In Camera: Francis Bacon – Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting by Martin Harrison - review by Jane Rye

Jane Rye

Magnificent Mulch

In Camera: Francis Bacon – Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting


Thames & Hudson 256pp £35

The sensational squalor of Francis Bacon's studio seems to have almost as great a hold on the public imagination as his paintings themselves: it's the 10 Rillington Place of the art world, or the satisfactory outward sign of inward angst, perhaps – it's how we rather feel our artists ought to live. Thames & Hudson have published a whole book on 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington (such a respectable, fuddy-duddy neighbourhood, too), the much-photographed studio where Bacon lived and worked from 1961 until his death in 1992. ‘I like to live among the memories and the damage.’ The deep-litter of artistic detritus that covered its floor and walls has been solemnly inspected and catalogued and finally reconstituted, down to the last scrap of trampled newsprint, in Dublin (the artist's birthplace), in a primitive, shamanistic attempt to preserve something of Bacon's magic.

It is this midden or mulch of tattered and paint-stained snapshots, newspaper cuttings and mass-produced reproductions of one sort or another that Martin Harrison picks over, like a kind of art-historical rag-and-bone man, looking for, and sometimes finding, items that have been passed over or undervalued or have only recently

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