Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda

Francis Bacon is one of the most important and internationally renowned British artists of the twentieth century. What is little known, is that Bacon was heavily influenced, and made extensive use of, Nazi propaganda photography as a springboard for his paintings. In this original and compelling book Martin Hammer presents Bacon as a ‘painter of modern life’; a man who wanted to distil the feelings, sensations and memories associated with living through the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, the second world war, the revelations of the Holocaust and then the early Cold war and post-Colonial struggles. Bacon was able to show the ugly face of power and its corruptive nature, how it the gives to its possessors the capacity to inflict savage violence on others. He emerges from this account as a deeply serious artist, of international significance and stature. In the first in-depth study of its kind, Hammer focuses on Bacon’s creative processes, looking at how he appropriated and transformed Nazi propaganda in his work from the early 1940s into the first half of the 1960s. His work is set against the evolving backdrop of an initial impulse to bury wartime memories and the gradual resurgence of interest, associated especially with a new focus on the Holocaust. Bacon’s pictorial project is also understood in the context of contemporary writers and thinkers, such as W.H. Auden, Berthold Brecht and Hannah Arendt, who likewise reflected on the deeper psychological significance of traumatic events.
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