Did you know that Monaco has been a muse for many a creative soul? Among the artists, poets, writers and dancers who flocked to the Principality over the years was Francis Bacon, who was the subject of a recent fascinating lecture at the Princess Grace Irish Library on the Rock.
Monaco’s Princess Grace Irish Library, a treasure trove of over 12,500 rare books, including a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses and an extensive collection of Irish music sheets that was named in honour of the late Princess Grace, who had Irish origins, serves as the perfect backdrop for exploring the art and heritage connections between Ireland and Monaco.
In late October, renowned Irish art historian, curator and writer Dr. Margarita Cappock, pictured above, organised a lecture at the establishment where she shed new light on Francis Bacon’s roots, his time in Ireland and Monaco, and the profound influence the Irish landscape had on his artistic journey.
In an exclusive interview with Monaco Life, Dr. Cappock, who was recently appointed as The Ireland Funds Academic-in-Residence at the library, delves into the captivating relationship between Bacon and Monaco.
Monaco: a retreat and muse for Francis Bacon
“He first came here in the 1940s, and there were several things that appealed to Francis Bacon about Monaco,” says Dr. Cappock.
His chronic asthma found respite in Monaco’s more inviting climate, and the allure of Monaco’s tempting entertainment and leisure sites was appealing to Bacon, particularly as he had an early fascination with gambling.
“He loved the Casino in Monaco,” notes Dr. Cappock. “He stayed in various hotels around Monaco [and] he also loved to visit its bars, such as Rosie’s, which is no longer in existence.”
Most importantly, however, beyond appreciating its social scene and the fabulous way of life in the Principality during that era, it was here that Bacon’s artistic journey took a new direction.
Francis Bacon: The Outsider
Dr. Cappock recently collaborated with US bassist Adam Clayton, an enduring fan of Bacon, to produce the documentary, Francis Bacon: The Outsider.
The duo uncovered new information about Bacon’s early artistic endeavours and his connection to Monaco, including that he started his journey into painting whilst in the Principality.
“I think Bacon is just a unique figure in terms of the history of art,” Dr. Cappock shares with Monaco Life. “Once he arrived on the art scene, when Three Studies for figures at the Base of a Crucifixion was exhibited in 1945, no one had seen art like that before.”
This was a piece created in Monaco and is, interestingly, the artwork that inspired another Bacon fan, Majid Bustani, to found the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation in the Principality.
Bustani’s foundation boasts an extensive collection of Bacon’s early paintings, furniture and a remarkable assortment of photographs, which together offer a unique insight into the artist’s evolution and creative process. The collection has also played a pivotal role in Dr. Cappock’s research.
Other sources of information came from the people who had met and were friends with the artist, who lived from 1909 to 1992.
One of these lucky individuals was at the lecture at the Princess Grace Irish Library and shared their personal experience with Monaco Life.
“He was a very nice person, I met him when he used to come to Monaco, and I worked at the Balmoral hotel,” said Sile Jackson, Administrator of The Ireland Funds of Monaco.
Although he ultimately moved elsewhere, Bacon would continue to visit the Principality throughout his life. His last visit came in 1990, just two years before his passing.
To learn more about Bacon’s connections to Monaco and to read about the documentary co-produced by Dr. Cappock and U2’s Clayton, click here.
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Photo by Monaco Life