|Portrait of Man with Glasses III, 1963|
Bacon visited Paris in 1935, purchasing there a second-hand book on diseases of the mouth containing high quality hand-coloured plates of both open mouths and oral interiors, which haunted and obsessed him for the remainder of his life. In 1935 he saw Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, the scene of the nurse screaming on the Odessa steps later becoming a major theme in his paintings, with the angularity of Eisenstein's image often combined with the thick red palette of his recently purchased medical tome.
Following the 1971 suicide of his lover George Dyer, Bacon's art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with themes and motifs of death. Margaret Thatcher having famously described him as "that man who paints those dreadful pictures" (that's a highly estimated credit, for a provocative artist said by a hatefull and conservative authority. Bacon called the image of a screaming mouth a catalyst for his work, and incorporated the shape of the mouth when painting the chimera. By the early 1950s it became an obsessive concern, to the point, according to art critic and Bacon biographer Michael Peppiatt, "it would be no exaggeration to say that, if one could really explain the origins and implications of this scream, one would be far closer to understanding the whole art of Francis Bacon."
The inspiration for the recurring motif of the screaming mouths in many Bacons of the late 1940s and early 1950s were drawn from a number of sources, including medical text books, the works of Matthias Grünewald and photographic stills of the nurse in the Odessa Steps scene in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent The Battleship Potemkin. Bacon first saw the film in 1935, and viewed it frequently thereafter. In his studio, he kept a photographic still of the scene which showed a close-up of the nurse's head which showed her screaming in panic and terror and with broken pince-nez spectacles hanging from her blood-stained face. He referred to the image throughout his career, using it as a source of inspiration.
|Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, (3rd part), 1944|
|Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X , 1953|