... 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.
The American art critics Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan have compiled a weighty, thorough and compelling biography of the artist that records nine decades of intense moments. Bacon, especially as the wild man of Soho, has been thoroughly mythologised, but this authorised life brings the carousing, the paintings and the public and private lives together to form a convincing and often touching whole. The book’s daunting size is not authorial indulgence — though they write with documentary diligence — but a reflection of how rich Bacon’s life was ... The drinking, cattiness and profligacy all added spice to the public persona. Underneath it, though, as the authors show in their measured and non-judgmental way, lay poignancy and neediness too.
In Bacon, Mena saw something that was apt to escape others – a gilded ease, as well as an isolation; an unexpected tenderness – and in their magnificent new life of the artist, the Pulitzer prize-winning critics Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan are wise enough to make good use of it, deploying Mena’s memory at a point when others might have been inclined, in the race to the finish, to throw it away. But then, this is them all over. How judicious they are, how determined to rub away at their subject’s corners ... The authors are diligent about the shows, the critics, the mentors. It’s fascinating (and startling, when you consider what his studio looked like) to read of his first career ... But where they really triumph is in their sympathetic, psychologically convincing accounts of his love life .. This book’s great achievement is that it does not confuse flexibility in the matter of relationships with insincerity, nor ravenous desire with decadence. Bacon, you come to understand, was fundamentally serious, and fundamentally loving. If his heart was often on the hustle, it was also ardent: as twisted and as fervent as his art.