Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence (2017) [w/ subs]


00:00:02 – This programme contains some strong language.
00:00:20 – Three figures, phallic necks.
00:00:26 – There's one with a sort of paw on what looks like
00:00:28 – a huge scrubbing brush,
00:00:30 – which is snarling.
00:00:31 – And they're baying their anger, their pain, their distrust of life.
00:00:40 – To the people who walked into the Lefevre Gallery that day…
00:00:45 – ..that was a shock. I mean, they had never really seen anything like it.
00:00:53 – It was just after the war and people didn't want to be disturbed.
00:00:56 – They'd been deeply disturbed already.
00:01:00 – Something breaks in that painting,
00:01:03 – in English culture.
00:01:04 – It was as if art had become feral.
00:01:08 – Those things are all in the background, they all inform the work.
00:01:12 – But you make a mistake if you explain the paintings
00:01:16 – through the war. What Bacon did was something different.
00:01:25 – So many people of my generation,
00:01:28 – that's where they first saw an image by Francis Bacon.
00:01:32 – But nobody knew who Francis Bacon was.
00:01:38 – Just after the war, my mother had a house in South Kensington,
00:01:42 – and I was always watching what was going on outside.
00:01:46 – And I remember seeing somebody who was carrying a very large canvas.
00:01:52 – And I don't know why I felt it –
00:01:54 – “This guy has to be Francis Bacon.”
00:01:58 – And he went into a house opposite my mother's house,
00:02:01 – I was totally fascinated by him.
00:02:03 – And we became friends.
00:02:06 – He was like no-one else in the world.
00:02:10 – He lived in a very grand studio.
00:02:13 – Everything was torn, everything was dirty, everything was wonderful.
00:02:21 – A lot of incredibly strong cocktails,
00:02:24 – so you got plastered pretty quick.
00:02:27 – And then Nanny would appear from time to time and say,
00:02:31 – “Would anybody like something to, you know, something to smoke?”
00:02:36 – And this didn't mean, you know, Player's cigarettes.
00:02:41 – She was his childhood nanny.
00:02:43 – I think he adored her.
00:02:45 – She was like a mother to him.
00:02:47 – Of course, the whole story is… It's so comical, really.
00:02:51 – She slept on the kitchen table.
00:02:54 – She was totally blind.
00:02:56 – How on earth she cooked and how she knew what she was doing, I don't know.
00:03:00 – She organised the gambling parties that he gave,
00:03:03 – that's one of the ways he made money.
00:03:15 – After the war, the entire sort of bohemian London
00:03:19 – began to coalesce around the Gargoyle and then,
00:03:22 – of course, with the opening of The Colony Room by Muriel Belcher,
00:03:27 – that became the epicentre of the lives of most of the painters and,
00:03:32 – of course, Francis Bacon was part of that.
00:03:34 – I have no earthly idea when I first encountered Francis.
00:03:41 – I most remember him in The Colony,
00:03:44 – and Muriel said that I was the only person
00:03:47 – who was allowed in from the age of 12.
00:03:50 – Francis had an extraordinary capacity to take advantage of any situation
00:03:55 – in which he found himself
00:03:57 – and to turn it into something wonderful
00:04:00 – and magical.
00:04:01 – And so you were immediately…
00:04:04 – ..enchanted by his presence.
00:04:09 – He was like a piece of electricity coming into the room.
00:04:13 – I mean, charisma poured out of him, you couldn't take your eyes off him,
00:04:17 – you know, he darted around like a bird, and these extraordinary eyes.
00:04:22 – Muriel offered him a £10 retainer, a week to bring in his friends,
00:04:27 – which he proceeded to do.
00:05:04 – Yes, this was the age of existentialism,
00:05:06 – this is the age when everybody thought that this could be the last,
00:05:11 – their last moments, so they were living in a very edgy kind of atmosphere.
00:05:16 – We do with our life what we can and then we die.
00:05:19 – What else can you… What else is there?
00:05:22 – And if somebody is very aware of that, perhaps…
00:05:27 – Perhaps it comes out in their work.
00:05:29 – I think he saw life as a risk.
00:05:32 – It also amused him, I think,
00:05:34 – the idea that chance played such a big role in everything.
00:05:39 – And he certainly applied that to painting.
00:05:44 – If anything ever does work, in my case…
00:05:48 – ..well, chance and what I call accident takes over.
00:05:56 – Certainly, in his painting, I mean, he would…
00:06:00 – ..gamble everything on the next brush stroke.
00:06:03 – That's always, always going to be exciting, to see somebody in that
00:06:06 – situation and, you know,
00:06:08 – it's like watching somebody walking the tightrope to see if they succeed or fail.
00:06:12 – For instance, that painting in the Museum of Modern Art,
00:06:15 – I first tried to do a gorilla in a cornfield.
00:06:19 – Then I tried to do a bird alighting.
00:06:21 – And then, gradually, all the marks I'd made suggested this other image,
00:06:25 – which is a totally accidental image.
00:06:28 – I'd never thought of doing an image like that ever in my life.
00:06:31 – I can remember, you know, really studying for a long time,
00:06:35 – the umbrella in the sides of beef.
00:06:38 – And I remember thinking, how's he made that umbrella so terrifying?
00:06:40 – It's just such an everyday object.
00:06:42 – You know, you get guttural feelings from paintings
00:06:45 – and emotional paintings, and it's just paint.
00:06:47 – But it's like it doesn't feel like paint, it feels much more violent.
00:06:52 – You know, it taps into something in your unconscious, which is dark and,
00:06:56 – you know, exciting.
00:06:59 – When I met him, I could not equate just the general sort of drunken foolery
00:07:05 – that went on, which I found hugely entertaining,
00:07:08 – with these twisted horrors.
00:07:13 – This is the great central enigma about Bacon.
00:07:18 – Where did the darkness come from?
00:07:23 – You see, I was born in Ireland, and I was brought up a rabid Protestant…
00:07:31 – ..with no beliefs, of course!
00:07:38 – Neither my mother or father were Irish
00:07:42 – but, nevertheless, I was brought up in Kildare.
00:07:46 – My father was a trainer of race horses.
00:07:50 – In the last interview that Bacon ever did,
00:07:53 – he spoke of his childhood and
00:07:55 – said it was like something cold and something hard, like a block of ice.
00:08:00 – And he attributed that to his shyness, which came from being asthmatic,
00:08:05 – that he could not interact in the world in the same way that ordinary boys could.
00:08:11 – Imagine growing up in a particularly horsey outdoorsy world,
00:08:16 – and imagine that you have fragile lungs that are pulverised by any sort of dust
00:08:20 – and you basically had to gasp your way through life.
00:08:23 – This had an enormous influence on Bacon.
00:08:29 – In the paintings, I believe it does come across.
00:08:32 – It's as though the air has been pumped out, has been sucked out of the space,
00:08:38 – and the figures are there, up against the glass,
00:08:42 – almost grasping for breath.
00:08:45 – He was growing up in Ireland. By the age of 12,
00:08:48 – what do you do when you've begun to have homosexual instincts?
00:08:54 – It was a deep-seated, deep-rooted problem with his father.
00:08:59 – Bacon's father, Eddie, was a very difficult character.
00:09:05 – Francis Bacon disappointed him in a major way.
00:09:10 – It was a fairly traumatic childhood.
00:09:14 – His father got his stable boys to whip him,
00:09:18 – and I think that started one or two things off.
00:09:21 – He sometimes talked about it and he said, he said it to me privately…
00:09:26 – ..that one of his…
00:09:30 – ..difficult dynamics in his life was that he really rather hated his father
00:09:35 – but he found his father sexually attractive.
00:09:37 – Francis was a born m********.
00:09:40 – It wasn't something that he took up later for kicks.
00:09:44 – Francis was through and through a m********.
00:09:51 – More interesting, of course, is that he then went into the stables and
00:09:55 – had sexual relations with the grooms.
00:10:03 – And I think the buggering in the barn was a sort of important aspect
00:10:08 – of his background.
00:10:11 – It was a very odd sort of situation.
00:10:14 – And the father couldn't deal with it.
00:10:16 – So he wanted him out of the house…
00:10:19 – and try and get him straightened out.
