Two Human Obsessions – With Wealth Through Profit-making And With Religious Belief Giving the Chance To Feel Closer To Absolute Power

Francis Bacon, “Study for a Portrait” or “Businessman 1”, 1952
Francis Bacon, “Study for a Portrait of Businessman 1”, 1952

Francis Bacon “Study for the Head of a Screaming Pope”, 1952
Francis Bacon, “Study for a Head of a Screaming Pope”, 1952

Both protagonists of Bacon’s inspiration lived their lives more or less without fear, at least obvious one, as a “businessman”, and without anger, at least overwhelming one, as a “pope”, until something happened with their eyeglasses, something uncanny. It‘s very difficult to say exactly how their glasses were made dysfunctional, but something went wrong with them that threw the businessman and the pope out of balance. It looks that we can’t completely exclude the possibility of supernatural influence because both persons depicted by Bacon are of the obsessed types – one with business of wealth-making and the other with closeness to god. Obsessive desires are magic corridor for the entrance of the supernatural powers. Human proclivity for obsessions is their direct invitation. Obsession with something is a form of irrational passion and for this reason includes miraculous, magic element in its super-positive or super-negative aspects.

But what really could hurt the ability of a businessman and a pope to see like they saw before something happened with their glasses? Could it be a demon who played such a cruel joke on the businessman or was it angel who did the same with the pope? It looks that we cannot neglect the possibility that it can be a mysterious inspiration of the artist himself (here – Francis Bacon) that has pushed his subjects/objects into frustration.

Whatever it may have been, the businessman with a broken glasses is close to panic while the pope is in righteous fury. Their way of seeing themselves and the world is destroyed, their optimism and self-confidence have disappeared. The businessman has lost his belief that he will become a bell-billionaire. The pope has lost his belief that he is entrusted to preside over humankind in the name of God. But, really, how something like this could happen? The sacred right to make unlimited profit at all cost is now under question and the god given right to represent god before the people is under the pulpit.

Look at the businessman – he is screaming for help. And look at the pope – he is shouting out condemnations. Broken specs which, somehow, still clinging to their faces as to branches, made the businessman lose belief in himself – in his immortality guaranteed by billions – as for the pope – he has lost his spiritually hierarchical position in being much-much above those who’re obsessed with too petti sins and vices. It’s, as if, Bacon made an experiment with businessman and pope – to check – how they will behave if to destroy their habitual perception of themselves and the world. The both protagonists are so frustrated, that, if to consider their self-centeredness and megalomania, they can be ready for an extreme, vengeful and even criminal behavior. We’re already close to the situation of the 21st century, when majority of people who usually are expected to be prone to mutinous behavior, instead find themselves as victims of a minority of rich and powerful who today are directly occupied with dismantling the democratic principles of behavior and attacking the democratic social structures.

In the 21st century we notice a growing obstructionist and even subversive behavior of the centralized and secularized neocon/neoliberal clergy in the Republican congressional chairs. In the Soviet Union the majority was the object of a centralized and planned despotic manipulation by the theocratic (in essence) government of the Communist Party. In US numerous religious minorities activate their fanatic beliefs and prepare to join the neocons already united with neo-liberals to rule over the majority of neo-poor.

We Americans today are less and less prepared to learn from art (really learn, without propagandist didactics), and don’t like to think with art. We like to be entertained – it means that we like to feel ourselves the center of the world and have artists-entertainers as servants of our pleasure. Bacon is an exceptionally intuitive artist, but it doesn’t mean that he is alien to the meaning of his images. His connection to meaning sustains itself through his unconscious, but he recognizes it in and through the codes of his visual images. In the fear which has caught his businessman, Bacon recognizes its roots as merciless idolatrous drive for bell-billions incompatible with a human life (which traditionally is supposed to be enveloped with freedom and disinterested contemplation). In fury of his pope Bacon detects the unconscious suspicion (activated by his broken eyeglasses) that he is not at all a messenger of god’s wisdom, as he believed himself to be.

Bacon destroyed the illusory picture of artificially constructed self-identities by opening to the protagonists of his two paintings the truth about their predatory existence. By destroying their glasses he shows not only their personal self-lies to themselves. He is inviting the viewers’ attention to a new and a dangerous period of history – the beginning of 21st century. Bacon’s truth about today’s social minority (personified by his businessman and pope) under the flag of global power and money and about their predatory dreams focuses on today’s attempt to declare the golden fist as a master of the universe. His “businessman” and his “pope” are “ghosts” of today back, to the post-WWII life of democracies (when Bacon has created his paintings). The first, motivated by the hysterical angst – in 21st century is ruthlessly transforming his billions into financial weapon in his fight for global domination, and the second, motivated by the hysterical fury (his pope) has an equivalent repressive agenda about absolute domination through control over social life and human spirituality (already transformed into credulity and conformism). The both paintings we present to the viewers today can be considered as Bacon’s diptych clairvoyantly focusing on human future.


Francis Bacon in his studio