Francis Bacon In Your Blood by Michael Peppiatt
(Bloomsbury, 2016)

Francis Bacon In Your Blood

by Michael Peppiatt

It is a story I have been wanting to write for a long time, telling it as it really was before that whole world that I shared with Francis vanishes…

Michael Peppiatt met Francis Bacon in June 1963 in Soho’s French House to request an interview for a student magazine he was editing. Bacon invited him to lunch, and over oysters and Chablis they began a friendship and a no-holds-barred conversation that would continue until Bacon’s death thirty years later.

Fascinated by the artist’s brilliance and charisma, Peppiatt accompanied him on his nightly round of prodigious drinking from grand hotel to louche club and casino, seeing all aspects of Bacon’s ‘gilded gutter life’ and meeting everybody around him, from Lucian Freud and Sonia Orwell to East End thugs; from predatory homosexuals to Andy Warhol and the Duke of Devonshire. He also frequently discussed painting with Bacon in his studio, where only the artist’s closest friends were ever admitted.

The Soho photographer, John Deakin, who introduced the young student to the famous artist, called Peppiatt ‘Bacon’s Boswell’. Despite the chaos Bacon created around him Peppiatt managed to record scores of their conversations ranging over every aspect of life and art, love and death, the revelatory and hilarious as well as the poignantly tragic. Gradually Bacon became a kind of father figure for Peppiatt, and the two men’s lives grew closely intertwined.

In this intimate and deliberately indiscreet account, Bacon is shown close-up, grand and petty, tender and treacherous by turn, and often quite unlike the myth that has grown up around him. This is a speaking portrait, a living likeness, of the defining artist of our times.

Reviews

This fine memoir is more insightful than gossipy, and as a subject Bacon is just about unbeatable”
- New York Times
This fine portrait of the artist is both gossipy and poignant [and] one of the best art books I have read, by turns atmospheric and waspishly gossipy but also profound and poignant.”
- Michael Prodger, The Times
A vivid new memoir by the artist's protégé is set to be a classic ... highly entertaining ... the narrative comes hurtling off the page with a palpable sense of release and apparently guileless, even artless, candour.The cavalcade of bohemian celebrities goes on and on ... captivating ... a classic, not only of art writing, but of personal memoir”
- Sunday Telegraph
Peppiatt offers a window into the experiences and emotional intelligence of this great artist”
- New Statesman
An intimate memoir of two intense and interlaced lives ... Full of gossip, binges, nausea, bruises, stained sheets, punchlines and death wishes”
- Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement
Peppiatt shows a deft hand in crafting an enthralling, delightful story of two very different men”
- Kirkus
A remarkable book ... it captures what it was like to be in the presence of this brilliant, camp, reckless, waspish, drunken, generous, shameless character. Michael Peppiatt brings him back to life and somehow carries off the near-impossible trick of echoing the repetitive nature of his drunken talk ... while somehow preserving his electricity and effervescence”
- Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
Every page is fresh, immediate, and flashing with glimpses into Bacon's complicated psyche and Peppiatt's own conundrums. While Peppiatt still struggles to understand the "deep-seated masochism" that covertly shaped Bacon's dramatic life and ferocious art, he celebrates with ever-replenished wonder the timeless artist's creativity, "freedom and energy and total individuality."”
- Donna Seaman, Booklist
Francis Bacon's views on art, death and his bohemian circle make revealing reading in this enjoyable memoir”
- Independent
Francis Bacon in Your Blood is not a biography of Bacon, nor is meant to be: it is a memoir of the life that ensued when the 53-year-old Bacon befriended Peppiatt, then aged 21 . The perspective Peppiatt gradually gains is crucial. Beneath the bluster, dissimulation, megalomaniacal kindness and "maniacally controlling way", Bacon's "living brilliantly" his "gilded gutter life", is revealed to be a sustaining fiction for a talented, broken man . Peppiatt undercuts just enough to be heartbreaking rather than destructive . It's a brilliant portrait that Peppiatt lets Bacon paint . Entertaining, calculated and acerbic, Michael Peppiatt really does seem to have a bit of Bacon in his blood”
- Spectator