00:10:22 – He went to…
00:10:25 – older man whom his family, I think, thought would be a good companion for him
00:10:32 – but who turned out to be bisexual.
00:11:01 – He told it without any sense of hurt but, in fact, I think he'd been deeply,
00:11:07 – deeply wounded by this,
00:11:10 – by this rejection.
00:11:14 – Berlin was huge to him,
00:11:17 – as it became to a whole generation of homosexuals around his age.
00:11:24 – He liked the fascination, the freedom, the absolute lack of…
00:11:31 – ..authority, in a way, which was hugely influential on him.
00:11:34 – Francis experienced Berlin whilst at its most famously debauched…
00:11:41 – ..where there were these crazy bars and s***** was the flavour of the period.
00:11:48 – People have attempted to explain Francis Bacon as a revenge motif against his father.
00:11:58 – Once he left Berlin, where was his natural proclivity?
00:12:01 – It was France.
00:12:03 – He saw this as the Olympus of the art world, and Francis Bacon fell in
00:12:09 – love with Paris and Parisian art from his first trip there in 1928.
00:12:14 – And that was a constant throughout his entire life.
00:12:19 – I stayed for a short time in Paris and it was about that time,
00:12:23 – at Rosenberg's, I saw an exhibition of Picasso.
00:12:28 – And I think, at that moment, I thought, “Well, I will try and paint, too.”
00:12:34 – Francis Bacon's first career is a bit obscured because what he did in
00:12:38 – Paris in his famous trip, once he left Berlin, has been a subject of much mystery.
00:12:45 – He did have some connections into the design world of Paris,
00:12:49 – we know for sure.
00:12:51 – By the time he came to London, a little-known fact that we've discovered,
00:12:56 – he established himself in deepest Chelsea and was, for three or four years,
00:13:00 – part of a very important design and interior-decorating world.
00:13:05 – He kept quiet about all that, he never mentioned it.
00:13:10 – Decoration was one of the foulest words in his vocabulary after that.
00:13:15 – Something that was decorative, you know, particularly in art,
00:13:17 – was like non-existent.
00:13:20 – He sensed, quite early on, that he wanted more than that.
00:13:25 – Obviously, he had to make his way, you know?
00:13:27 – And of course, he made nothing from the painting but the painting soon
00:13:31 – became the obsessive thing.
00:13:34 – You know, he's almost, like, egging himself on to be confident enough to paint.
00:13:38 – And I love those early years' paintings.
00:13:41 – I have the 1933 early Crucifixion, the one like the Picasso Bathers.
00:13:48 – You know, I can't believe that I own it now.
00:13:52 – The first 15, 20 years of his life and career,
00:13:56 – so little of it survives.
00:13:58 – I mean, the ratio's about one per year.
00:14:00 – Between 1936 and 1944, there's an eight-year gap,
00:14:04 – we have no works at all.
00:14:05 – Now, he wasn't not painting.
00:14:07 – But Roy De Maistre, an artist who was extremely fond of Bacon,
00:14:11 – he painted a corner of Bacon's painting studio and you see paintings
00:14:15 – stacked up in the corner…the corners of the room,
00:14:18 – with their faces showing.
00:14:19 – We can see what he was painting.
00:14:21 – They were all destroyed,
00:14:22 – all these things, we have these tantalising glimpses of in another artist's work.
00:14:26 – There's the legend that grew up around this, that Bacon himself fostered,
00:14:32 – was that he then just walked away from the easel
00:14:35 – and only to re-emerge, of course, in the mid-40s with his great Three Studies.
00:14:40 – Um, this is not true.
00:14:43 – One thing I feel certain about is that he really, really was painting all the time.
00:14:47 – He desperately wanted to be, by then, a great artist.
00:14:51 – He didn't want to be mediocre.
00:14:53 – There are many strains in his earlier painting
00:14:56 – that you can trace
00:14:57 – in the development and evolution of the look that appeared
00:15:01 – in Three Studies.
00:15:04 – About 1943-44, it was then that I really started to paint.
00:15:11 – When at Lefevre we had that first exhibition
00:15:15 – with Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland,
00:15:17 – and it was then that I showed those
00:15:20 – Three Studies For Figures At The Base Of A Crucifixion,
00:15:24 – which… People were very, very violently against those things.
00:15:29 – One of the usual bitchy critics, to me, said,
00:15:33 – “Why bother to do things like that when it's already been done by Picasso?”
00:15:38 – It was Graham Sutherland, I think, who recommended him to Erica Brausen,
00:15:43 – who was one of the brightest contemporary art dealers of the time,
00:15:47 – and when she saw his work she saw the point of it right away.
00:15:52 – She sold his painting 1946 to MoMA
00:15:56 – and that really was a very, very signal moment for Francis.
00:16:01 – He was always needing money to waste, you know, to gamble away.
00:16:06 – He was nothing but trouble to her.
00:16:08 – She just tolerated it and helped him as best she could.
00:16:12 – She was nurturing, she was devoted to him.
00:16:15 – She was a woman who really looked after him.
00:16:19 – And he went to Monaco,
00:16:21 – and it was the place where English people of his kind went
00:16:24 – and, if you wanted to gamble, it was the most glamorous place to go, still, to gamble.
00:16:27 – You could gamble in London, for goodness' sake, to some extent.
00:16:30 – But this was much more glamorous and much more congenial,
00:16:33 – in many other ways.
00:16:36 – I mean, it wasn't just Bacon who went to Monaco,
00:16:38 – there was this bizarre, probably ghastly, old nanny,
00:16:42 – but the one who he really loved.
00:17:06 – He was terrible about getting paintings in on time.
00:17:09 – Brausen was always writing Bacon and saying, you know,
00:17:12 – “Francis, please…
00:17:16 – “We have a show planned for next December. How's it going?”
00:17:19 – And three months later, nothing.
00:17:21 – And his typical pattern was that he would destroy all his work
00:17:24 – until pretty near to a show when he would have to
00:17:28 – produce some paintings, finally.
00:17:30 – He was there most of the time between 1946-49, even into early 1950,
00:17:35 – and produced almost nothing.
00:17:38 – He'd been rethinking what he must do in his art.
00:17:41 – He knew he must say something.
00:17:43 – It was no use being derivative of Picasso.
00:17:46 – And he knew, in fact, his subject must be the human body
00:17:50 – and that it must come from his own life and his own experience.
00:17:56 – Part of what he had to express needed a new way of painting.
00:18:03 – The heads are astonishing.
00:18:07 – They're so close to the animal.
00:18:10 – The animal in the man.
00:18:12 – In those images that Bacon did,
00:18:14 – it's as if you can feel the breath of
00:18:18 – the animal on your neck.
00:18:20 – Or as if you're going into some dark cave
00:18:22 – and you smell the animal before you see it.
00:18:25 – I mean, it's so visceral.
00:18:27 – The animal is so close.
00:18:35 – The fact that Francis Bacon had no formal training
00:18:38 – probably freed him in a way that other people were not as free.
00:18:43 – He was not part of any movement.
00:18:45 – Francis Bacon was an outlier in a most interesting way.
00:18:48 – I think he probably did go to one or two classes and things like that.
00:18:52 – He certainly never mentioned that afterwards,
00:18:55 – and he picked up quite a lot from painter friends.
00:19:01 – Denis and Francis Bacon came from a similar background.
00:19:04 – Both were untrained as artists.
00:19:07 – So this was a link, both were self-taught.
00:19:10 – Francis Bacon was inevitably
00:19:12 – the main event in Denis's life.
00:19:17 – Dickie and Denis were the main event in each other's lives.
00:19:20 – Richard Chopping, known as Dickie, was his partner.
00:19:25 – Bacon could have actually been a h*** of a lot of trouble
00:19:28 – to the relationship but he wasn't,
00:19:30 – and Denis would put up with anything.
00:19:34 – Francis would equally put up with anything that Denis threw at him.
00:19:37 – And between them, this relationship went like that for many, many years.
00:19:41 – When they were partying and drinking together in Soho,
00:19:43 – they would come and drag me out,
00:19:44 – with them usually six bottles of champagne ahead of me.
