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The influential work of Francis Bacon

Stuart Bush, Francis Bacon

How the influential work of Francis Bacon inspired me to become a painter

As a young adult, I had lots of feelings that confused me and I often didn’t know how to deal with them, words just didn’t seem to fit. My thoughts and experiences felt on the far side of normal. Often I thought l was the only one who felt this unease.  When I saw Francis Bacon’s work in a London gallery, it was a remarkable moment for me. It was the first time I had seen someone challenge the intense feelings I felt. Bacon depicted the complexity and chaos that was going on around me and inside me.  I strongly related to the feelings of certainty, angst and disorientation in Bacon’s work.  Francis Bacon’s paintings opened the door to a new world for me, they showed what I thought was impossible to communicate.  I realised then that I could use paint to show what I saw and felt.


Stuart Bush Studio notes, francis bacon

Stuart Bush, Hopes and Fears, Oil on canvas, 85 x 150cm. All rights reserved by the artist ©Stuart Bush

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Marlene Dumas: the painter’s life

I realised Bacon wasn’t only interested in directly painting a representation of life. He wanted to go much deeper; to heighten the viewer’s feelings, he used raw humanistic energy and chance. Often there is a single figure in Bacon’s paintings, an individual that creates a tremendous force that twists, contorts and stretches out.


In his works, for example, ‘Three Studies for Base of a Crucifixion,’ (1944) the power of his large canvas, put me in a trance, he had captured the cruelty of life like it was an invisible force. Bacon’s striking brushwork stirred my emotions with its immediacy. He painted people like they are nothing but wild beasts. The distorted physical bodies are painted as if they are butchered and in pain after a fight to the death. These fragments encourage you to contemplate life and death and ask what life is really about.

Stuart Bush, Francis Bacon

Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Francis Bacon, 1953. Oil on canvas, 153cm x 118cm. Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa

How the influential work of Francis Bacon inspired me to become a painter

To learn more about Francis Bacon click here

When you consider that we are just meat, we are just primitive, fallible and weak.  Through stunted limbs, teeth and torsos Francis Bacon showed me the power of the painter.  His multi-layered work showed to me that with a brush in my hand, I could show what being a human is really about.  Bacon captures the richness and velvety surfaces, hard and soft, roughness and rawness.  l was capable of achieving great things if l put my mind to it.


Viewing ‘Study after Velazquez Portrait of Pope Innocent X’, (1953) you can see there is a power in the pose. There is a pursuit of brutish truth that I had never seen before. I can see desire, longing and anger.  Bacon’s masterpiece is dreadful and momentous at the same time. Bacon grabs your attention, and you can’t take your eyes off the engrossing power in his work.

Stuart Bush Studio, a pocket full of dreams

©Stuart Bush A pocket full of dreams, oil on canvas, 120.4 cm x 160.4 cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Chuck Close’s process

Although Francis Bacon’s work had an immediate impact on me, I didn’t allow myself the luxury of dreaming about something that appeared impossible to make myself.  They were so good, but even though I connected with them, his paintings also felt out of my reach. As a rational person, I have always been reasonably practical. I want to consider the myth of the starving artist and the likelihood of making a living as a painter. Through asking questions and I came to the conclusion that making a living from selling art was not tenable and was not a reliable, viable option. I knew l wanted to have what everybody else had.   A car, a house, and children. A comfortable life out of poverty. For years I dismissed being an artist and looked for another solution while the elusive nature of Bacon’s work continued to sit in the back of my mind.

Stuart Bush, Francis Bacon

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944. Oil and pastel on Sundeala board. Tate Britain, London

How the influential work of Francis Bacon inspired me to become a painter

What I learnt from Philip Guston

Over the years, I kept coming back to wanting to make things and more specifically l kept drawing and painting. As the years went by, it occurred to me that art shouldn’t be about making money. That was not the reason why I wanted to do art.  I took great pleasure and enjoyment in the process—the act of making, with its endless possibilities. I slowly realised that I could find my way in this world by being a painter. Success could be internal rather than external.


As an endless source of inspiration, Bacon’s paintings appeared to be the perfect way I could communicate my thoughts about being human. Leading me to consider how I could communicate my own thoughts about being human.  What I liked about Bacon’s approach is that he is not trying to understand the human condition, Bacon realises he could not do that, no-one can. Bacon felt that if he could explain it, there would be no reason to paint it.  Bacon was instead, trying to get you to feel what he feels.  He portrayed figures, not as an educated, cultured, pillar of the community but instead as nothing but a raw piece of carcass. Francis Bacon explained this eloquently, “the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” He imparted this in the most direct, honest and compelling way he could.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, The Kingdom

©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom, oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

Adrian Ghenie: The fuel of failure

Robert Hughes, the famous critic, said Bacon’s work was like, “a hand grenade on the point of detonation.” When I stood in front of his paintings, that was how my mind had felt. Through creative risk-taking, Bacon showed me a way to start to deconstruct what I saw. Through heartbreak and horror, the physical rearrangement of a face said so much more about the apprehension that I felt than anything else I have seen.


Over the years, I have kept returning to the many deep layers of Francis Bacon’s work.  His work has had a profound and lasting impact on my soul. He has inspired me to follow in his footsteps and to become a painter. I am finding my own realisation of what success is—using paint to depict the truth about life, as the only way.

Francis Bacon, Stuart Bush Studio Blog

Francis Bacon, 1909-1992 Portrait, 1962, Oil paint on canvas, 1980 x 1415 mm, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen. The Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection/Winners of the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS, London.

How the influential work of Francis Bacon inspired me to become a painter

Etel Adnan, Colour is all a painter needs

When you look at somebody’s paintings, what are you suppose to think?  What is it you find yourself thinking about?  Do you often have an intense reaction?  Do you take a position?  Are you supposed to focus on the artist’s intention? What goes through your mind?
Ultimately I started writing about my interest in art to make my paintings better and because I had a feeling of being separate.  Even though I love art, at times, I have looked at it, and I just didn’t get it.  I wanted to go deeper.  I wanted to write about why I enjoy painting and why I enjoy looking at paintings.  
As an artist, I want to share with you what I have learnt.  Please subscribe to join the readers who get a weekly email in their inbox.  As you follow me on my journey as an artist, you will get to experience the world as an artist.
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