By Colin Wilson
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Bringing home Bacon

This article is over 13 years, 5 months old
Tom Davies is entitled to have a low opinion of Francis Bacon (Feedback, Socialist Review, November 2008). But his reasons worry me.
Issue 331

First, says Tom, Bacon is no good because he was posh. But posh people sometimes make great art – Lord Byron and Count Tolstoy for example.

Second, Bacon “led a hedonistic lifestyle”. Many great artists have led wild and unconventional lives. Dylan Thomas drank himself to death by 40, while Charles Baudelaire, Paul Gauguin and Franz Schubert all died of syphilis. More worrying is Tom’s use of moralistic terms like “depravity”. There’s no reason why a life full of sex, drink and drugs means treating other people badly.

Finally, Tom finds Bacon isn’t “inspirational”. But much great art deals with horror and pain – from King Lear to Guernica. They echo the conflicts of the society that produced them, which can be subversive. The twisted male bodies also relate to Bacon’s homosexuality. All sex between men was illegal until 1967. Many gay men, including Bacon, internalised this.

Trotsky argued rightly that works of art must be judged primarily for themselves, not for their politics. Tom appears to judge art by the class of its creator, but adds in their lifestyle and sexuality too – and even whether the resulting work is suitable for a school trip. It’s an impoverished and philistine view we should reject.

Colin Wilson, London

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