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Francis Bacon- Study after Velázquez Portrait of Pope Innocent- 1953

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Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

–Sir Francis Bacon

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There are two very different characters from history that carry the name Francis Bacon. Both are British, one a famous 20th century painter and the other a Renaissance man from the Age of Elizabeth in the late 16th/ early 17th century. The latter generally carries the Sir before his name. As I said, very different though I sometime come across a quote and have to do some checking to make sure one is not the other.

The painting Bacon was Irish born and lived from 1909 until 1992. He is best known for his dark figurative work that often contorts the features of the subjects of the work. I wrote about his studio (seen below) in an early post here. It was a spectacular mess, with piles of papers and paints and all sorts of detritus. Whenever I think my studio is an unworkable mess, I think of Bacon’s studio and suddenly mine doesn’t seem all that bad. His studio was such a spectacle of disarray that it was moved from where had been in London to a Dublin museum space, The Dublin City Gallery. There it was meticulously reconstructed to its former fabled jumble.

Francis bacon- Reece Mews Studio

Now, the other Francis Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, lived a life of great achievement from 1561 to 1626. As a statesman, he served as the Lord Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. He is perhaps better known as a philosopher and scientist, considered the father of the modern scientific method as well the father of empiricism.

One of the more famous stories of his life revolve around his death. While traveling, he was supposedly having a debate with a companion over his theory that animal meat could be frozen as a means of preservation, something unheard of at the time. Stopping at a farm they were passing, Bacon is said to have contracted the pneumonia which caused his death as the result of trying to freeze a chicken by stuffing its carcass with snow and ice.

What a way to go. But next time you pull your Swanson Chicken Pot Pie from the freezer, you might want to thank (or curse– it’s a frozen pot pie, for god’s sake) Francis Bacon. I mean, of course, Sir Francis Bacon.

The next time you have a nightmare with a screaming Pope, you can thank the other.

 

Francis Bacon- Three Studies Of George Dyer, 1966

 

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