00:19:47 – And it would end up with punching in the face,
00:19:49 – noses being broken in galleries,
00:19:52 – there were plates broken on people's heads.
00:19:54 – Turned out, banned from places, the stories just go on and on and on.
00:19:58 – Do you know, I don't care if I f*** up the whole of the film,
00:20:01 – but you can never say things as clearly in French,
00:20:03 – – as you say it in English. – Yes, of course he can. – Of course you can't.
00:20:06 – Go away, darling. Avec Rembrandt, avec Michel-Ange.
00:20:22 – You know, you're going to be cheapened.
00:20:25 – – OK. – Very. – I'll be cheapened. – Very.
00:20:30 – There were a lot of things that they were using
00:20:33 – as common subject matter.
00:20:34 – They both had boxing magazines.
00:20:37 – They had magazines of runners.
00:20:38 – They used Eadweard Muybridge's work.
00:20:42 – Denis did introduce Francis to Muybridge, arguably the most, with Picasso,
00:20:47 – the most important influence on his work.
00:20:51 – It's a very interesting work.
00:20:53 – And the images were tremendously suggestive to me of ways I could use the human body.
00:21:01 – Francis drew badly and was very conscious of it.
00:21:05 – And I think facing up to the fact that he had never been taught drawing…
00:21:09 – And he used Muybridge's amazing photographs of athletes in weird positions
00:21:15 – again and again,
00:21:17 – because there the limbs were dead accurate and he could use them,
00:21:21 – as it were, as sketches for a whole series of paintings…
00:21:27 – though, above all, the painting known as The Buggers.
00:21:31 – I used to go and visit Lucien Freud and Caroline Blackwood in their house.
00:21:36 – They had the painting which they always called The Buggers,
00:21:41 – which was, is, I think, officially called The Wrestlers.
00:21:45 – I just simply thought it was a wonderful painting.
00:21:48 – I think, that when you're very young, you don't have preconceived
00:21:54 – notions of what is shocking.
00:22:00 – You just look at things to see if they are beautiful.
00:22:05 – There is no doubt that this is Bacon
00:22:08 – and the most important lover in his life.
00:22:14 – This is their coupling.
00:22:15 – This is their moment of greatest intensity.
00:22:18 – And this is the trigger, really, of Bacon's greatest images.
00:22:23 – It's where everything comes together.
00:22:34 – Francis's first major lover was Peter Lacy.
00:22:40 – He had been a Spitfire pilot.
00:22:43 – Francis was wildly in love.
00:22:51 – Bacon found him very charming.
00:22:54 – He said he was… He was amusing.
00:22:57 – And he played the piano.
00:22:59 – He sang.
00:23:00 – And Bacon saw him as somebody quite extraordinary.
00:23:08 – Other people didn't have this very enamoured view of Peter Lacy.
00:23:14 – I remember going to a gay bar,
00:23:17 – one evening, and Peter Lacy was there.
00:23:20 – He was very, sort of, soberly dressed, very straightforward.
00:23:27 – But he turned out to be, in fact, one of the most sadistic people…
00:23:35 – ..I've ever come across.
00:23:40 – During the war, his nervous system was…was, basically, shot
00:23:45 – and he could become very violent.
00:23:48 – Francis was landed with a…
00:23:52 – ..s*****
00:23:53 – who was going to thrash him to bits
00:23:57 – and he hadn't got Nanny to fall back on.
00:24:01 – When Nanny died – was it 1951? – he was heartbroken.
00:24:06 – She was his adviser, she ran his life
00:24:10 – and he had to depend on himself.
00:24:37 – They had a turbulent relationship.
00:24:40 – Lacy regularly beat Bacon up
00:24:43 – and that was something that Bacon actively encouraged and enjoyed.
00:24:52 – Peter had a house in the country and Francis went there one weekend.
00:24:59 – God knows what he'd done to him already but Peter Lacy simply threw him
00:25:04 – through a plate-glass window
00:25:08 – on the second floor, onto the garden at the back of the house.
00:25:13 – And Francis had terrible damage to one eye and to his face and so on.
00:25:18 – But this made him love Peter Lacy more, I think.
00:25:23 – And he turned these horrible, terrible things into magic,
00:25:30 – into great paintings.
00:25:35 – Peter himself was very often the subject of any male figure
00:25:39 – in the painting. He's always there.
00:25:42 – And I think he stirred the very depths of Bacon's being.
00:25:47 – He managed to create these very strange, eerie images,
00:25:53 – against a dark blue background.
00:25:56 – Very ghostly.
00:26:02 – Peter Lacy's…
00:26:05 – ..power over Francis, sadistic power over Francis…
00:26:10 – And I hope it won't shock people – it was a very positive one.
00:26:17 – It was regarded as a rather dirty habit,
00:26:21 – to go and look at the paintings of Bacon,
00:26:23 – because the whole fashion was abstract expressionism
00:26:27 – and everything American.
00:26:29 – Here was this man actually painting the human figure…
00:26:34 – this quite shocking way, at that time.
00:26:40 – Bacon had a slowly growing reputation,
00:26:44 – but he was an extremely difficult artist.
00:26:48 – So it took a great deal of time
00:26:51 – for Bacon's imagery to become popular.
00:26:54 – But bit by bit, exhibition by exhibition,
00:26:57 – collector by collector,
00:27:00 – Bacon's reputation was being made.
00:27:05 – Peter Lacy said at this particular point, “You can come and live with me.”
00:27:09 – And Bacon said, “Well, what does living with you mean?”
00:27:13 – And Lacy said, “Well, I could chain you to the wall.”
00:27:18 – And Bacon said, “Well, the thing is, I did terribly want to paint.”
00:27:26 – And so because of that, Lacy started visiting Tangier.
00:27:33 – By that time, the relationship had broken down.
00:27:38 – Bacon felt he needed to go to another stage.
00:27:41 – He wanted to go to the very top.
00:27:44 – And there was a powerful and relatively new gallery
00:27:48 – called Marlborough Fine Art.
00:27:51 – Bacon had been considering leaving Erica and the Hanover Gallery for some time.
00:27:56 – Because he was quite overwhelmed by debts.
00:27:58 – The Marlborough Gallery, for example, had deeper pockets,
00:28:01 – could pay a kind of salary.
00:28:03 – They were like a cash flow for him.
00:28:05 – I remember going in with him to pick up a wad of cash
00:28:09 – so that he could go on, sort of, inviting everybody in sight
00:28:12 – to champagne and dinner afterwards and then go and play the tables.
00:28:17 – And the great attraction of the time for the Marlborough was what?
00:28:21 – Well, they've got,
00:28:23 – as they have galleries all over the world,
00:28:25 – perhaps they thought they could do something with me.
00:28:30 – Frank Lloyd, the owner, partner of Marlborough…
00:28:34 – realised that, I think, that Francis was going to be the golden goose,
00:28:38 – if they…
00:28:41 – ..marketed properly.
00:28:42 – He did need a lot of managing.
00:28:45 – And the only release for the paintings came through Valerie.
00:28:50 – She was my direct boss.
00:28:52 – Francis Bacon's life at Marlborough revolved to a huge extent
00:28:56 – around Valerie Beston, or as he called her,
00:28:58 – Valerie from the Gallery.
00:29:00 – She was always there for him.
00:29:02 – It was as if Bacon was the love of her life.
00:29:05 – And she was, you know, completely 100% devoted,
00:29:09 – in the same way that Erica Brausen had been initially in his career.
00:29:13 – I mean, they were saying to Bacon,
00:29:14 – we will give you exhibitions at the Tate,
00:29:17 – and they absolutely delivered on their promises.
00:29:20 – You know, within three years he'd got the first Tate retrospective.
00:29:30 – There were many critics who still did not like Bacon's work.
00:29:34 – The Tate retrospective in 1962, I think was very important for him.
00:29:39 – At that stage Peter Lacy was in Morocco.
00:29:43 – A lot of people of that time were saying that
00:29:45 – he was just, like, this very sad figure playing away at the piano,
00:29:48 – almost like paying off his alcoholic debts.
00:29:51 – Francis writes to Denis, saying,
00:29:53 – “I've heard that he's falling to pieces.
