Francis Bacon on Portraits and Crosses

Bacon, Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950)

I’ve just been reading a series of essays on Francis Bacon and have come across two quotes that I must pass on. A young doctoral student had some long conversations with Bacon in 1975 in which Bacon was saying that when he looks at a great painting he often thinks about the artist more than the subject matter and then adds: “Even with portraits, I don’t think about the sitter, it’s a reflection of the painter rather than the sitter.”1

In a subsequent paper there is a reference to “a quip” that Bacon made about the template of the crucifixion, that it is “almost nearer to a self-portrait, really.” Michael Peppiatt responded to that report by writing: “If one takes Bacon’s phrase, “it’s almost nearer to a self-portrait”, at face value, what he was saying, quite literally, was that he identified with Christ and, in some way that was never fully explained, that he himself felt crucified.”2


1. Hugh M. Davies, "Interviewing Bacon" in Francis Bacon: New Studies, ed. Martin Harrison (Göttingen: Steidl) 2009. p. 120

2. Andrew R. Lee, "Francis Bacon, Medievalist?" in Francis Bacon: New Studies, op. cit., p. 174 and n.15, p. 285

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