How dark and violent fantasies inspired the young Francis Bacon’s art

published 26.07.2020 10:00

“I had to include Watson’s Nazi references, along with his other interests at the time, because I am trying to be doggedly truthful,” said Martin Harrison, the Bacon expert and biographer who has edited passages of Watson’s diary for the new book, published by Thames and Hudson next month.

Watson, who was one of the first people to buy Bacon’s paintings, travelled extensively with her charismatic cousin and listened with attention as he explained his feeling for Göring, for the iconography of crucifixion and for Emily Brontë’s unsettling novel Wuthering Heights.

But the painter’s fleeting interest in Nazi regalia and nationalist ideology were just part of a wider picture in which chance encounters and odd accidents were welcomed by Bacon as a way to expand the imagination, according to Watson’s diary, which has been acquired by Francis Bacon’s estate, and is one of two revealing journals extracted in a new book, Inside Francis Bacon.

“He [Bacon] talked of the return to nationalism and vitality apparent lately … He seems to be obsessed with Göring,” wrote Watson in April that year, going on to quote her cousin’s view of the leading Nazi: “When a person feels as strongly as that, they cease to be a dilettante.”

In one diary entry from 1934, Watson speaks of Bacon’s fascination with Hermann Göring, chief architect of Hitler’s police state.

by Vanessa Thorpe from

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