00:29:55 – “Can you find out for me?
00:29:57 – “I really need to know, I can't concentrate on anything.”
00:30:00 – Bacon is
00:30:02 – feeling pity for Peter.
00:30:05 – “I'm totally upset over Peter.
00:30:08 – “I can't bear to see anyone suffer because of me.”
00:30:12 – I think Bacon created best when he was himself most disturbed,
00:30:18 – most at sea.
00:30:23 – Francis used to say, “I've used everybody in my life.”
00:30:30 – He does go into a kind of crisis.
00:30:32 – That may have been what was happening with Bacon at that time.
00:30:35 – I think that was to do with his inner need to renew his art,
00:30:40 – to not repeat himself, to stretch.
00:30:48 – He did a painting right before the 1962 Tate exhibition called,
00:30:51 – I believe it was called Three Studies for a Crucifixion.
00:30:55 – It's an indication of where he wants to go.
00:31:00 – It's a blood-red and black triptych.
00:31:05 – In the left-hand panel there is a paternal figure,
00:31:09 – more or less telling a smaller figure to go.
00:31:17 – I've always thought of that as Bacon being thrown out of the house.
00:31:22 – In the middle there is a scene,
00:31:24 – a really b***** mangled scene on a bed.
00:31:29 – It's the most extreme expression of the horror he felt about his life,
00:31:33 – I think, and what it felt to be…
00:31:35 – ..Francis Bacon and all the horrors he'd witnessed.
00:31:38 – And he did describe the central panel
00:31:41 – as someone shot to pieces on a bed.
00:31:44 – And that's not normal language, not just from him,
00:31:47 – but for a Bacon painting.
00:31:48 – And in this case, well, it does look like someone shot to pieces on a bed.
00:31:52 – It looks like a murder has taken place.
00:31:56 – He would almost empty himself of his darkest,
00:32:01 – bitterest thoughts on canvas and be purified.
00:32:07 – But of course he was Jekyll and Hyde
00:32:10 – and so the two sides were there in the man.
00:32:17 – I remember going to the big '62 retrospective at the Tate…
00:32:22 – ..and I had a very nice girlfriend
00:32:24 – who was vegetarian, though she converted,
00:32:28 – under my tutelage, to meat, but she didn't convert to Bacon.
00:32:33 – I think that was when he really came out as a superstar,
00:32:36 – in Britain anyway.
00:32:38 – And I think he saw, this was a perfect moment for him to shine and,
00:32:42 – my God, shine he did.
00:32:49 – But amongst the telegrams of congratulation,
00:32:52 – he got one from Tangier saying
00:32:55 – that his great love, Peter Lacy, had just died.
00:33:01 – Bacon was convinced it was a suicide.
00:33:04 – He talked about it as a suicide.
00:33:07 – And that Peter almost deliberately aimed for it to happen
00:33:12 – on the day his show opened.
00:33:18 – The painting of where Peter Lacy is buried was an enormously…
00:33:24 – enormously powerful painting, full of, you can't call it love exactly,
00:33:29 – but full of…
00:33:32 – ..sort of, dark sexual obsession.
00:33:42 – The violence in Bacon's pictures calls forth equally violent reactions.
00:33:49 – David Sylvester was one of the first critics
00:33:51 – to recognise Bacon as an important artist.
00:33:54 – Actually in your work, as a whole,
00:33:55 – there are relatively few paintings that
00:33:57 – have ostensible subjects which might be called horrific.
00:34:02 – And most of them are fairly straight subjects,
00:34:05 – figures seated in rooms and so on.
00:34:07 – And yet, people have a sense that your work as a whole is horrific.
00:34:11 – David Sylvester was enormously important
00:34:14 – in that he was the PR man for Francis.
00:34:17 – And he did a damned good job.
00:34:20 – Because he was widely listened to.
00:34:22 – He was never off the BBC, where he could,
00:34:24 – he could hear the sound of his own voice.
00:34:27 – And he was…
00:34:30 – ..perfect for Francis.
00:34:31 – I must have another drink.
00:34:35 – We might rest for a minute.
00:34:37 – Can we rest for a moment, or not, or must it go on?
00:34:44 – Bacon and Sylvester together created a manifesto
00:34:48 – of his inner life as an artist.
00:34:52 – Those interviews had a very big impact on many,
00:34:54 – especially young artists.
00:34:58 – When I was a student I completely devoured the David Sylvester interviews.
00:35:01 – It's like I read that constantly, over and over and over again.
00:35:04 – I think that was one of the greatest things about Bacon,
00:35:06 – was those interviews. Because he…
00:35:08 – It was just a new way of being interviewed,
00:35:10 – and it was kind of so fresh and exciting and it was like,
00:35:13 – you know, playful.
00:35:14 – It was like, you know, in denial.
00:35:16 – It just made you think differently about the paintings.
00:35:18 – He was nothing if not totally controlling
00:35:22 – of the people around him and the
00:35:25 – way his work was perceived.
00:35:28 – But I think Bacon the public persona
00:35:32 – was, to some extent, a way of shielding his images.
00:35:38 – He was just, you know, finding a way to sort of avoid the questions,
00:35:41 – to keep the painting fresh, to keep you looking at the painting,
00:35:44 – to never give you answers.
00:35:45 – Francis attracted a certain amount of awe.
00:35:48 – He was quite a frightening fellow, or had been in his prime.
00:35:52 – And also a certain amount of oiling up to.
00:35:54 – So I think the cult, or the fame, was built up in the '60s.
00:36:05 – He's got his new studio in Reece Mews,
00:36:07 – I think it was very important to him.
00:36:09 – He felt he'd got his own space,
00:36:11 – he could really get to work and do what he wanted to say powerfully.
00:36:17 – We are in a wonderful little secret mews
00:36:20 – just off of South Ken, called Reece Mews.
00:36:24 – I first came to know it when I met Lionel Bart.
00:36:27 – His neighbour turned out to be Francis Bacon.
00:36:33 – He was very funny.
00:36:35 – He was very witty. He was very clever.
00:36:38 – But there was a kind of an underlying kind of melancholy about him.
00:36:42 – But Lionel Bart told me that in his kitchen there were loads of
00:36:46 – photographs, and he'd noticed there were rather a lot of me, you know.
00:36:52 – And Lionel said to him,
00:36:54 – “Oh, you think… You know, you like Terence?”
00:36:58 – And Francis said,
00:37:02 – “God, the two most handsomest men in the world
00:37:06 – “are Terence Stamp and Colonel Gaddafi!”
00:37:10 – I thought, “Yeah, Colonel Gaddafi would give him a good hiding,” you know?
00:37:13 – HE LAUGHS
00:37:15 – I'd just knock on his door if I was passing and if he would open the door,
00:37:20 – sometimes he'd invite me in, sometimes he wouldn't.
00:37:23 – And sometimes when he invited me in I realised he was the middle of something.
00:37:28 – It struck me that it was a very private thing that was happening.
00:37:32 – And…he had to devote himself completely to it.
00:37:42 – As an artist, Bacon was always trying to do it a bit better, you know?
00:37:47 – You know, you've never arrived,
00:37:49 – there wouldn't be much point if you'd arrived.
00:37:51 – You know, he would have stopped painting in 1962,
00:37:54 – or something, if he was satisfied.
00:37:57 – How are you going to trap reality?
00:38:01 – How are you going to trap appearance
00:38:02 – without making an illustration of it?
00:38:05 – And that is one of the great fights and one of the great excitements
00:38:09 – of being, of being a figurative artist today.
00:38:13 – It was a moment that he was beginning to look to
00:38:17 – the people that he was friends with,
00:38:21 – beginning to think about painting the people
00:38:24 – he felt he knew inside out.
00:38:26 – I mean, he had a great love of people.
00:38:30 – And a vulnerability to them.
00:38:32 – The artist doesn't choose the subject,
00:38:35 – the subject chooses the artist.
00:38:38 – But there was his subject.
00:38:40 – I only am able to paint people or portraits of people that I know very well
00:38:46 – and I've looked at a great deal.
00:38:48 – And that I have analysed, and know the structure of their face.
