Art: Singing Within the Bloody Wood

At the Tate, a second celebration of Francis Bacon

All of a sudden, in a rush, the English know what they have got. "Surely the greatest living painter," wrote Alan Bowness, director of London's Tate Gallery. "The greatest painter in the world," claimed Lord Gowrie, England's Minister for the Arts, "and the best this country has produced since Turner." The artist is Francis Bacon, 75, whose second retrospective exhibition at the Tate (the first was 23 years ago) opened last month.

Some art is wallpaper. Bacon's is flypaper, and innumerable claims stick to it: over the past 40 years it has attracted extremes of praise and calumniation. There are still...

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