Francis Bacon: Painting, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis


The second in a series of books that seeks to illuminate Francis Bacon’s art and motivations, and to open up fresh and stimulating ways of understanding his paintings.

Francis Bacon is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His works continue to puzzle and unnerve viewers, raising complex questions about their meaning. Over recent decades, two theoretical approaches to Bacon’s work have come to hold sway: firstly, that Bacon is an existentialist painter, depicting an absurd and godless world; and secondly, that he is an anti-representational painter, whose primary aim is to bring his work directly onto the spectator’s ‘nervous system’.

Francis Bacon: Painting, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis brings together some of today’s leading philosophers and psychoanalytic critics to go beyond established readings of Bacon and to open up radically new ways of thinking about his art. The essays bring Bacon into dialogue with figures such as Aristotle, Hegel, Freud, Lacan, Adorno and Heidegger, as well as situating his work in the broader contexts of modernism and modernity. The result is a timely and thought-provoking collection that will be essential reading for anyone interested in Bacon, modern art and contemporary aesthetics.

Ben Ware: ‘the time is now right to open a new dossier on Bacon: one which pays attention to the diverse philosophical and psychoanalytic dimensions of his painting, while departing (in the form of dialectical shifting of the gears) from the Baconian theoretical narratives of the past. The essays in this collection constitute a significant step in this direction.’ 

 Howard Caygill reads a number of Bacon’s paintings in the light of recent work on cynegetics or the philosophy of the hunt.

 Gregg M. Horowitz argues that Bacon, who characteristically maintains a cool distance from his subjects, establishes an ‘unusual intimacy’ in his 1969 Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing by painting what Horowitz calls ‘impediment to her absence’.

 Darian Leader argues that Bacon’s art serves as an invitation to question and rethink the mirror phase theory of Jacques Lacan.

 Catherine Malabou discovers in Bacon a new, post-deconstructive approach to ‘form’ that strikingly anticipates contemporary definitions of cerebral plasticity.

 Dany Nobus understands Bacon’s artistic practice as a kind of psychoanalytic ‘painting cure’ that captures the ‘truth of the appearance’ through a ‘pasting of the paint’.

 Renata Salecl looks at the distortion of faces in Bacon’s portraits and self-portraits and asks what has changed in people’s self-perception in times of selfies, neuroscience and new social media, making the case for reading the artist (at least in certain works) as a painter of the negative.

 Alenka Zupančič picks up on the notion of ‘objective humour’ in Hegel’s Aesthetics and argues that this notion, which remains somewhat vague and obscure in Hegel, gains a concrete consistency in Bacon’s art, providing a new perspective on many key aspects of his work.

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages, 100 Illustrations
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • Publication Date: 

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