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Francis Bacon On Velasquez’s Pope And Photographs

From Interviews with Francis Bacon
DS David Sylvester – FB Francis Bacon

Pg 24

Bacon talking about Velasquez Pope Innocent X 1650.

DS…you do in fact paint other pictures which are connected to religion (apart from the Crucifixion he painted several Popes).

…But why is it you chose the Pope?

FB Because I think it is one of the greatest portraits that have ever been made, and I become obsessed by it…it haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings and areas of – I was going to say – imagination…

Links to existing images generating new ideas through the act of observevation, also Duchamps idea that the view changes a work of art by coming to it.

Bacon paspsort

Pg 30

FB…99% of the time I find that photographs are very much more interesting than either abstract or figurative painting. I’ve always been haunted by them.

DS Do you know what it is especially that haunts you about them?…

FB I think it’s the slight remove from fact, which returns me onto the fact more violently. Through the photographic image I find myself beginning to wander into the image and unlock what I think of as its reality more than I can by looking at it. (Photographs) are often triggers for ideas.

DS I suppose the Muybridge’s are the photographs you’ve made use of the most continually.

FB Well, of course, they were an attempt to make a recording of human motion – a dictionary, in a sense. And the thing of doing series may possibly have come from looking at those books of Muybridge with the stages of a movement shown in separate photographs….


Pg 38

DS…in recent years, when you’ve planned to do a painting of somebody, I believe you’ve tended to have a set of photographs taken especially.

FB…I very much prefer working from the photographs than from them (the actual person)…I find it easier to work than actually having their presence in the room…if I have the presence of the image there (the actual person in the room), I may not able to drift so freely as I am able to through the photographic image…I find it less inhibiting to work from them through memory and their photographs than actually having them seated there before me.

DS You prefer to be alone?

FB Totally alone. With their memory.

….What I want to do is distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance.


DS Are you saying that painting is almost a way of bringing somebody back, that the process of painting is almost like the process of recalling?

FB I am saying that…

Velasquez’s Dwarf painting is almost alive and what he says earlier in section about his memory (or imagination) used in conjunction with photos to invoke the person.

Interviews with Francis Bacon
By David Sylvester
Thames and Hudson
Reprinted 2008
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