Francis Bacon in the 1950s

Michael Peppiatt

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The first exploration of Bacon’s compelling work during the key decade when he was attaining the height of his powers

From the screaming heads and snarling chimpanzees of the late 1940s to the anonymous figures trapped in tortured isolation some ten years later, during one crucial decade British artist Francis Bacon created many of the most central and memorable images of his entire career. The artist enters the decade of the 1950s in search of himself and his true subject; he finishes ten years later having completed some of his great masterpieces and having acquired technical mastery over one of the most disturbing and revealing visions of the 20th century.

This book brings both Bacon the man and Bacon the painter vividly to life, focusing for the first time on this key period in his development. Michael Peppiatt, the leading authority on Bacon and a close friend of the artist for thirty years, reveals essential keys to understanding Bacon's mysterious and subversive art. The book presents and assesses a wide range of paintings (many of them rarely seen before) representing all of Bacon's major themes during the 1950s. Also included is an account of the artist's life in the 1950s.

Formerly editor and publisher of Art International, Michael Peppiatt is an independent art historian and exhibition curator living between London and Paris. His previous books include Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris, published by Yale University Press. His 1996 biography of Francis Bacon, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, is considered the definitive account of Bacon's life and work and was chosen as a New York Times Book of the Year.


Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich (September 26 – December 10, 2006)

Milwaukee Art Museum (January 29 – April 15, 2007)

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (May 5 – July 30, 2007)

"[Peppiatt's] essay is a profound meditation on the painter's psychology and motivation; one of the best things ever written on Bacon."---Martin Gayord, The Sunday Telegraph

"To accompany UEA's excellent show Yale has published a substantial and rather beautiful volume..."---The Spectator

"Francis Bacon in the 1950s forms a kind of postscript to Peppiatt's 1996 biography, reverting to the period just before his own acquaintance with the artist began. . . . This tale of life lived on the edge—with its interwoven strand of steely artistic determination . . . makes for flavorsome reading. Peppiatt portrays his old friend with easy authority."—Julian Bell, New York Review of Books

"Peppiatt, a long-term acquaintance of Bacon, renders the artist with the same unflinching gaze Bacon himself turned on those close to him. The resulting study and the accompanying 70 high-quality colour reproductions of Bacon's work, combine to make this little-documented account of his 1950s period a vital missing piece in the puzzle that was Francis Bacon."—Anthony Marcris, Sydney Morning Herald

“A close friend for over thirty years, Peppiatt is well-placed to document Bacon’s way of working and his lifestyle, given us an intelligent and revealing insight into both the man and his work.” - Good Book Guide

ISBN: 9780300151213
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich
224 pages, x
20 b/w + 70 color illus.
The Making of Modern Art

Selected Writings

Michael Peppiatt

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