00:38:54 – I find that the person there inhibits me.
00:38:58 – And then I use… I look at photographs.
00:39:01 – So the photographs and everything get trodden on,
00:39:03 – they get even changed into other things.
00:39:06 – And those often are in themselves extremely interesting.
00:39:13 – The presence of the person in a portrait
00:39:16 – is so fully there because he managed to empty himself
00:39:19 – of everything, so that that person could come
00:39:22 – through him and onto the canvas.
00:39:25 – Of course men were a great subject for him, and the male body.
00:39:29 – Women were also extremely important to Bacon,
00:39:32 – both personally and in terms of his art.
00:39:35 – He had a need for family and he sort of put a lot of women into that role.
00:39:41 – And he had a number of those throughout his life.
00:39:46 – IN FRENCH:
00:40:10 – You look at the women he chose to paint,
00:40:13 – they have very strong characteristics in common.
00:40:18 – Muriel had a very strong visage
00:40:20 – that was almost imperial,
00:40:22 – and it was easy for him, in a sense,
00:40:25 – to convey exactly that
00:40:26 – strength of character that she had.
00:40:29 – Isabel Rawsthrone was another,
00:40:33 – a woman of almost staggering physical presence.
00:40:37 – And Henrietta Moraes, who was curvaceous,
00:40:40 – but she was also very, very strong.
00:40:43 – I first met Henrietta Moraes across a big lunch table
00:40:50 – and it was like being opposite a Bacon painting.
00:40:55 – I mean, it was almost as if she wasn't real
00:40:58 – because of his portraits of Henrietta.
00:41:06 – Henrietta is one of the most interesting of the Soho characters.
00:41:10 – She, like many others,
00:41:12 – could not wait to get away from her convent past
00:41:14 – and get into the life of Soho.
00:41:17 – Hen? She was amazing,
00:41:20 – she was one of the most wonderful people I've ever known.
00:41:25 – No wonder Francis adored her, you know?
00:41:29 – And Francis understood, you know.
00:41:32 – He was Irish, he understood how hard it is
00:41:37 – if you've been through that terrible sort of Catholicism thing.
00:41:42 – How dreadfully hard it is to break out of it and get free.
00:41:48 – He was never burdened by that, was he? He was never burdened by that guilt?
00:41:52 – Well, if he was, it was… I think he was a bit.
00:41:55 – Actually, I'm sorry, but I think he was.
00:41:59 – Henrietta always said to me,
00:42:02 – “Ah, yes, perhaps he doth protest too much.”
00:42:07 – I think he painted Henrietta 15 times.
00:42:09 – I mean, his work can be seen as a search for God.
00:42:14 – Although he would probably certainly deny it.
00:42:18 – His sort of frustration, if you like, with not finding God.
00:42:25 – 'When you paint anything, you ask the same…'
00:42:27 – You are also painting not only the subject,
00:42:31 – but you are painting yourself
00:42:33 – as well as, as the object that you're trying to record.
00:42:45 – One time she didn't like,
00:42:47 – was there was one of the pictures where he had a hypodermic in her arm.
00:42:53 – – It was a hypodermic syringe. – BACON: – It was a hypodermic syringe.
00:42:58 – But I wanted something to nail the image, the figure, as it were,
00:43:03 – to the…to the bed.
00:43:04 – And it looked more logical with a hypodermic syringe.
00:43:09 – I couldn't put a nail through their arm,
00:43:12 – so it was much easier to put a hypodermic syringe.
00:43:15 – But it wasn't an attempt suggest that the person was a drug addict?
00:43:21 – I can see what Francis was getting at,
00:43:24 – but I can also see that Henrietta didn't want that.
00:43:30 – Henrietta herself later, looking back at it said, you know, in effect,
00:43:35 – “Oh, my God, who could have known? This is prescience,
00:43:39 – “and it's foreshadowing what was going to happen to my life that was to come,”
00:43:43 – which was indeed much more druggy than, you know,
00:43:46 – Francis Bacon could have anticipated at the time he'd painted it.
00:43:50 – You know, we weren't really in the same crowd.
00:43:54 – I was much younger.
00:43:57 – And I was smoking hash and taking LSD and Francis was a drinker.
00:44:04 – But then, once I had left Mick and my life kind of fell apart, really,
00:44:12 – and I was living on a wall in St Anne's Court, on heroin.
00:44:19 – So I didn't feel the cold.
00:44:23 – And I also had, but I didn't know it, anorexia.
00:44:27 – And I must have been on Francis's route from the French
00:44:33 – to Wheeler's or something like that.
00:44:36 – And not all the time, but every now and again
00:44:40 – Francis would go past my wall and sort of pick me up
00:44:44 – and take me to Wheeler's and feed me.
00:44:48 – And the most wonderful thing about it, apart from the food, of course,
00:44:55 – was that he never commented or judged
00:44:59 – or said anything about my strange life, you know?
00:45:05 – Me, at 22, living on a wall in Soho,
00:45:10 – with the meths drinkers and all that, you know?
00:45:14 – He never made any judgment or said a word.
00:45:18 – We had a wonderful time, we talked about absolutely everything.
00:45:23 – And that's when I told him about my great-great-uncle Leopold,
00:45:28 – which, of course, he knew all about,
00:45:31 – and we discussed de Sade and masochism
00:45:36 – and lots of very interesting things
00:45:39 – that I didn't realise till much later
00:45:43 – how interesting they were to Francis, of course.
00:45:49 – But I guessed something was up.
00:45:56 – He was obsessed by s**.
00:46:00 – He was plugged into all sorts of different things
00:46:04 – that most people aren't aware of.
00:46:10 – When we were out, at certain moments he'd sort of almost
00:46:13 – walk through a wall into a different world.
00:46:17 – And disappear.
00:46:19 – And what happened then, I don't know.
00:46:39 – The next day he'd reappear in a damaged state, you know,
00:46:43 – barely able to walk or turn his head.
00:46:46 – And there was no point in sort of saying, “Well, what happened, Francis?”
00:46:51 – Because he'd, at best, he'd just, you know,
00:46:55 – he'd just fix you with a sort of basilisk stare and say, “What do you mean?”
00:47:07 – I was fast asleep one night when the phone went and Valerie Beston said,
00:47:12 – “Paul, quickly, quickly, you've got to come to Reece Mews.”
00:47:15 – I've got there and he had
00:47:18 – a huge injury, right the way across
00:47:22 – from his left eye right the way across,
00:47:25 – right round the right eye.
00:47:27 – All the skin had been broken and he was in a terrible mess.
00:47:31 – And I said, “Francis, you need a plastic surgeon.”
00:47:35 – “No,” he said, “you sew me up now.”
00:47:38 – I said, “I'll put some local anaesthetic in.”
00:47:40 – He said, “No, I don't want any local anaesthetic.”
00:47:43 – That's the only time I realised that he quite enjoyed being hurt.
00:47:49 – Francis liked the criminal side of London, you know?
00:47:52 – He liked the kind of…
00:47:55 – sordidness of London,
00:47:58 – all that kind of East End dross
00:48:01 – and knowing all those kind of people.
00:48:06 – Or wanting to know all those kind of people.
00:48:12 – George Dyer came on the scene as this
00:48:16 – tough, well-built muscular boxer-like East End thug.
00:48:22 – And I think through George he, you know, was able…
00:48:25 – George and George's family, through all that,
00:48:29 – he got to know, you know, quite a lot of bad boys,
00:48:32 – including the Krays.
00:48:34 – Who did come knocking on his door. Cos they wanted a painting.
00:48:39 – I like painting good-looking people.
00:48:42 – Because I like their bone structure.
00:48:44 – I loathe my own.
00:48:48 – But little by little it became apparent
00:48:51 – that however sort of virile
00:48:52 – and thug-like he looked, he was actually a very nice, lost young man.
00:49:01 – George was obviously rather reticent with the whip.
00:49:04 – So, little by little,
00:49:06 – Francis became disabused because George had been, in that sense, a disappointment.
00:49:13 – He was a kind of very feeble East End thug,
00:49:15 – and he liked children and animals and cuddling.
00:49:18 – Bacon said, “Oh, I hate the billing and cooing of s**. I just like the s**.”
