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Margarita Cappock - Finding Order in Chaos

Francis Bacon lived and worked in 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, from 1961 until his death in 1992. The Reece Mews studio was of immense significance for the artist and some of his finest paintings were realised in this small room. Photographs of the studio taken in 1964 show that layers of material had already begun to accumulate. The studio was to become Bacon’s complete visual world. Of his cluttered studio, Bacon said ‘I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me.’ He rarely painted from life and the heaps of torn photographs, fragments of illustrations, books, catalogues, magazines and newspapers provided nearly all of his visual sources. Commenting on the wealth of photographic material in his studio, Bacon said that he looked at photographs for inspiration in the way that one looks up meanings in a dictionary. Photographs by John Deakin, Cecil Beaton, Peter Beard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter Stark and many others provide a fascinating insight into both the bohemian milieu in which Bacon operated and the artist’s method of manipulating his source material. On the studio floor, reproductions of fine art paintings jostled with illustrations of crime scenes, skin diseases, film stars, athletes and other imagery which clearly appealed to Bacon’s artistic imagination. Books and magazines on subjects including art, sport, crime, history, photography, cinema, bullfighting, wildlife and the supernatural were found in precarious piles on the studio floor and highlight the eclectic nature of Bacon’s influences. Some of the most significant studio items include seventy works on paper and one hundred slashed canvases. The vast array of artist’s materials, household paint pots, used and unused paint tubes, paint brushes, cut off ends of corduroy trousers and cashmere sweaters record the diversity of Bacon’s techniques. Other items found in the studio include the artist’s correspondence, a collection of vinyl records and some furniture.

Dr Margarita Cappock