... an engrossing portrait of the artist, his art, and his incorrigible personality ... Stevens and Swan...are in top form with this biography. Their detailed analysis of Bacon’s artwork is vigorous and accessible and for the most part as interesting as their chronicles of Bacon’s sex life, gambling, professional feuds, and glamorous art gallery fetes. The book includes 90 archival photos and fine color transfers of some of Bacon’s most defining works of art.
... over 700 lucid and engrossing pages, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan retrace and distil this myth, adding facets to a figure whose celebrity became, in his lifetime, a carapace and remained as a death mask ... Much of what follows, as we enter the main act of Bacon’s life, is familiar...yet the authors give the tale a fresh momentum, a feeling of life as it happened, rather than the chiaroscuro Life that became the foundation of Bacon’s persona and the mirror image of his art. ... The women closest to Bacon emerge particularly clearly ... Bacon’s intelligence, charm, acerbity, nihilism and restlessness resonate throughout these pages ... Much of the book’s power is in inducing us to see again, from a new angle, what has previously appeared familiar ... numerous other paintings receive eloquent analyses ... not an art historian’s encomium, however, any more than it is a hagiography. The authors are candid about the second-rate quality of some of Bacon’s work, particularly in later years when he ceased to edit his output so voraciously ... One of the many marvels of Revelations is just how present and immediate Bacon is made to seem (in contrast to William Feaver’s monumental biography of Freud, in which the subject grows ever more remote and repellent). Even as he ebbs away, we see and hear him vividly ... What Revelations leaves us with powerfully is Bacon’s mercurial, electric character and a palpable sense of his body: his fluid gait, his 'flutey' voice, and a face ever more asymmetrical as time progressed.
It is enormously detailed; we get the details, and the details’ details ... Such exhaustiveness can be deadening, but here, for the most part, it isn’t. Swan and Stevens are very good storytellers. Also, the book is warmed by the writers’ clear affection for Bacon. They enjoy his boozy nights with him, they laugh at his jokes, and they admire his bloody-mindedness. They do not believe everything he said, and they let us know this, but they are always in his corner, and they stress virtues of his that we wouldn’t have known to look for: his gregariousness, his love of fun, his erudition, his extreme generosity. However many people were at the table, he always picked up the tab.