The Paris of Artist Francis Bacon

The Paris of Artist Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon called Paris “my other city.” When he tired of his excesses in London, the British artist returned to Paris like a homing pigeon. He needed the culture, art, intellectual possibilities – not to mention French food and wine – and his old friends. He discovered Paris as a young man in the 1920s, living with little money in rundown hotels. He survived by picking up men in bars like Le Select in Montparnasse. He spoke almost no French when, at an exhibition, struggling to understand the guide, he was befriended by Yvonne Bocquentin, an amateur musician and lover of the arts. Bocquentin was so taken by the cherubic visaged Bacon that she took him home with her to her elegant house in Sainte-Maxime near Chantilly. And it was here in this bourgeois household alongside Jacqueline’s husband Pierre and small daughter Anne-Marie, that Bacon learned not only French culture, literature and cuisine, but also art in its many forms. Le Select, 99 boulevard du Montparnasse. Credit: Celette/ Wikimedia Commons (Bacon fit in perfectly with this bourgeois family. His parents were part of the wealthy Anglo-Irish society who held estates around Dublin — they were deeply resented by the Irish. Bacon lived through these times of mounting IRA aggressions in a family where he too felt alienated. A sickly child, he had a total disinterest in hunting and riding and a father who brutalized him. His growing contempt for religion added to his loneliness and isolation. Only his beloved Nanny Lightfoot gave him the love he craved. He would support her until the day she died.) The nine months spent with the Bocquentins afforded Bacon an immersion into French living that would influence his love of France for the rest of his life. As a young man, Bacon was eager to be surrounded by the exciting artistic life of Left Bank Paris, never so vibrant and innovative as during the Roaring Twenties. From the bohemian Hotel Delambre in Montparnasse, where Bacon rented a cheap room, he walked the same streets as Paul Gauguin, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, Henry Miller and his idol Pablo Picasso, whose work later made a profound effect on him. But at that time, Bacon had no realistic thoughts of becoming a painter — being surrounded by talented artists was daunting enough to dispel any latent ambition. Instead, his interests were leaning towards decorating and design, and Paris was ahead of the curve. Art Deco had opened the doors for new contemporary furniture. Bacon studied and designed furniture and rugs under respected designers such as da Silva Bruhns and Eileen Gray, but he did not believe that he could make a living in Paris and, at 18 years old, decided to return to London to try his luck there. Eileen Gray circa 1910. Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Bacon photographed in the early 1950s. Credit: John Deakin / Wikimedia Commons

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After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.