Francis Bacon: A Self-Portrait in Words

Summary

A new selection of letters, statements, and interviews reveals the preoccupations, thoughts, and ideas of Francis Bacon, one of the twentieth century’s most influential and important artists.

The documents selected for Francis Bacon: A Self-Portrait in Words illustrate Bacon’s sharp wit and ability to express complex ideas in highly personal, memorable language. Included here are not only letters to friends, patrons, and fellow artists, but also intriguing notes and lists of paintings. They often come with a sketch as an aide-mémoire or an injunction to himself as he worked in the studio, and many have only come to light since his death.

Bacon’s letters mirror and reveal his dominant preoccupations at different points throughout his long career. Most of Bacon’s letters have never been published and include several that he wrote to author Michael Peppiatt. Particularly intriguing is the record of a dream that he jotted down, outlining impossibly beautiful paintings he had conjured up in his sleep. Together with photographs, archive material, and works by the artist are numerous reproductions of Bacon’s characteristic handwriting, from the briefest jottings and notes to more extensive letters and statements.

Bacon frequently came up with memorable epithets and definitions. He delighted in doing with words what he set out to do in painting: “I like phrases that cut me.” Peppiatt explores the personal legacy of one of the twentieth century’s most important painters and presents a compelling verbal self-portrait that reveals both man and artist.

Availability

The book will be released in May 2024 and is available to preorder from Thames & Hudson and Amazon UK.

 

 


Giacometti in Paris: A Life

Summary

Today the work of Alberto Giacometti is world-famous and his sculptures sell for record-breaking prices. But from his early days as an unknown outsider to the end of a dramatic international career, Giacometti lived in the same hovel of a studio in Paris. It was Paris that made him, and he in turn immortalised the city through his art.

Arriving in Paris from the Swiss Alps in 1922, Giacometti was shaped not only by his relationships with remarkable artists and writers – from Picasso, Breton and Dalí to Sartre, Beauvoir and Beckett – but by the everyday life, pre-war and post-war, of Paris itself. His distinctive figures emerged from the city’s unique atmosphere: the crumbling grey stone of its humbler streets and the café-terraces buzzing with radical ideas and racy gossip.

In Giacometti in Paris, Michael Peppiatt, who spent thirty years documenting the Parisian art world and mixing with many of the people Giacometti knew, brilliantly charts the course of the artist’s life and work. From falling in and out with the Surrealists to years of artistic anguish, from devotion to his mother to intense friendships, tragic love affairs and a fraught marriage, this is an intimate portrait of an outstanding artist in exceptional times.

Availability

The book was released in April and is available from Bloomsbury and Amazon UK.

Reviews

‘Marvellous . . . intimate and insightful . . . reads like a novel by Samuel Beckett’, Paul Theroux

This is a marvellous book, an intimate and insightful account of the life and work of the uncompromising Giacometti – perverse in every sense and an artistic genius. It reads like a novel, indeed a novel by Samuel Beckett, who happened to be one of his friends and a man he much resembled — Paul Theroux

We are given Giacometti’s world in all its fascinating detail and humanity, the inhospitable and improbable studio that became iconic, installation art, before the term was invented, the friendships, relationships that were navigated and were influential, the moments of satori in a Paris cinema and the times of doubt and recalibration. It’s all here in memorable and readable form like privileged, intelligent conversation. Michael Peppiatt’s achievement is to never lose sight of the man in confronting the titanic artist that Giacometti was — Hughie O’Donoghue

This book is not only a wonderful portrait of Giacometti, but also of many of his friends and associates. Peppiatt is at home in the whole Paris cultural scene and hops merrily from La Coupole to Les Deux Magots to Café Flore, picking up fascinating details along the way — Lynn Barber ― Spectator

This book is an elegy for two missed things: an artist feted as a genius and the city he chose to live in . . . Giacometti in Paris is rich in anecdotage ― Literary Review

An elegant, authoritative biography – Peppiatt knows his artistic onions, to be sure ― Telegraph

Peppiatt’s telling of Giacometti’s story is insightful and sprightly . . . Paris in the années folles is atmospherically rendered, the scene-painting lively and louche — Laura Freeman, Chief Art Critic ― The Times