00:49:22 – And he wanted George to rape him and George wanted to cuddle.
00:49:27 – Francis confided just about everything to do with his relationship with George.
00:49:32 – And it seemed that the sexual relationship had a real downturn.
00:49:38 – George was suffering from erectile dysfunction.
00:49:43 – It seems to me that Francis had emasculated George,
00:49:47 – he found what he saw as the typical rough East Ender that he longed
00:49:53 – to find, and then he did that job of emasculating him.
00:49:58 – Francis did his best to make George Dyer
00:50:01 – into something. And I think he did that on canvas.
00:50:07 – Bacon was violent in the way he painted,
00:50:11 – he was sadistic in the way he took apart George
00:50:15 – with missing ears and missing jaws
00:50:18 – and missing eyes, missing everything, really.
00:50:22 – George was a bit appalled by the whole thing.
00:50:26 – He saw all of these rich people standing around sort of, you know,
00:50:29 – in this smart gallery.
00:50:33 – He said to me, you know, “I think they're 'orrible.
00:50:36 – “They're really 'orrible.”
00:50:39 – He said, “And he thinks I look like that!”
00:50:44 – George knew all the prices for the pictures.
00:50:46 – And he said, “And these people go and pay f****** thousands of pounds for 'em.”
00:50:55 – I mean, he portrays him as a kind of idiot.
00:50:57 – He has things with what looks almost like
00:50:59 – a nappy on his head or something.
00:51:02 – And dressed as a baby.
00:51:04 – I mean, need I say more?
00:51:13 – There were certainly moments when things were firing up between them.
00:51:20 – They had lovers' tiffs.
00:51:22 – The one time when Francis phoned me and said, “You have to come round,
00:51:27 – “you have to come round right away because George has gone berserk
00:51:30 – “and all my suits are in the bath and he's poured paint all over them
00:51:33 – “and he's trampling up and down.”
00:51:35 – And I went round.
00:51:37 – And I couldn't get in because the front door was barred.
00:51:42 – So I had to back the vehicle up,
00:51:44 – get up onto the roof and go through the window where I was nearly
00:51:49 – throttled by George until he realised who it was.
00:51:52 – And he had, in fact,
00:51:54 – thrown two thirds of the furniture down the staircase.
00:52:00 – Dyer is fighting, in a way…
00:52:03 – He's just going downhill, downhill, downhill,
00:52:06 – it must have been terrible to watch.
00:52:07 – So it's almost like a desperate attempt to get back in with Bacon
00:52:10 – and show Bacon that he is still a man.
00:52:13 – Francis was painting fewer pictures of George.
00:52:17 – He was weary of him, I think.
00:52:18 – Weary of his problems, of his drinking, of his carousing,
00:52:22 – of his unhappiness, perhaps.
00:52:25 – His better judgment told him that he needed to be shot of Dyer.
00:52:28 – Bacon began moving away from George.
00:52:33 – He looked more to Paris, at a time when other British artists were
00:52:37 – resolutely not looking to Paris.
00:52:41 – I think Bacon's interest in France goes all the way back to 1928,
00:52:47 – on his first trip there.
00:52:50 – IN FRENCH:
00:53:18 – In 1971, getting a show at the Grand Palais
00:53:21 – was the great moment of his life.
00:53:24 – It was the turning point.
00:53:26 – Huge. The first English artist to be offered the Grand Palais.
00:53:30 – So, really, really big time.
00:53:33 – It was very important this went well.
00:53:35 – I understand that the British embassy were very worried in case
00:53:39 – a typical Bacon scene erupted and it was, you know,
00:53:41 – something terrible happened there.
00:53:43 – George, Francis, myself, Miss Beston,
00:53:47 – all had rooms in this particular hotel.
00:53:51 – Everybody else was saying, “Don't bring George, he'll ruin everything.”
00:53:55 – Dicky and Denis and some others with Francis had gone out and they saw the venue.
00:53:59 – And there was a big red carpet and there were the soldiers standing there.
00:54:04 – They all described to me these leather boots up to the knees
00:54:08 – and the red stripe up the soldiers' tight trousers.
00:54:10 – And they were fairly taken by this.
00:54:13 – They said Francis was…
00:54:14 – You could see him sort of swell with pride at this.
00:54:17 – And they went back to the hotel thinking this was going to be a good evening.
00:54:20 – And Francis went up to his room.
00:54:23 – There was a stink of drugs, unwashed bodies, dirty s**, and the rent boy,
00:54:27 – the very dirty rent boy, who was in there with George.
00:54:30 – And Francis was furious.
00:54:33 – Dicky, Denis and Francis, they went drinking, they went gambling.
00:54:38 – They had a four, five, six-course meal.
00:54:41 – They hardly hurried home, knowing that George was in such a bad state.
00:54:46 – I can't remember, exactly, the time, but it must have been sort of two o'clock in the morning.
00:54:51 – There was a knock at my door and it was Francis.
00:54:54 – And he said, could he come and spend the night in my room
00:55:00 – cos I had double… You know, two beds.
00:55:02 – Because George had brought home an Arab with smelly feet.
00:55:09 – And it was so disgusting he couldn't stand it any longer.
00:55:16 – And in the morning he said,
00:55:19 – “Just go and see if George has got rid of the Arab.”
00:55:25 – There was no evidence of George being around, you know,
00:55:29 – the bed was in a real state of disarray.
00:55:35 – And I then checked with Miss Beston around the room,
00:55:40 – and looked in the bathroom.
00:55:43 – And George was on the toilet.
00:55:46 – Apparently Miss Beston pushed him out of the way, went in there,
00:55:49 – and did pulses and things like this and said, “No, he's dead.”
00:55:55 – I never even thought about it being a suicide attempt.
00:56:00 – It could well have been.
00:56:03 – We thought brought about by him being so drunk
00:56:08 – and taking the wrong tablets.
00:56:12 – And so she said, “Right, I'll take care of this.”
00:56:14 – And Terry was pushed out of the way.
00:56:16 – And down she went.
00:56:18 – And Valerie did the fixing to then make sure that
00:56:22 – the death was found two days later.
00:56:25 – I think it was a joint decision between Francis,
00:56:29 – Valerie and the hotel manager.
00:56:34 – Why was that decision made?
00:56:36 – It might have put the opening in jeopardy.
00:56:40 – It had to be sorted for Francis.
00:56:45 – It was bizarre to think that, you know,
00:56:48 – this body was going to be left in a hotel room overnight.
00:56:57 – You know, it's a h*** of a thing to decide not to report a dead body.
00:57:02 – Whether that was Bacon's idea, you can't be sure.
00:57:06 – You know? I mean,
00:57:08 – it looks like maybe that's what happened,
00:57:11 – but it's still a h*** of a thing.
00:57:12 – I mean, that's a crime.
00:57:24 – Once the Grand Palais retrospective had opened,
00:57:29 – the news began to sort of filter out,
00:57:32 – and of course it got round with all the speed of bad news.
00:57:35 – During the dinner, the whole room knew that George had committed suicide,
00:57:40 – but up until then nobody had heard.
00:57:43 – Francis himself was in the Grand Palais.
00:57:45 – I think, it was as though he wasn't really there.
00:57:48 – He seemed totally abstracted. He was pale,
00:57:52 – but he went through with the dinner because he felt that it was better
00:57:55 – to go through with it than to cancel.
00:57:58 – So, the stories about Francis being told at the opening of his show and
00:58:03 – him being so brave and going ahead with the show,
00:58:06 – despite having been given this dramatic news, are absolute tosh.
00:58:09 – He knew that two days before. Someone may well have gone up to him
00:58:12 – and told him the story, but that was a bit of playacting.
00:58:15 – There was a picture that the French had bought, a big triptych,
00:58:18 – which actually has George sitting on a sort of beautifully painted
00:58:23 – creamy white toilet.
00:58:25 – And because the French state had just bought it,
00:58:29 – President Pompidou paused for a long time in front of that image.
00:58:33 – He had to stand there and talk about this image,
00:58:38 – knowing that George had recently died in exactly that position.
00:58:46 – IN FRENCH:
00:59:11 – And it was all…
00:59:18 – ..awful and sad.
