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Francis Bacon

Comment: Bacon sources

A reply to Barbara Steffen

Although I hoped my remarks might trigger serious debate on Bacon (The Art Newspaper, January 2006, p37), Barbara Steffen instead elects to question my scholarly credentials (Letters, p31, March 2006). To ignore personal attacks and address a substantive issue, Velázquez’s Pope Innocent X (which Bacon famously avoided seeing) was represented by a flawed, partial copy, obscuring the significance of Bacon’s direct “sources”—printed reproductions. The “tradition of art” theme of the Bacon exhibition Ms Steffen curated at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2004-05) failed to embrace the wider context (demonstrated in Keith Roberts’s exhibition at Sotheby’s, “Art into Art”, 1971) of artists copying, and seeking inspiration from, older art: it was both too narrow (no Raphael, Caravaggio, Manet) and too diverse (the wrong Degas, Picasso, Schiele). And, after Picasso and Soutine, we saw none of Bacon’s “contemporaries”.

Ms Steffen implies I stole her ideas, while she later omitted to acknowledge that a reference to Van der Weyden’s Crucifixion originated in my text for Vicente Todoli’s Bacon exhibition: what insights did she present concerning Bacon’s engagement with past art which she considers worth plagiarising?

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 168 April 2006
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