Personal and appealingly painterly, this is an immensely readable biography of the man and the city — Hephzibah Anderson ― Observer

[A] vibrant, new account . . . This is a book composed with love, a deep, affectionate admiration for its remarkable if elusive subject. Mr Peppiatt also writes with considerable authority’ — Country Life

Informative, affective, and vibrant . . . Giacometti in Paris is, then, a book as much about the triumphs and the dangers of obsession as anything else ― Arts Desk

Giacometti’s beanpole people became icons of 20th-century art and Michael Peppiatt’s compelling portrait cuts to the core of the sculptor’s “strange life and his stranger fame” . . . Appalling and fascinating. You’ll never look at a Giacometti the same way — Laura Freeman ― The Times: 12 Best Art Books of 2023


Artists’ Lives

Summary

Engaging encounters, personal anecdotes and jargon-free critical insights into some of the liveliest creative minds in modern art, by an international art world insider.

Praised by the Art Newspaper as ‘the best art writer of his generation’, Michael Peppiatt has encountered many European modern artists over more than fifty years. This selection of some of his best biographical writing covers a wide spectrum of modern art, from Van Gogh and Pierre Bonnard, to personal conversations with painter Sonia Delaunay, artist Dora Maar, who was Picasso’s lover in the 1930s and 1940s, and Francis Bacon, perhaps the most famous of the many artists with whom Peppiatt has formed personal friendships.

Michael Peppiatt’s lively, engaging writing takes us into the company of many notable art-world personalities, such as the Catalan painter Antoni Tàpies, whom he visits in his studio, and moments of disillusion, such as his meeting with the self-mythologizing artist Balthus. Art criticism blends with anecdote: riding with Lucian Freud in his Bentley, drinking with Bacon in Soho, discussing Picasso’s trousers with David Hockney…

This collection of Peppiatt’s most perceptive texts includes under-recognized artists, such as Dachau survivor Zoran Music, or Montenegrin artist Dado, whose retrospective Peppiatt curated at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Remarkably varied in their scope and lucidly written for a general reader, these selected essays not only provide us with perceptive commentary and acute critical judgment, they also give a unique personal insight into some of the greatest creative minds of the modern era.

Availability

The book was released in April and is available from Thames & Hudson and Amazon UK.

Reviews

The Spectator, NY Journal of Books, Book Therapy

“The essays are beautifully written, suavely informative and thoughtfully inflected… there is much to cherish and enjoy.” Andrew Lambirth, The Spectator

“Peppiatt scans the landscape of modern European painting and sculpture, giving us sketches of notable figures as diverse as the Belgian Henri Michaux and the British painter Lucian Freud.” Arthur Hoyle, New York Journal of Books

“Remarkably varied in their scope and lucidly written for a general reader, these selected essays not only provide us with perceptive commentary and acute critical judgment, they also give a unique personal insight into some of the greatest creative minds of the modern era.” Book Therapy

 


Only Too Much Is Enough: Francis Bacon In His Own Words

Summary

Francis Bacon’s conversation was by turns witty, provocative, and profound. In gathering together Bacon’s most memorable aphorisms, Michael Peppiatt—a friend of the artist and co-curator of the Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition Francis Bacon: Man and Beast (19/1–17/4 2022)—evokes both the force of his personality and the range of his interests.

The sayings assembled for the first time in Only Too Much is Enough form a brilliant accompaniment to Bacon’s paintings, conveying as they do not only a sceptical and sometimes disquieting outlook on human relationships, but also keen insights into the creative process.

Availability

The book is available online from Eris Press and Amazon UK.


Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

Summary

Francis Bacon is considered one of the most important painters of the twentieth century. A major exhibition of his paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts, planned for 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic, explores the role of animals in his work – not least the human animal.

Having often painted dogs and horses, in 1969 Bacon first depicted bullfights. In this powerful series of works, the interaction between man and beast is dangerous and cruel, but also disturbingly intimate. Both are contorted in their anguished struggle, and the erotic lurks not far away: ‘Bullfighting is like boxing,’ Bacon once said. ‘A marvellous aperitif to sex.’ Twenty-two years later, a lone bull was to be the subject of his final painting.

In this fascinating publication – a significant addition to the literature on Bacon – expert authors discuss Bacon’s approach to animals and identify his varied sources of inspiration, which included wildlife photography and the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge. They contend that, by considering animals in states of vulnerability, anger and unease, Bacon was able to lay bare the role of instinctual behaviour in the human condition.

Availability

The book is available online from Royal Academy of Arts and Amazon UK.

 

Reviews

The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, Time Out

“A show so gripping and potent it left me shaking” – Waldermar Januszczak, The Times


Auerbach/Bevan: What is a Head?

Summary

A new selection of letters, statements, and interviews reveals the preoccupations, thoughts, and ideas of Francis Bacon, one of the twentieth century’s most influential and important artists.

The e-catalogue for Auerbach/Bevan: What is a Head? is now available here.

The following is a conversation between Michael Peppiatt and Tony Bevan discussing the show.

 


Bacon/Giacometti: A Dialogue

Summary

While working on ‘Bacon–Giacometti’, a major exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2018, the curator, writer, and art historian Michael Peppiatt carried out extensive research on the relationship between the two artists. “At one point I felt I could almost hear the two of them talking”, he revealed. For Peppiatt, the dialogue between Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti has been ‘turning slowly’ in his mind ever since Bacon told him in detail about his encounters with the Swiss artist, while the latter was in London in 1965 to supervise the preparations for his major exhibition at the Tate.

This book, written in the form of a play, is about an imagined encounter between the two men. On the evening imagined by Peppiatt, Bacon and Giacometti enjoy a lavish dinner at Wheeler’s fish restaurant, then go on to the Colony Room—Bacon’s favourite club in Soho—to pursue their freely flowing conversation about life, art, and their mutual friends. After a while, the club begins to empty out, but the two artists, sensing that they may never have another occasion to talk, order more champagne…

Availability

The book is available online from Amazon UK.


The Making of Modern Art

 

Summary

Covering the whole spectrum of modern art—from pioneers such as Gustav Klimt and Chaim Soutine, to collectors and dealers who played a pivotal role in the modern art world, to artists such as Francis Bacon, Bill Jacklin, and Frank Auerbach.

Each text is accompanied by a new short introduction, written in Peppiatt’s signature vivid and jargon-free style, in which he contextualizes his writings and reflects on significant moments in a lifetime of artistic engagement.

Availability

The book is available online from Yale University Press and Amazon UK.

Reviews

“Peppiatt is always worth reading and there isn’t a dud in this stimulating collection.” – Andrew Lambirth, The London Magazine


The Existential Englishman

Summary

The Existential Englishman is both a memoir and an intimate portrait of Paris ­- a city that can enchant, exhilarate and exasperate in equal measure. As Michael remarks: ‘You reflect and become the city just as the city reflects and becomes you’. This, then, is one man’s not uncritical love letter to Paris.

Intensely personal, candid and entertaining, The Existential Englishman chronicles Michael’s relationship with Paris in a series of vignettes structured around the half-dozen addresses he called home as a plucky young art critic. Having survived the tumultuous riots of 1968, Michael traces his precarious progress from junior editor to magazine publisher, recalling encounters with a host of figures at the heart of Parisian artistic life – from Sartre, Beckett and Cartier-Bresson to Serge Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve. Michael also takes us into the secret places that fascinate him most in this ancient capital, where memories are etched into every magnificent palace and humble cobblestone.

On the historic streets of Paris, where all life is on show and every human drama played out, Michael is the wittiest and wickedest of observers, capturing the essence of the city and its glittering cultural achievements.

Availability

The Existential Englishman is available in the UK from BloomsburyAmazonDaunt, Hatchards, Waterstones, and all other good booksellers. The Paperback edition is available now from Bloomsbury and Amazon UK.

Reviews

“If you’re interested in art, or writing, or Paris, it will ring bells in your head. I loved it” – William Leith, Evening Standard

“Peppiatt’s account of his bohemian life in Paris is full of colour, character and charm … Peppiatt has an aesthete’s love of life, and there are vivid descriptions of food, drink and romance here that both enrapture and inspire. This enjoyable book works best as an account of a lifelong love affair with the Parisian streets … The Existential Englishman offers elegant proof that Michael Peppiatt’s powers of observation remain undimmed and acute” – Alexander Larman, Observer

“In many ways, it’s a wonderfully heartening success story” – Andrew Lambirth, The London Magazine

“A vivid memoir of Paris through the decades, this very personal account of the French capital brings its places and people alive” – The Connexion, Editor’s Choice

The Arts Desk, The Art Newspaper, The Australian Book Review, The Connexion, The GuardianThe ObserverLondon Evening Standard, The London Magazine, The Literary ReviewThe Daily TelegraphThe Sunday TelegraphThe Times, Times Literary SupplementThe Spectator, The Financial Times, The Oldie and Winged Words

 


Francis Bacon In Your Blood: A Memoir

Summary

Michael met Francis Bacon in June 1963 in Soho’s French House to request an interview for a student magazine he was editing. Bacon invited him to lunch, and over oysters and Chablis they began a friendship and a no-holds-barred conversation that would continue until Bacon’s death thirty years later.

Fascinated by the artist’s brilliance and charisma, Michael accompanied him on his nightly round of prodigious drinking from grand hotel to louche club and casino, seeing all aspects of Bacon’s ‘gilded gutter life’ and meeting everybody around him, from Lucian Freud and Sonia Orwell to East End thugs; from predatory homosexuals to Andy Warhol and the Duke of Devonshire. He also frequently discussed painting with Bacon in his studio, where only the artist’s closest friends were ever admitted.

The Soho photographer, John Deakin, who introduced the young student to the famous artist, called Michael ‘Bacon’s Boswell’. Despite the chaos Bacon created around him Michael managed to record scores of their conversations ranging over every aspect of life and art, love and death, the revelatory and hilarious as well as the poignantly tragic. Gradually Bacon became a kind of father figure for Michael, and the two men’s lives grew closely intertwined.

Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir was chosen Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ and by The Sunday Times as its Art Book of the Year.

Availability

The book is available from Bloomsbury in HardbackPaperback and eBook, through Amazon UK in HardbackPaperback and eBook, and through Amazon US in Hardback and eBook. It has also been released as an audiobook, narrated by Michael himself, available through Audible.

Reviews

UK: Art NewspaperCulture WhisperChoice, Daily Mail (HardbackPaperback), Evening Standard (HardbackPaperback), Fun Posts, Guardian (HardbackPaperback), Independent (HardbackPaperback), InStyleLiterary ReviewMail on SundayMature TimesObserver, RA Magazine, SpectatorSunday Times, Telegraph (HardbackPaperback), Times (HardbackPaperback), Times Literary Supplement (HardbackPaperback), The Lady and Vogue.

 

 

 

Adaptations & Extracts

Adaptations were published in The Daily Mail (HERE and HERE), and Michael was interviewed in The Telegraph and the Fundacio Tapies. Additional articles appeared in The GuardianThe Sunday Times and Christie’s Magazine. A series of extracts were broadcast on Radio 4 from 24th to 28th August read by Adrian Scarborough. The Omnibus edition of these readings is available HERE.

 

Talks & Readings

Michael has spoken at various venues including Ilkley, Bath, Dublin and Ely. He also gave a talk at Christie’s New York on 19 January 2016. Michael also read from Francis Bacon In Your Blood on 14 September at 7pm at Westminster School and at the Oxford and Cambridge Club Literary Lunch on 15 September.

Interviews with Artists

Summary

A renowned curator and respected insider of the international art scene since the mid-1960s, Michael Peppiatt has spent his professional life with many of the greatest artists of the 20th century. His close friendships and frequent studio visits with Dubuffet, Sonia Delaunay, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, Balthus, Oldenburg, Brassai and Cartier-Bresson, among many others, have produced an incredible archive of interviews, from formal question-and-answer sessions to off-the-cuff conversations.

These interviews combine to give a unique perspective on art from the Second World War to the present day. Peppiatt has selected forty-five of the most noteworthy and fascinating of his conversations with artists, from the world-famous to the under-recognized. The author approaches his subjects with a characteristic mix of passion, insight and humour in a book that is consistently entertaining and informative, as the artists open up in unexpected ways about their work and their lives.

Excerpts chosen by the Financial Times can be found here.

Availability

The book is available online from Yale University Press and Amazon UK.

Reviews

“Many of the conversations published here have a spark and intimacy that allow unexpected insights into the lives and work of some of the 20th century’s greatest artists.”—Apollo (Off the Shelf)

“The art of the critic-interviewer is, like that of the psychoanalyst, to draw poignant attention to what it is that the interviewee cannot express. The limitations imposed on Peppiatt are those of language itself, and they serve him well, causing him to nudge each of his subjects to the point where words fail them, to where the picture, the sculpture, the building or the photograph becomes the only means of expression.”—Talitha Stevenson, The Observer

“This fine collection of interviews from almost five decades moves from the figurative painters of London – notably Bacon and Auerbach – to artistic Paris, including the photographers Brassai and Cartier-Bresson. Some interviewees are little known to the British public, some world-famous, but the focus is always on the individual, as a good interview ought to be.”—Martin Gayford, RA Magazine

“Peppiatt is a soft but probing interlocutor, and his enthusiasm for his subject gleams from every page.” Lucy Davies, Sunday Telegraph

“How much do we learn about an artist’s work by reading their own words? Does an interview simply illuminate the personality rather than the work itself? These questions are addressed by Michael Peppiatt in his introduction to this collection of 41 interviews. [Though he] reminds us to never trust what an artist says about their work… he has no wish to catch artists ‘off their guard’… Peppiatt’s list includes the painfully taciturn and the fiercely articulate.” Fisun Guner, Metro

“A fascinating collection…” John Banville, Irish Times

“The 40 interviews here are by turns chatty, revealing, formal, informal; all retain a vivid sense of a social encounter. Although this book is perfect for dipping into at leisure and at random, taken together, Peppiatt’s accounts provide a gripping overview of an epoch.” Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

“As a friend of many of those he interviewed, Peppiatt has been in a privileged position to gauge the trends of the last half century, and his passion for these artists, as much as for their art, is self-evident… The book has the feel of a collected biography, sufficiently steered by the masterful interviewer to give shape to the raw honesty it reveals… Simply conceived and, but pleasurable to pick up, interviews with Artists is a lot more than an aging critic’s memoirs.” Daisy Dunn, telegraph.co.uk


Art Plural

Summary

Art is now a globalized phenomenon, with artists from all corners of the world showing their works on an international stage as never before. How do we begin to understand the ensuing multitude of different directions in contemporary art? In Art Plural: Voices of Contemporary Art world-renowned art historian and writer Michael Peppiatt joins with Swiss gallerist Frédéric de Senarclens of Art Plural Gallery, as well as over 25 leading contemporary artists, to share their thoughts on this diverse art scene. While Peppiatt frames their work in a historical context, the artists themselves reflect deeply on their influences, styles, techniques and messages through personal interviews in this lavishly illustrated book.

The artists include: Armen Agop, Agathe de Bailliencourt, Ali Banisadr, Chun Kwang Young, Yves Dana, Adam Dant, Ian Davenport, Bernard Frize, Fu Lei, Li Tianbing, Adriana Molder, Nan Qi, Jedd Novatt, Sherman Ong, Dane Patterson, Qiu Jie, Imran Qureshi, Pablo Reinoso, Doug and Mike Starn, Agus Suwage, Thukral & Tagra, Tian Taiquan, Gert and Uwe Tobias, Bernar Venet, Fabienne Verdier, Zhang Huan, and Zhang Xiaogang.

Availability

The book is available online from Amazon UK.


In Giacometti’s Studio

Summary

This deeply engaging book introduces the reader to the creative chaos of the tiny Parisian studio of the great sculptor Alberto Giacometti, from the moment he and his brother, Diego, arrived in 1927, with all their possessions in a wheelbarrow, until Albertos death in 1966.

