminating results. Bacon's answers usually reinforce or embellish what was said earlier, but he sometimes answers the same question differently over time, demonstrated for example by his increasing dislike for "drink and drugs."
Some themes persist throughout. Chronically anxious and hypertensive, he can never sit still, never relax. Not religious, Bacon believes "man is an accident, a futile being, he must play out the game without reason," and life has only whatever meaning we give it, yet his haunted soul clearly identifies with the tragedy of the Crucifixion, which he considers the perfect narrative of the mythic "tragic hero," and the ultimate symbol of human devotion despite life's vicissitudes. (One famous Bacon work metaphorically depicts a hypodermic syringe stuck into the subject's arm, representing a nail stuck into the hand). He is similarly affected by the open-mouthed cry of human agony, which he expresses in perhaps his most famous and retold obsession, the many horrifying studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X.
Too human, he is concerned with posterity, and denies himself the comfort of calling himself a "painter." He believes an artist must "solve the problem" of art to be a success, which to him means they must render the known through the unknown, or create the "illustrative" and "narrative" through the use of the "irrational." Discussing Picasso in this light, he says he finds surrealism "more real" than realism, probably meaning he finds surrealism more directly communicates the human condition. He also believes strongly in figuration, slaying abstract art with one devastating word: "Fashion!" He seems burdened by a lack of proper training, having started his career as an interior designer, especially when discussing the trials of his studio work, describing the way he tosses paint at the canvas, the way he tries not to work a canvas too much, potentially ruining it, and the conflicted feelings he holds toward works he has already painted, or those he is still painting.
The book usefully reproduces many works in small black-and-white images at times when the conversation turns to them, both Bacon's works and those of others, like Picasso and Rembrandt. The lack of color is entirely unnoticed, as the book focuses on the artist's psychology and opinion, which these plates illustrate perfectly. (Full-color reproduction would probably also have made the book needlessly expensive). Most remarkably, of all the photographs and self-portraits in the book, Bacon never looks directly at the viewer, illustrating most strikingly his natural over-sensitivity and tortured self-denial.
Bacon has said "art is completely a game by which man distracts himself," and "the artist must really deepen the game in order to be worth anything at all." If anyone feels Bacon "played the game" well, and "distracts" successfully his audience, or that he was "worth anything at all," then this book belongs in that person's library.