There were some risks to this routine, however. On several occasions, he’d come home late at night, wildly drunk, and decide to “perfect” a painting he’d finished the day before, only to wake up the next morning and discover that he’d ruined it. After one of these episodes, his gallery began collecting his paintings from his studio the moment he finished them.
Bacon’s childhood nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, who lived with the painter until her death in 1951, and his two primary dealers—first Erica Brausen at Hanover Gallery, then Valerie Beston at Marlborough Gallery
—also played major roles in helping organize his life and career. When Bacon was struggling financially during his youth, Lightfoot helped him find lovers who would also provide financial support. Brausen became a close friend and confidante; they bonded over their shared homosexuality and appetites for risk-taking (Bacon’s on the canvas; Brausen’s on the walls of her gallery). And starting in 1958, Miss Beston, as she was affectionately called, arranged almost all of Bacon’s day-to-day logistics during his most successful years. She paid his bills, arranged his calendar, made sure his apartment stayed clean, and kept him to his painting schedule. She also kept his canvases out of the trash bin, as he was known to destroy them.
Why Does His Work Matter?
Bacon brought new emotional intensity to the painted figure by representing his subjects—be they friends or mythological figures—as contorted, fleshy, emotionally open masses. He sought to reveal, in all its complexity, what was behind the human facade. “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence...as a snail leaves its slime,” he once said. Indeed, Bacon’s paintings pulsate with the dual energy of human suffering and ecstasy. They seem to unearth, in their blurred limbs and wide-open mouths, our most primal urges. (Scholars have noted that in his canvases from the 1950s, monkeys and men often closely resemble one another.)