Irish Times Reveals the Fascinating Influence Food Had on Painter Francis Bacon

Photo: Hugh Lane Gallery, via Irish Times

Photo: Hugh Lane Gallery, via Irish Times

Moving an artist’s studio from London to Dublin is bound to unearth some unusual finds. Among the notable materials Francis Bacon (b. 1909, d. 1992) left behind when moving to Ireland was Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1888; first published 1861).

Known as a simple cook, Bacon held fast to fond memories of meals taken in Europe and the finer dining rooms of London. He owned, at the time of the Hugh Lanes’ forensic excavation of his studio, more 40 cookbooks—including four editions of Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking and several titles by Jane Grigson.

Bacon favored books rich in illustration and, not surprisingly given 1954′s famed “Figure with Meat” (and more), those that celebrate butchering. His paintings, which philosopher Gilles Deleuze describe as having “a zone of indiscernibility or undecidability between man and animal,” share a preoccupation with flesh. As such, the cookbooks presumably contributed to building Bacon’s image database. He painted meat, and he painted lobster. He ate, regularly, at Soho’s French House.

Bacon’s oeuvre provides simple reasoning for his cookbook collection, but his appreciation of fine foods (spurred by lover Eric Hall) adds a secondary layer to his influences. The books aid in reference for the visceral depictions of meat, but also contrast with the simple set up of his home and gesture toward his sophisticated palate when on the town.

[via Irish Times]

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