The Death of Francis Bacon: Max Porter’s masterpiece in miniature

Book review: Porter’s third novel paints in words the ‘deeply ordered chaos’ of the artist’s vision

The life of the  artist Francis Bacon  is depicted in the visceral style of his work, in Max Porter’s third novel. Photograph:  David Montgomery/Getty Images

The life of the artist Francis Bacon is depicted in the visceral style of his work, in Max Porter’s third novel. Photograph: David Montgomery/Getty Images

If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, what of painting? As Francis Bacon once said, “If you can talk about it, why paint it?” Indeed. In his third novel, Max Porter explores what happens when you contemplate canvases to the point of being contemplated by them.

Rather than talk about Bacon’s paintings, he lets them speak – or mutely howl – and what they express is not what they represent, but how they feel: the sensation of their own brute facticity. “I can still feel it, right through me, like a shock,” Bacon says here, remembering the time when he “bit down on shot” while dining out on pheasant stew: “Metal drill in my fillings right down through my urethra. Buzzing in my underbladder.”

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.