00:59:23 – This tragic event…
00:59:29 – the same time, gave him perhaps the deepest
00:59:35 – subject he was ever to have in his life.
00:59:38 – It seems a bit mad,
00:59:40 – painting portraits of dead people.
00:59:43 – After all, if their flesh has rotted away…
00:59:49 – ..once they're dead,
00:59:51 – you have your memory of them, but…
00:59:57 – – haven't got – them.
01:00:04 – He actually went back to Paris to absorb the memories,
01:00:09 – to relive the events.
01:00:11 – And actually stayed in the same hotel
01:00:14 – where George had killed himself.
01:00:19 – And from this sort of well of guilt and grief he dredged up
01:00:26 – these extraordinarily haunting images that are some of, I think,
01:00:30 – the most profound images in painting.
01:00:39 – When it came into the gallery…
01:00:42 – ..and I saw it for the first time…
01:00:46 – ..if Francis showed any emotion to the death,
01:00:51 – the emotion was in that painting.
01:00:54 – Everything that he felt
01:00:57 – about George was in those paintings.
01:01:02 – Maybe it was just about getting it out of his system.
01:01:06 – So, paint them, get them out the studio,
01:01:10 – and then maybe I'll feel better.
01:01:15 – It got him recognition far beyond anything he'd ever had before.
01:01:19 – It was the turning point in sales
01:01:22 – and sort of international reputation.
01:01:31 – HE YELLS
01:01:44 – He was very much collected by very important film directors.
01:01:49 – And influenced, of course, in the actual films,
01:01:52 – Pasolini and Bertolucci.
01:01:56 – He was au courant, you know?
01:01:59 – And the power of his paintings fitted the period.
01:02:04 – And he's a great inspiration.
01:02:16 – 'When I made Theorem with Pasolini,'
01:02:19 – one day, he just showed up with this book.
01:02:22 – And it was a book of Francis's paintings.
01:02:25 – And he said, you know, “When you're talking to the son,
01:02:28 – “you can kind of be flicking through this.”
01:02:30 – And I realised, “Oh, he knows about Francis.”
01:02:33 – It becomes self-perpetuating.
01:02:36 – Francis Bacon, who already at that time, late '70s, was famous.
01:02:40 – I was right next door.
01:02:42 – And people would approach me
01:02:44 – to try and get a painting on the cheap
01:02:49 – without going through his gallery at Marlborough.
01:02:51 – Or to be painted by him.
01:02:53 – And I would fix little things for him,
01:02:56 – like a leaky pipe, electricity problem.
01:02:58 – Or I'd drive him somewhere.
01:03:00 – We sort of fairly quickly got over the homosexual vibes,
01:03:04 – if I put it that way.
01:03:06 – We got into that and I said, I just do not fancy men.
01:03:10 – BACON, IN FRENCH:
01:03:28 – Bacon became a quite lonely man.
01:03:31 – The ageing process is particularly hard on homosexuals.
01:03:37 – So, he was in a position of diminished physical beauty, as it were.
01:03:44 – I went a few times with Francis to the West End gay clubs.
01:03:48 – Sometimes John Edwards was there, sometimes not.
01:03:50 – John was like a son he never had.
01:03:53 – A friend.
01:03:55 – He really, really cared for John.
01:03:57 – John Edwards came into his life in a curious fashion.
01:04:01 – He ran, or helped to run, a pub in the East End.
01:04:05 – And Bacon had been there and said he'd come back with some friends.
01:04:09 – And asked John to stock in some champagne.
01:04:13 – And then Bacon didn't turn up. John was mightily p***** off.
01:04:16 – And at some point, in The Colony Room, told him.
01:04:19 – And this amused Bacon.
01:04:21 – Within a short space of time, they became inseparable.
01:04:26 – They were…
01:04:28 – They were a team, like Laurel and Hardy.
01:04:30 – They belonged together.
01:04:32 – They just became a very unusual loving relationship. But no s**.
01:04:37 – The important thing about the Edwards relationship was that it was
01:04:40 – paternal, but it's not always clear who is the father and who is the son.
01:04:46 – Oh, come in, John.
01:04:49 – I'm glad you came down.
01:04:52 – John, David is just asking me the most difficult question.
01:04:57 – The pictures of Edwards are often
01:05:00 – quite eroticised and quite gentle, you know.
01:05:03 – Yes, he has pieces of him that disappear,
01:05:06 – yes, he might be leaking, his form
01:05:08 – might be leaking onto the ground,
01:05:10 – but not with the kind of violence or
01:05:12 – brutality that you see in Bacon's earlier paintings.
01:05:22 – I often think of the Tempest in Shakespeare,
01:05:24 – that there's a sort of, almost an eerie calm in Bacon's later work.
01:05:32 – There's something rather beautiful and simplified.
01:05:39 – A new period, a third period of Bacon's work, the late landscapes.
01:05:44 – Bacon only did about ten of them before he died,
01:05:47 – but that's a discreet body of late work which is absolutely great,
01:05:53 – and some of his greatest work.
01:05:55 – He desperately wanted to be a great artist.
01:05:58 – He destroyed, right up to the end of his life,
01:06:01 – and by then every time he took a knife to a painting,
01:06:03 – he'd just thrown away £1 million,
01:06:06 – which is really admirable, I think.
01:06:10 – By 1982, he was very famous and he couldn't just…
01:06:16 – crumple up the canvas and put it in the dustbin outside 7 Reece Mews,
01:06:19 – because people were constantly going through his dustbin,
01:06:22 – looking for Bacon scraps, OK?
01:06:25 – So he wanted them absolutely destroyed.
01:06:28 – So he would phone me up and I would
01:06:30 – go over right away and I would do it.
01:06:32 – And the only way to destroy them was with a Stanley knife,
01:06:35 – so you cut into it, cut strips.
01:06:37 – Cut all the strips
01:06:38 – and then put it in a rubbish bag
01:06:42 – and then they were taken over to the Chelsea dump.
01:06:46 – And if you gave the man a fiver, who ran the fire,
01:06:49 – he would take the bag right in front of your eyes and things would be burnt there, OK?
01:06:54 – And then I'd report back to Francis that I did this.
01:06:57 – – What did it feel like, to destroy? – Terrible.
01:07:03 – It's… Heart-wrenching, gutting, terrible to destroy a Francis Bacon painting.
01:07:09 – And some of them, I obviously looked at them, I thought, “Pretty good.
01:07:12 – “I would like to have one.”
01:07:15 – I didn't, though. No.
01:07:18 – Stupid!
01:07:21 – IN FRENCH:
01:07:30 – What's vultures in French?
01:07:49 – Francis trusted John. He would trust John with everything,
01:07:52 – from the early point. I remember John coming home and saying,
01:07:56 – “Francis told me where he keeps his money, where he keeps this, where he keeps that.”
01:08:00 – It's quite understandable that the circle would
01:08:02 – look like this and say, “Who is he? What's he want?
01:08:06 – “Is he trying to take advantage?”
01:08:09 – So, yes, there was definitely suspicion.
01:08:12 – I must have first met John Edwards with Francis,
01:08:17 – presumably in Muriel's.
01:08:20 – He thought it was very funny to handcuff me to the bar.
01:08:26 – And he said he was going to place a bet.
01:08:29 – And I didn't have any appointment or anything I was doing that day,
01:08:33 – it was a free day,
01:08:35 – so, I wasn't worried.
01:08:38 – But it took him an hour and a half or a little more
01:08:41 – to place his bet, and so, he eventually
01:08:46 – did reappear, just when I was wondering
01:08:48 – what I would do if I was going to be there for the night.
01:08:52 – It was only one arm, so my drinking arm was free,
01:08:55 – and I was sitting drinking anyhow.
01:08:58 – The most important thing for Francis was that John had enough money to
01:09:02 – last his life. He changed his will.
01:09:04 – When you think of Francis and how complicated his life was,
01:09:08 – this will was one page long, just one page.
01:09:10 – And everything went to John Edwards if he succeeded Francis by three months.
01:09:15 – Francis always made John aware that he would inherit a lot of money.
01:09:23 – Well, Bacon said he thought about death every day of his life.
