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Greig notes that at the Marlborough Gallery in 1968 Freud “felt ignored and sidelined compared to Bacon, who in 1962 had a show at the Tate Gallery and was rapidly gaining a global reputation”. David Hockney thought “Lucian couldn’t countenance the success that Francis was enjoying, particularly in France . . . While he admired Bacon’s ambition, he envied his [international] success.”

But rivalry and jealousy erupted when Freud’s reputation began to match Bacon’s and he could no longer play a subservient role. “When my work started being successful,” Freud declared, “Francis became bitter and bitchy. What he really minded was that I started getting higher prices.” He felt that Bacon’s character “had changed quite a lot, which I think was to do with alcohol. It was impossible to disagree with him about anything. He wanted admiration and he didn’t mind where it came from.”

As a child, Bacon had dressed up in women’s clothes and been severely beaten on his father’s orders by his grooms. As an adult, he seemed to feel guilty of a terrible but unspecified crime and developed a masochistic taste for punishment. Freud, who cared deeply about his friend’s wellbeing, became unwillingly involved in Bacon’s sordid spectacles and was shocked by his self-destructive impulses. He was terribly disturbed when Bacon was beaten up by his lover Peter Lacy, who had been a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain and drank himself to death in Tangier. “I was so upset seeing him like this,” Freud exclaimed, “that I got hold of Lacy’s collar and twisted it around.” Ignoring Bacon’s advice, Freud chose violence rather than charm, but Lacy refused to accept the challenge and would not defend himself. Freud admitted he didn’t understand that “the violence between them was a sexual thing”, that Bacon wanted to be beaten up and was furious when Freud interfered with his punishment. After seeing him brutalised by Lacy, Freud stopped talking to Bacon for a long time.

Over the years, as anger and resentment built up, each artist, well aware of his friend’s weaknesses, would zero in on the most vulnerable aspects of his character — vanity and ambition, egoism and jealousy — and they would attack each other’s lack of imagination and debased style. When Freud caustically criticised Bacon in their familiar hangouts, malicious gossips repeated his remarks and Bacon felt wounded and betrayed. He retaliated with sharp-witted retorts that destroyed their old affection: "The trouble with Lucian’s work is that it’s realistic without being real.” Referring to Freud in camp style and using a feminine pronoun, Bacon hit a sensitive spot by declaring, “She doesn’t put herself through the same third degree as her other sitters.” Freud certainly had to dominate and control. He was cruel to his models — friends, wives, lovers and children — who had to sit frozen in uncomfortable positions for many hours at a time and for pictures that went on for months and even years. He became furious if the models were even five minutes late.

At Freud’s 1974 retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London, Bacon deprecated the German origins of his art: “Well, Lucian’s extremely gifted, but I’ve never been interested in Expressionism.” When Freud said he would not see him again because “his conversation is so repetitious”, Bacon retorted that he would not see Freud again because “his work is so repetitious”. Freud didn’t mind tipping Bacon’s omnipresent former nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, who earned pocket-money by guarding the toilet during her master’s illegal roulette parties. But as anger intensified after a stimulating and inspiring friendship, the combustible artists quarrelled frequently and bitterly until they finally severed all relations.After Bacon’s death in 1992, Freud had the last word with a characteristic equine metaphor that suggested his talent was exhausted: “Here’s the poor old accident standing in his stable with his head down waiting to be harnessed yet again. I wish Francis would go back to being a gentleman, which he was when we first knew him, and leave painting alone.”
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Jeff
October 11th, 2017
12:10 PM
Chrystosom: I'd say it's a significant comment on the state of art criticism, not necessarily the state of art.

John Borstlap
September 29th, 2017
8:09 PM
All this low-life and bickering about the prices of their works, what impression does it convey? Of talented, but rather degenerated men, and this shows in their works: it is all about the sordid aspects of life, without any transformative idea behind it. No wonder their works got so popular: like crime series on TV and pulp fiction, many people prefer this to something that would require some mental or emotional effort. In fact, it is populist art, as populist as concept art and abstraction - the style may be different but the sentiments are comparable: nihilism. Why the status? Because seeing such art being sold for so much money, relieves the sordid onlooker from guilt about his condition: if THAT is placed on the pedestal of 'expensive high art', then 'my sorry condition is OK'.

Chrysostom
September 28th, 2017
11:09 AM
It is a significant comment on the state of art today that this article (at least in the version I saw on line) did not have a single illustration of any work by these, so-called, modern artists, though we had pictures of the painters themselves.

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