Portraits of the artists: Anne Madden and Francis Bacon

Anne Madden shares with Rosita Sweetman snapshots of her friendship with Bacon

When I told Anne Madden I was reviewing Revelations, the gargantuan new life of Francis Bacon by husband and wife duo Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, and that she was in it, specifically herself and the great maestro heading off for a night on the town, Anne said, “You see, we were friends. He came to all of my openings and I went to his.”

Then she said she had photographs of herself with Bacon. She would dig them out and I must come over and look at them.

Okay. Wow.

Heading into her 90th year (next year) and painting more beautifully, and more daringly, than ever Anne remembers clearly the early days when Bacon struggled to get his work accepted. The artist whose work now sells for tens of millions was seen as “this painter of buggery, sadism, dread and death vomit”, as well as “the toughest, most implacable, lyric artist in late 20th-century England” (Robert Hughes).


The photographs Anne “digs out” are from an opening of hers in the Galerie Darthea Speyer in Paris in 1979, black and whites taken by Edward Quinn, and a colour shot taken by John Edwards at a dinner after an opening of Bacon’s work at the Galerie Maeght Lelong in Paris again, in 1984.

They are wonderful, intimate shots while the photographers are interesting in their own right. Edward Quinn was born in Dollymount in 1920, his Dad a Guinness brewery worker. He went on to snap the stars, artists and celebrities who flocked to the dazzling light and casinos of 1950s and ’60s Cote d’Azur – Picasso, Onassis, Max Ernst, Brigitte Bardot, Bacon. In later years, though he never came back to live in Ireland he made a photographic book about Joyce’s Dublin, which another great maestro, Samuel Beckett, praised for capturing its “atmosphere, humour and essence”.

John Edwards, the illiterate Cockney barman, with oodles of street cred, who Bacon said was his “best friend” for the last 16 years of his life, who he painted many times, and to whom Bacon left his estate, took many photographs at openings and “afters” and it’s thanks to him we have Bacon’s entire Reece Mews studio here in the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin.

Sad that so many of these greats are gone – Francis Bacon, Louis le Brocquy, Edward Quinn, John Edwards – but thankfully we have their work, and these wonderful photographs.

And Anne.