Triptych: Three Essays After Francis Bacon, by Jonathan Littell

  • Year2012
  • LanguageRussian
  • Edition2500
  • Pages144
  • BindingPaperback
Garage publishing program in collaboration with Ad Marginem Press

A deep and meaningful exploration of the 20th century master’s work. Littell shows us how to “read” Bacon’s work, which he argues has its own specific language, grammar and syntax.

Jonathan Littell’s Triptych offers in-depth insight into the life of one of the most prominent painters of the 20th Century. Although not an art critic by profession, Littell – who has written on the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya – is perhaps the only writer who could fully capture the essence of Francis Bacon’s unsettling images.

Littell’s work – which draws directly from Bacon’s images – teaches us how to ‘read painting’; to understand the grammar and syntax of the artist’s very particular language. Littell attempts to penetrate the surface of the canvas, asking what the painting says to us, showing us how we can communicate with art. He urges us not to ‘begrudge the time for scrutinizing them, whether we are alone in a gallery or amidst a crowd of visitors stuck to their headphones, sitting in front of reproductions in a catalogue or viewing them on a computer screen; pushing us to look at them further, before returning to them – as little by little we begin to understand what the painting is thinking’.

When it comes to depicting the human form, Littell considers Bacon to be the greatest master since Rembrandt. Bacon tried to convey the hidden sensations of the human body – including his own – and it is because of this, that his paintings reveal a very intimate portrait of the artist. It is the naked truths of the painter being expressed on canvas. Bacon felt that painting should be real and vivid, that a painter ‘should not illustrate reality’ but ‘create images that are a concentration of reality and the realisation of sensual experience’.


The publications of the programme can be found in GARAGE Bookshop, in the main bookstores of Moscow: "Moskva", "Biblio-Globus", "Molodaya Gvardiya", "Moskovskiy Dom Knighi", "Falanster", chain of bookstores "Noviy Knizhniy", and in the Internet store


Jonathan Littell (born in 1967) is a bilingual (English/French) American writer. In 2006, he was awarded Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française and the Prix Goncourt for his historical novel on World War II ‘Les Bienveillantes’. Between 1994 and 2001, he worked for a number of international humanitarian organizations, including those in former Yugoslavia, Chechnya and Moscow. He wrote ‘Tchétchénie, An III’ after his second trip to Chechnya in 2009.