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Francis Bacon

2 of 6 portraits by Bruce Bernard

© estate of Bruce Bernard

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Francis Bacon

by Bruce Bernard
bromide print, 1984
11 1/2 in. x 7 5/8 in. (293 mm x 193 mm)
Given by Bruce Bernard, 1986
Photographs Collection
NPG x27588

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Bruce Bernard (1928-2000), Journalist, writer on photography and photographer. Artist or producer of 6 portraits, Sitter in 6 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The photographer Bruce Bernard was another close friend of Bacon, and was also a fixture of Soho life in the 50s and 60s. This is one of a series of photographs Bernard took of Bacon in the Reece Mews studio, 'simply because he was who he was'. Bernard noted that Bacon appeared to have dressed-up for the occasion, 'the shine on his shoes was unnaturally perfect.' However, he also noted that Bacon's 'marvellous good humour of past decades had greatly diminished, and he felt defiantly defensive about his work'.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 299 Read entry

    In speaking of himself Bacon uses the phrase ‘exhilarated despair. ... one’s basic nature is totally without hope, and yet the nervous system is made out of optimistic stuff’. Undoubtedly the paintings which have brought him international recognition use a vocabulary of despair – mutilated bodies, agonized faces, stripped interiors – but the tone is vital: vibrant colour, intense physicality, and, at times, an illusion of silvery, glittering movement which comes from the cinema. In his reworking of a great portrait by Velázquez, Pope Innocent X takes on the wounded mask of the nurse in Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. Bacon was brought up in Ireland, and, after a brief period in Paris and Berlin, came to London and worked in the 1930s as an interior designer. Although he had no formal training, he turned increasingly to painting, and from 1944 and the completion of Three Studies for a Crucifixion (Tate Gallery, London), it became his exclusive métier.

    Like his friend Bacon, Bruce Bernard, journalist, writer on art and photography, and occasional photographer, is no stranger to the bars and clubs of Soho. Both men were close friends of the legendary John Deakin, who taught Bernard not only ‘how to use a Rolleiflex’ but ‘more importantly ... that photography is a black and white business and not a grey affair’. Bernard photographed Bacon in his studio, melancholy, the available surfaces daubed with paint, behind him a bare room and a familiar motif from his paintings, a naked light-bulb hanging on its despairing flex.

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Events of 1984back to top

Current affairs

The Provisional IRA bomb the Grand Hotel in Brighton where various politicians, including the Prime Minister, where staying for the annual Conservative Party conference. The bomb killed five people including a conservative MP, but no members of the cabinet. Thatcher began the next session of the conference the following morning at 9.30 as planned saying: 'all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.'

Art and science

Dr Alec Jeffreys discovers that patterns in an individual's DNA can be identified and that each person has a unique 'genetic fingerprint'. The technique was soon utilised by forensic scientists to help in criminal investigations, and in order to identify human remains, for paternity testing, and to match organ donors.
Ted Hughes is appointed poet Laureate.


Ethiopia suffers severe drought and famine. The Ethiopian government responded by uprooting large numbers of peasants in the worst affected areas and by setting up new villages for the displaced people. However, the planned villages were frequently poorly equipped and many people chose to flee rather than acquiesce with government plans leading to further decline in food production and bringing the total death toll to over 1 million.

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