A selection of quotes from Francis Bacon

On his perception of life

“I’m profoundly optimistic about nothing”

“It’s all so meaningless… we may as well be extraordinary”

“We are born and we die, but in between we give this purposeless existence a meaning by our drives.”

On Bacon's art 

“I believe in deeply ordered chaos”

“I want a very ordered image but I want it to come about by chance”

“If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion”

“I work much better in chaos…chaos for me breeds images”

“I always think of myself not so much as a painter but as a medium for accident and chance”

“[…] painting unlocks all kind of valves of sensations within me which returns me to life more violently”

“I wanted to paint the scream more than the horror”

“I want to paint like Velázquez but with the texture of a hippopotamus skin”

“You have to really concentrate on making…not illustration of reality, but to create images which are a concentration of reality […]”

“I would like my picture to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory of the past events as a snail leaves its slime.”

“[…] I’ve always hoped in a sense to be able to paint the mouth like Monet painted a sunset”

“We nearly always live through screens […] when people say my work looks violent, perhaps I have from time to time been able to clear away one or two of the veils or screens.”

“I want to make the animal thing come through the human”

On triptychs: "They are the things I like doing most. And I think this may be related to the thought I have sometimes had of making a film. I like the juxtaposition of the images captured on three different canvases.”

“The greatest art always returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation”

“[…] after all what is art about? It is trying to make something out of the chaos of existence” 

On photography 

On photographs: “These are my model, my subject matter.”

“Photographs are not only points of reference, they’re often trigger of ideas”  

“Photographs are much less inhibiting than having the subject sitting there before me”  

On other artists

On Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X: "I've always thought that this was one of the greatest paintings in the world and I’ve had a crush on it".

“Michelangelo made the most voluptuous male nudes in the plastic arts”

"All. All of Picasso. The man is fascinating. And his work is prolific, unpredictable. His sculptures, his drawings. Without him, I think I would have never used a paintbrush."

On crucifixion 

“I have always been very moved by pictures about slaughterhouses and meat, and to me they belong very much to the whole thing of the Crucifixion.”

“It is a magnificent armature on which you can hang all types of feeling and sensation” 

Bacon Francophile 

“France is certainly the country I prefer of all the countries I know”

“If the French like my work, then I shall feel that I have, to some extent, succeeded”.

“I love Paris. I think Paris is the most beautiful and marvelous city in the world.”

To Michel Leiris: "You are the only one to have understood and been able to put into words all sorts of things which I have tried to do.”

To Michel Leiris: "I know that it is quite a privilege that the greatest writer of our time has written texts about me.”

On Monaco

“This thing of using unprimed canvas came about when I was living in Monte Carlo in the late 1940s. I had no money – probably I had lost it in the casino – but I had some canvases there which I had already used, so I turned then and discovered that the unprimed side was much easier to work on. And since then I have always worked on the unprimed side of the canvas.”

“[…] I always feel with a little clever manipulation the Casino would buy our pictures.”

“I remember when I lived once for a long time in Monte Carlo and I became obsessed by the casino and I spent whole days there – and there you could go in at ten o’clock in the morning and needn’t come out until about four o’clock the following morning […]”

“[…] At first I found it too distracting but now I love it and find it very good for pictures falling ready-made into the mind. I paint dozens every week there.”