Tragic Hero: A Majestic Francis Bacon Show

A new show establishes Francis Bacon as the 20th century's greatest painter of anger and anguish

Estate of Francis Bacon / ARS, N.Y. / Dacs, London

Portrait of Michel Leiris, 1976 Bacon's portrait of the French writer, a close friend, is a likeness that withholds as much as it tells.

Francis Bacon did for despair what Michelangelo did for faith. He made it majestic. That's the conclusion you can't help taking away from the Bacon retrospective that opened May 20 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I caught the show last year at its first venue, London's Tate Britain, and left it convinced that it was one of the most powerful exhibitions I'd seen in more than 40 years of museumgoing.

This has nothing to do with Bacon as the phenomenon of last year's hot auction market, now extinguished, where one of his triptychs sold for $86...

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