Third rate artist

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Sorry, Colin Wilson, but the "impoverished and philistine view we should reject" concerning the over-hyped and utterly derivative painter, Francis Bacon, is yours, not Tom Davies (Feedback, Socialist Review, December 2008).

You rightly cite Leon Trotsky's benchmark thoughts on art being something, like science, which should be judged by its own truths. Then you go on to suggest that, "The twisted male bodies also relate to Bacon's homosexuality. All sex between men was illegal until 1967. Many gay men, including Bacon, internalised this."

Trotsky's criterion does not admit of "queer art" - or, for that matter, "feminist art" or "working class art". There is just art. The social fact of gay oppression is at best incidentally autobiographical in Bacon's case, but has no bearing on the quality of his work, in the same way that Frida Kahlo's work is commonly, but mistakenly, acclaimed simply because of her leftist and feminist milieu.

One distinct and enduring humanistic advantage artists have over social reality is the opportunity to envision a different sensibility, a world not bound by the ties that keep us all down, like Gulliver on the beach.

In citing Bacon's privileged social background, Tom was actually trying to explain why someone so third rate could achieve the status and notoriety of Bacon. Tom does acknowledge some painterly qualities in the actual work, but if you basically superimpose on a Rothko background a classically Spanish figure, with a dash of de Kooning angst, you can churn out Bacons all day.

Good art stands on the shoulders of giants. It doesn't kiss their feet.

Nick Grant
London