Francis Bacon: Books and Painting


Accompanies the major retrospective at the Pompidou Centre in autumn 2019, which explores the ways literature inspired Francis Bacon’s art.


ISBN: 9780500239988 Category:


Published to accompany the first Francis Bacon retrospective in Paris for twenty years, this catalogue analyses Bacon’s works from 1971 onwards in light of his relationship to literature. Bacon always vigorously opposed over-analysis 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’ phrase ‘the reek of human blood smiles out at me’ in particular haunted Bacon, while his 1978 work Painting refers to T. S. Eliot’s seminal poem The Waste Land. The inventory of Bacon’s personal library has identified more than 1,300 books, ranging from Bataille and Conrad to Nietzsche and 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.

Additional information

Weight 1543 g
Dimensions 23.8 x 30.9 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 9 January 2020
Number of pages 242
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Didier Ottinger
Dimensions 23.8 x 30.9 cm
Weight 1543 g


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Didier Ottinger is assistant director of Centre national d'art et de culture GeorgesPompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris.