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Francis Bacon at Centre Pompidou: What I learned

Updated: Oct 29, 2021


outside of Centre Pompidou with billboard of the Francis Bacon Exhibition

I went to Paris in early January of 2020 specifically to see the Francis Bacon show at Centre Pompidou. I had tried to get to the show " Bacon on toutes lettres" a month earlier from Venice but it coincided with the beginning of the transit strike in the Parisian capital and had to abort the trip. But I really wanted to get to the exhibition so I left in January from home, here in New York. The show was ending soon and I absolutely did not want to miss it. I got myself two entry tickets for two consecutives days and hoped that after all this trouble, I would not be disappointed. I wasn't. After spending four hours (a record for me) looking at the works of the last twenty years of his career, my only regret is that I did not get myself a third entry ticket. Francis Bacon is without doubt one of the greatest Western artists of the twentieth century.


Artists have recurring themes in their work. Take the single bare light bulb in Francis Bacon’s work. What it means is up to interpretation. In one painting the lightbulb has been scribbled out with red paint but it is still visible.#FrancisBacon #CentrePompidouExhibitions #artistonart #arted #contemporaryart #europetravel #paris

detail of Francis Bacon triptych

detail of Francis Bacon triptych
Francis Bacon painting

detail of Francis Bacon triptych

Before picking up art, Francis Bacon spent some time being an interior decorator. They say we are the sum of all our parts and it certainly is true of Bacon’s work. Look at the beauty of his lines and the objects that make it into his paintings, always meticulously crafted - I.e. chairs and table tops.

Francis Bacon painting

Francis Bacon painting
detail of Francis Bacon tryptich

detail of Francis Bacon triptych

Another image that appears often in Francis Bacon‘s work is the circle. In many of his portraits and self-portraits the circle, sometimes oval in form, is filled with black and it is encased solidly into the face. At other times, the circle is just used to feature a certain section of the painting.

3 Francis Bacon self-portraits
Portrait of Michel Leiris by Francis Bacon
Self-portrait, 1976 by Francis Bacon
Portrait of Jacques Dupin by Francis Bacon

Another symbol that appears often in Francis Bacon’s work is the pointing arrow. Picasso has also used it in his work. Bacon’s painting as seen at Centre Pompidou. Picasso’s work seen at Picasso Museum.

painting by Francis Bacon with arrow

Drawing by Picasso with arrow





The image of a free standing door has appeared both in Francis Bacon’s work as well as in Pablo Picasso’s work. You will agree the meaning is quite different. Bacon’s painting as seen at Centre Pompidou. Picasso’s work seen at Picasso Museum.

Painting by Francis Bacon with door

Painting by Picasso with door



Another motif that appears often in Francis Bacon’s work is the light switch (without showing the source of light) and the shade tessil although the shade itself is not visible.

Pope painting by Francis Bacon
painting by Francis Bacon

painting by Francis Bacon
painting by Francis Bacon


Francis Bacon is, in my opinion, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Although he has been dead for 28 years, his popularity has not diminished. One of his favorite forms of artistic expression was the triptych. He did 28 triptychs and it was pure delight to see so many of them in one show. Unfortunately, they are so big and hard to photograph in its entirety. The catalog for this exhibition reproduces them well. Each triptych is a three page spread. #triptychs

Triptych by Francis Bacon
triptych by Francis Bacon
triptych by Francis Bacon
triptych by Francis Bacon
triptych by Francis Bacon

This triptych by Francis Bacon is one of my favorite works from this show. Bacon in the middle panel with two of the most important people in his life in the other two panels. On the left, his lover George Dyer who committed suicide just before Bacon’s major exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris and on the right panel, Lucian Freud, a friend and fellow artist. Their friendship lasted a long time and then they drew apart. Reason for the split was never really clear. Notice the drawings on the wall hung with a thumb nail. This motif also appears often in Bacon's work. #LucianFreud

Triptych by Francis Bacon with self, George Dyer and Lucian Freud
left panel of triptych by Francis Bacon
Center panel of triptych by Francis Bacon
Right panel of triptych by Francis Bacon

This triptych In Memory of George Dyer by Francis Bacon deals with a very painful theme. The agony and despair of a human being before they decide to take their own life and the inability of others, even loved ones, to eventually prevent it. #GeorgeDyer

Triptych bu Francis Bacon in memory of George Dyer
Left panel of triptych by Francis Bacon
Center panel of triptych by Francis Bacon
Right panel of triptych by Francis Bacon

The last painting in the show is actually the last painting done by Bacon.

Francis Bacon's last painting

Life does bang you up a bit. Sometimes you can read it in someone’s face or in someone’s carriage. But still. . . life has to be lived in technicolor. This is the message I got from the Francis Bacon’s show at Centre Pompidou.