01:09:27 – And as he aged, it must have become more and more present to him, death,
01:09:35 – and as his friends died, others died…
01:09:37 – The death of Muriel… I think the fading of The Colony
01:09:42 – must have been difficult for Bacon.
01:09:45 – In the '80s, Soho really had ended.
01:09:49 – It was pretty much running on fumes and I think that that had, you know,
01:09:53 – a very depressing influence on Bacon on top of everything else.
01:09:59 – You know, it's – what is it? – 40 years on or something,
01:10:02 – and he would have been reminded greatly about the passing of time.
01:10:08 – Well, I'd seen Bacon around a lot, but I'd never spoken to him
01:10:12 – cos, I guess a kind of hero or something and I was quite young,
01:10:16 – but I used to see him in cafes in Soho.
01:10:19 – And if I'd been out late, I'd end up going early morning into
01:10:22 – a cafe, and sometimes he'd be having breakfast.
01:10:25 – So it was kind of odd to be in the same room as him and not speak to him
01:10:28 – but then, I just thought, what the h*** would I say or whatever?
01:10:32 – In his last years, he looked very old and very tired
01:10:35 – and he must have felt very pained
01:10:38 – at that moment, you know, to see the world flashing before his eyes.
01:10:42 – John wasn't always there for him.
01:10:45 – John was there to support him, but he wasn't there 24/7.
01:10:49 – From day one, John had his partner, Philip.
01:10:52 – They'd been together five or six years before Francis came on the scene.
01:10:57 – And that was a no-go area.
01:10:59 – That was John's life,
01:11:01 – Francis was totally aware of that.
01:11:02 – John Edwards was travelling a lot, he didn't live in London, and again,
01:11:06 – I was living 20 metres away from him, so it deepened his trust in me.
01:11:11 – The opportunity came up to arrange a supper party at my place for Francis Bacon.
01:11:15 – So Frederick Ashton had already committed to come,
01:11:18 – who was the great choreographer of the time.
01:11:21 – I was left with an empty seat and I thought, “Who can I invite?”
01:11:25 – Jose Capelo was someone I used to see at first at the Royal Opera House.
01:11:30 – He was interested in art.
01:11:32 – And I phoned Jose and he leapt at the chance.
01:11:35 – And Ashton and Francis took an immediate liking to him.
01:11:40 – And Francis was rather famous, of course,
01:11:42 – for liking a certain amount of roughish trade.
01:11:47 – There was an element of relief with Jose, because Jose was firmly
01:11:52 – well-educated, professional middle class,
01:11:55 – and so was much easier to talk to.
01:11:58 – I think John would have been happy for Francis.
01:12:01 – There was no jealousy there between them.
01:12:03 – Nothing for John to worry about.
01:12:06 – John had all the keys to all the boxes.
01:12:09 – Francis Bacon and Jose Capelo shared a safety deposit box at Harrods.
01:12:14 – They both had keys.
01:12:15 – John wanted the key from Jose.
01:12:20 – Jose was very difficult to read, as far as what really drove him.
01:12:24 – And I never went further. He would clam up.
01:12:28 – They were travelling together. They would go to Venice, Madrid.
01:12:31 – Francis would come back with a big smile on his face.
01:12:34 – He was a happy man. He was in love
01:12:36 – and for Francis, that obviously meant sexually it was going well.
01:12:44 – Yes, in 1988, he's inspired.
01:12:48 – He re-works, re-studies.
01:12:50 – It is not brutish any longer.
01:12:53 – It's as if the monsters have been turned into silk,
01:12:58 – and they no longer are going to jump out of the frame and bite you.
01:13:02 – There is something distant.
01:13:04 – But that is kind of fascinating too, you know?
01:13:06 – I mean, to look at your earlier work, and your earlier
01:13:12 – juicy brutality, and then make it more designed,
01:13:18 – distant, behind glass – it's another feeling.
01:13:23 – – HIRST: – The Figure At The Base Of A Crucifixion,
01:13:26 – that's just an unbelievable painting.
01:13:29 – I mean, I made a couple of pieces which were directly, you know,
01:13:33 – taken from Bacon paintings.
01:13:36 – Like I made a three-dimensional triptych.
01:13:39 – I saw these kind of terrifying social spaces that Bacon was painting.
01:13:43 – I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could actually make these spaces?”
01:13:46 – I got a phone call from the Saatchi Gallery and they said,
01:13:49 – “Bacon was in today and he was stood in front of your sculpture for an hour.”
01:13:52 – I was like, “An hour? No, can't be an hour.”
01:13:55 – Around September 1990, we went up to Saatchi's –
01:13:58 – the first time he saw Damien Hirst.
01:14:01 – He liked one piece of Damien Hirst and we came back and we were having drinks.
01:14:05 – After you've drunk a bottle of wine
01:14:07 – you come to things that really matter,
01:14:09 – and it's not looking at Damien Hirst, it's your love affair.
01:14:12 – Jose had framed it like “Francis, I want to stay your friend.”
01:14:17 – That means no more sexual relationship.
01:14:20 – And for Francis Bacon, he knew exactly what it meant, and he was devastated.
01:14:23 – So Francis, in his cups…
01:14:27 – ..told me about the relationship and those two years with Jose,
01:14:31 – and the fact that he'd given Jose four million US.
01:14:36 – and two of his paintings.
01:14:39 – I could read his pain, how gutted he was, his anguish.
01:14:42 – Well, I would say he slowly, slowly deteriorated from 1990,
01:14:49 – over the following two years,
01:14:51 – and I took him to one specialist after another
01:14:55 – and none of them could help him.
01:14:57 – He kept saying to me, “I've got to go to Madrid cos I want to see Jose”.
01:15:02 – IN FRENCH:
01:15:53 – Finally, Francis Bacon, one of the most highly acclaimed
01:15:56 – British painters this century has died.
01:15:59 – The painter Francis Bacon has died at the age of 82.
01:16:02 – He collapsed while on holiday in Spain.
01:16:04 – It's thought he had a heart attack.
01:16:06 – He kept saying to me, “I've got to see Jose.”
01:16:09 – I said, “Francis, whatever you do, don't go to Madrid,
01:16:13 – “because you're not going to survive if you do.”
01:16:18 – I was really destroyed when I heard he had died.
01:16:21 – It was really very, very sad.
01:16:24 – But it was inevitable.
01:16:26 – He was reckless about his own life and other people's lives, I think.
01:16:32 – What caused the heart attack?
01:16:35 – Was it… Did Jose and Francis have a huge row?
01:16:39 – And Francis had the heart attack and was whisked off to hospital.
01:16:43 – Francis was in a Catholic hospital being attended by Catholic nuns
01:16:48 – and Jose was not there.
01:16:50 – It's despicable.
01:16:53 – I think that if Bacon is consistent,
01:16:55 – he has to be prepared to die at any time,
01:16:58 – to be taken advantage of at any time,
01:17:00 – for things not to work out at any time,
01:17:03 – and I think he was. He was a gambler.
01:17:06 – He understood that gamblers usually lose.
01:17:11 – The Study Of A Bull,
01:17:12 – the last painting Bacon completed,
01:17:14 – is mostly raw canvas.
01:17:15 – I don't think that's a question of it
01:17:17 – being unfinished in any sense.
01:17:19 – He said what he wanted to say in that top left corner of the painting.
01:17:23 – The bull seems to be shifting between two spaces.
01:17:27 – That seems like life and death.
01:17:29 – And the fact that he used dust as a medium,
01:17:31 – this is the dust to which he will return,
01:17:33 – as indeed he did in Madrid only a few months later.
01:17:49 – Whatever it is, 50 years, 75 years later,
01:17:54 – they seem even more important, more…
01:17:59 – monumental in their effect.
01:18:04 – He seems to have been perceived now
01:18:06 – almost as a kind of religious painter,
01:18:10 – as somebody who emanates out of
01:18:14 – sort of 16th-century Italian painting,
01:18:17 – because it has that degree of passion, martyrdom and torture,
01:18:24 – which is what's so wonderful about Francis's painting, to my mind.
01:18:29 – There's a sort of sacred quality to them.


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