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Francis Bacon

Critical and Theoretical Perspectives

Edited By Rina Arya

This collection of essays on Francis Bacon (1909-1992) pays tribute to the legacy, influence and power of his art. The volume widens the relevance of Bacon in the twenty-first century and looks at new ways of thinking about or reframing him. The contributors consider the interdisciplinary scope of Bacon’s work, which addresses issues in architecture, continental philosophy, critical theory, gender studies and the sociology of the body, among others. Bacon’s work is also considered in relation to other artists, philosophers and writers who share similar concerns. The innovation of the volume lies in this move away from both an art historical framework and a focus on the artist’s biographical details, in order to concentrate on new perspectives, such as how current scholars in different disciplines consider Bacon, what his relevance is to a contemporary audience, and the wider themes and issues that are raised by his work.


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John G. Hatch Seeing and Seen: Acts of the Voyeur in the Works of Francis Bacon


… the spectator who approaches them with no preconceived ideas, gains direct access to an order of f lesh-and-blood reality not unlike the parox- ysmal experience provided in everyday life by the physical act of love … which makes it a sensuous delight, but one so intense that … to some people … it can appear wholly abhorrent. — Michel Leiris: Francis Bacon (Leiris, 1988: 6) The subject of Francis Bacon’s paintings is more often than not an isolated figure, or a couple, who are vulnerable, unsuspecting, sometimes even unaware of their own surroundings. They are shown in an interior setting and, though sparse, there are nevertheless cues indicating that the space is a private one. Sometimes the cues are subtle, such as a light switch, whilst at other times they are more obvious – items such as a washbasin – or con- veyed through actions, such as the figure shown defecating or the couple copulating. Many times the scene is closed of f to others by a shut door or a pulled blind. Our view, however, is never obstructed, and we are privy to some extremely intimate moments. As such, we are in a privileged posi- tion by being made witness to acts of intense privacy by the painter who tenders the invitation to see, nevertheless placing us simultaneously in the position of a voyeur. Our position as a voyeur is underscored by figures in the paintings, which sometimes acknowledge us and often take up a station similar to our own. For example, the man on...

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