Michael relates how the artist first worked there as a member of the Surrealist movement and then how he gradually made his mark on Paris’s artistic, literary, and intellectual worlds. After an enforced wartime exile in Geneva in a miserable hotel, he returned to Paris and to the same broken-down little shed of a studio behind Montparnasse where he struggled to realize his pared-down vision of mankind and which became a magnet for many of the great artists and writers of the time (from Picasso and Braque to Balthus, from Breton and Genet to Beckett).

Peppiatt prefaces his story with a poignant, personal narrative of how as a young man he arrived in Paris with an introduction from Francis Bacon to Giacometti; the encounter was forestalled by the artists very recent death, but Peppiatt instead got to know the key people in Giacomettis world. He explains how the studio, now dismantled, seems to be both Giacomettis most important artwork, encompassing countless complete or unfinished works, and the archive of years of struggle. With Giacomettis death, it became his greatest achievement, containing as it did the traces of a lifetimes search for truth. This vivid exploration of one of the most evocative and influential spaces in 20th-century art connects us with both a unique career and an entire, outstanding moment in French culture.

Availability

The book is available from Amazon UK in Hardback, and through Amazon US in Hardback.

Francis Bacon in the 1950s

Summary

From the screaming heads and snarling chimpanzees of the late 1940s to the anonymous figures trapped in tortured isolation some ten years later, British artist Francis Bacon during one crucial decade created many of the most central and memorable images of his entire career.

The artist enters the decade of the 1950s in search of himself and his true subject: he finishes ten years later having completed some of his great masterpieces and having acquired technical mastery over one of the most disturbing and revealing visions of the twentieth century. This book brings both Bacon the man and Bacon the painter vividly to life, focusing for the first time on this key period in his development.

Michael Peppiatt, the leading authority on Bacon and a close friend of the artist for thirty years, offers a groundbreaking study that reveals essential keys to understanding Bacon’s mysterious and subversive art. The book presents a wide range of paintings (many of them rarely seen before) representing all of Bacon’s major themes during the 1950s, analyzes the significant developments in his art, and assesses the particular importance of key works.

Also included is the most comprehensive account of the artist’s life in the 1950s ever written and a series of fascinating and revealing conversations between Peppiatt and Bacon in 1964, 1987, and 1989.

Availability

The book is available from Amazon UK in HardbackPaperback, and through Amazon US in Hardback and Paperback.

 

Reviews

‘…a profound meditation on the painter’s psychology and motivation; one of the best things ever written on Bacon.’
— The Sunday Telegraph, November 26, 2006

‘To accompany UEA’s excellent show Yale has published a substantial and rather beautiful volume…’
— The Spectator, December 2, 2006


Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris

Summary

Alberto Giacometti, one of the foremost artists of the twentieth century, created sculptures and paintings of stark and haunting beauty. Now, in the one hundreth anniversary of his birth, this book celebrates his genius, tracing his development from the tiny sculptures he made during World War II to the characteristically emaciated figures of his mature style.

Michael Peppiatt gives a vivid account of the crucial moment when Giacometti returned from his wartime exile in Geneva to his beloved Paris, a city traumatized by the war but receptive to new movements and ideas. He describes how Giacometti’s way of seeing life – and his way of working – underwent several dramatic transformations during this period. He sheds light on Giacometti’s closest relationships at the time, not only with his lover Isabel Delmer, his brother Diego, and hi young wife Annette, but also with his writer friends Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Samuel Beckett, and Jean Genet. Exploring the mainsprings of Giacometti’s creativity, Peppiatt presents four key texts by the artist, translated into English for the first time, that poignantly describe and illuminate his deepest fears and obsessions. Using rarely seen photographs, Peppiatt also discusses Giacometti’s studio, which the artist regarded as a continual, indespensible source of stimulus. Richly illuminated with reproductions of Giacometti’s sculptures, paintings, and drawings, the books sheds new light on his singular style of expression.

Availability

The book is available online from Amazon UK.


Imagination’s Chamber

Summary

“Highly readable and richly illustrated, Imagination’s Chamber explores the many facets of this unusual subject. What did the studios of the great masters look like and how did the y work in them.”

This book explores the relationship between artists and their studios, finding the differences between the “studio recluse” and the “open-air fanatic”.

Availability

The book is available from Amazon UK in Hardback and through Amazon US in Hardback.