concentrations of a Wildean sort of camp and a Duchampian strain of irony on a Franciscan order

The frame is artificial and that’s precisely why it’s there; to reinforce the artificial nature of the painting. The more the artificiality of the painting is apparent, the better, and the more chance the painting has of working or of showing something. That might seem paradoxical, but it makes perfect sense in art: one achieves one’s goal by using the maximum of artificial means, and one succeeds much more in doing something authentic when the artificiality is patently obvious. Take for example the Greek or classical poets; their language was very artificial and highly stylised. They all worked within strict constraints, and yet it’s precisely in doing so that they produced their greatest works which give us, when we read them, that impression of freedom and spontaneity.

– Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon in conversation with Michel Archimbauld, Phaidon, London, 1993, p. 167

When I begin, I might have some ideas, but most of the time the only idea I have is of doing something. … I respond to some kind of stimulation, to a mark, that’s all. If it’s going to work, then it happens afterwards on the canvas, as the work progresses. … This mess around here is rather like my mind; it may be a good image of what goes on inside me, that’s what it’s like, my life is like that.

– Francis Bacon, ibid., p. 163

As early as 1959, in the catalogue for the Museo de Arte at Sao Paulo in Brazil, Robert Melville wrote that Bacon was ‘highly gifted and satanically influential; he discovers in the art of painting the felicities of the death warrant.’ He continued: ‘To put it somewhat gruesomely, Bacon might be said to have covered the lampshades of his immediate predecessors with human skin, for although he has been far from unreceptive of the symbols of the human condition which inform the invented personages of surrealism, he presents this symbolic material as studies of human appearance.’

– Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Random House, London, 1993, pp. 129-130

Other guests included[…] … Also a woman who had not been asked but gate-crashed all the same. As she was one of my closest friends and we happened to arrive simultaneously, I knew Francis thought I had brought her. I found it annoying that he welcomed her as if she were the guest of honour while shooting me a sharp look behind her back. [Daniel Farson does not give her name. She returns below as ‘she.’]

The prospect of a book launch – the writer’s equivalent of a private view – reduces me to an alcoholic jellyfish and invariably ends in calamity. But Francis rose superbly to such occasions. With his beatific smile, he stood beside a large table covered with catalogues as well as glasses, distinguished in a well-cut suit, sober and self-controlled. In a curious way, he was isolated. Peter Bradshaw told me afterwards that he had this impression too, that instead of being the centre of a seething throng of admirers Francis look alone, almost vulnerable. Going over to keep him company, he asked Francis to write something special in his catalogue.

‘Such as?’ asked Francis.

‘I don’t know. Something interesting. … “Thank you for the trade”.’

‘You’re not making me cheap!’ Francis replied, scribbling his usual ‘Best wishes, Francis.’

Francis was correct to treat this occasion [the second Tate retrospective, 21 May, 1985] with the solemnity it deserved. He knew he had crossed a final frontier. He told Peter Beard that he hated nine out of ten paintings he saw, including his own. ‘I don’t like most of what I see, and I think if people do one or two extraordinary things they’ve done a lot. …’ He knew now that he had ‘done a lot.’

She [the gate-crasher(?)] was too quick to disparage his work:

… [then ‘she’ proceeds to quote Bacon!] ‘I don’t suppose any artist is satisfied with his work, but I think one of the terribly interesting things about all artists is they’ll never know whether their work is any good because they’ll be dead before time has had its terrible chance and its infallible kind of judgement upon it. So they’ll never know if their work is any good really because it takes quite a long time for time to really get to work on it.’

Francis made the concession to Peter Beard that he did like certain things by Picasso, Matisse and, above all, Duchamp.

– Daniel Farson, ibid., pp. 213-215

He held his brush like a sword and stood far back from the canvas, like he was fencing with an unseen opponent. I never saw him clean his brushes, but he’d occasionally wipe them on his dressing gown or on an old sock or shirt.

– John Edwards’s Foreword to 7 Reece Mews: Francis Bacon’s Studio, photographs by Perry Ogden, Thames & Hudson, London, 2001, p. 13