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Gilded gutter lives

Post-war British painters like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud are valued as much for their rackety lives as their artistic explorations, says Tanya Harrod
It’s a London thing: Francis Bacon in Charing Cross
© NEIL LIBBERT / BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, £24.95)

All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life Tate Britain until 27th August

On the eve of Francis Bacon’s 1985 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, the English art critic Michael Peppiatt wrote anxiously about the “excessively philosophico-literary commentary” that he believed Bacon’s art provoked. Perhaps he had in mind the French theorist Gilles Deleuze, whose refreshing if challenging Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation had appeared in 1981. Deleuze had little interest in Bacon’s life. Instead of “gilded-gutter” reminiscences, he sought to connect the artist with a wider intellectual world—including the work of fellow theorists Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-François Lyotard.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s August issue: Zoe Williams argues that the first thing we need to do if we are to remain in the EU is to tackle the reasons why so many wanted out—namely pay and conditions at home and the impact of unfettered capitalism. Prospect’s Alex Dean and Tom Clark interviewed former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg who says the liberal centre should keep the faith—there is another way to work closely with Europe, but the immigration question is central to finding that solution. Meanwhile, a group of writers including Wolfgang Münchau, Shashank Joshi and Owen Hatherley explain some of the pitfalls, prizes and things you hadn’t thought about when it comes to the UK’s relationship with the EU. Elsewhere in the issue: Former UK diplomat Tom Fletcher profiles the out-going UN human rights chief who is causing a stir by saying the things nobody else would dare. Steve Bloomfield asks what happened to Seymour Hersh—how did the legendary journalist come to echo the thoughts and ideas of Bashar al-Assad; and Phil Ball examines the crisis of male infertility asking: where has all the sperm gone?