Francis Bacon scares me

Tonight I was reading about Francis Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, and the painting itself really, deeply started to creep me out. It’s not hard to see why: Bacon fucks with Velázquez’s classicism, tearing the composition apart with those rippling vertical lines. With its open mouth, the once-papal figure looks terrified, as if it’s being torn apart. It’s very dynamic, yet very ghostly. It’s a pleasant reminder that horror in visual art is not confined to film.

It’s also not surprising that Bacon’s nightmarish, agony-stricken canvases would have echoes in later cinematic horrors. Famously, a shot of a corpse suspended from a cage in The Silence of the Lambs was based on Bacon’s Figure with Meat. The Screaming Pope is also strikingly similar to the poster for David Cronenberg’s Scanners. The works of both Bacon and Cronenberg are heavily concerned with the pliability and deformation of human flesh, a topic that’s inherently a source of horror. Death to Velázquez, long live the new flesh?


Filed under art, Body, Cinema

6 responses to “Francis Bacon scares me

  1. Wow, I never considered the connections between Bacon and Cronenberg. Eye-opening! And yes, he scares me too. I always had a problem with those triptychs of strange meaty looking creatures. Yikes.

  2. I’m not going to lie, he looks like a zombie.

  3. Cooool post! I really love Bacon’s work but hadn’t considered its connections to film before. Whenever I see his art in real life I just find myself staring at it for extended periods of time. It’s captivating.

  4. Your father

    To say “Bacon fucks with Velázquez’s classicism” confuses me.

    I don’t think you mean he is being dismissive or contemptuous of Velázquez’s classicism like you might consider Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 mustachioed Mona Lisa L.H.O.O.Q., because Bacon eclipses the original work, by nearly 51%, an entirely hypothetical creative eclipsation point that I just made up right now.

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