The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon

Daniel Farson, Author Pantheon Books $25 (293p) ISBN 978-0-679-42632-5
Farson, an art critic and author of a biography of his great-uncle Bram Stoker, The Man Who Wrote Dracula , draws on his 40-year friendship with Bacon to write this gossipy, loosely constructed and ultimately self-indulgent biography of the British painter who died in 1992 at the age of 82. The Bacon who emerges here is a stereotype of the artist as a defiant libertine whose revels flout the decorum of a hypocritical society. Farson discusses at length Bacon's appetites--for wine, for food and for lovers chosen from London's rough trade, including the illiterate, charismatic George Dyer, who was Bacon's frequent model and muse. Most of the friends and hangers-on that clutter Farson's book are too haphazardly sketched to reveal much about Bacon himself; the torrent of anecdotes defies attempts to link Bacon's private life to the screaming popes, truncated torsos and writhing beasts of his corrosive art. Bacon's need, as he put it, to ``reinvent the language of paint,'' remains unilluminated. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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