He has been portrayed as a heroic fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, with a sadistic streak bordering on psychopathic, striking his lover Francis Bacon and once throwing him through a glass window. But new research paints another picture of Peter Lacy, revealing that he was never a fighter pilot and that, beyond the sexual violence, the relationship with Bacon was one of real love for both men.
Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan are publishing an important biography about one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. With the full cooperation of Bacon’s estate, they were given access to archives and interviewed family and friends of the artist and his lovers, among others.
His research reveals Bacon as a man who pursued the excesses of life, from drinking and drugs to promiscuity, while desperately craving affectionate love and companionship, reaching out to them with Lacy.
In the book, the biographers write: “Lacy has usually been assigned a diabolical supporting role in Bacon’s life, described as a handsome fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain and a sex monster in the bedroom. . In fact, Lacy was never a fighter pilot and passionately loved Bacon. He became violent when he drank, but Bacon also intentionally provoked it, finding the eruption of his demon-plagued soul unspeakably moving. “
Stevens told The Guardian that the two authors had developed the character of Lacy, portraying him as a “cool and reserved” man who adored Bacon: “Lacy appears as a real person for the first time. This was not just a short, passionate S&M adventure. It was … the most important relationship in every man’s life.
“There is no question that Lacy was ‘the love of Francis’s life,’ as Bacon’s late sister, Ianthe, and others told us. We take a look at Lacy’s life, talking to her two nephews, Father David Lacy and Gerald Towell. They were both completely appalled at the cruel and cartoonish way Lacy has typically portrayed himself – sadistic drunken fighter pilot etc.
“Yes, Bacon and Lacy had brutal sex. There were S&M, and they weren’t cute dudes, but the real news is that they absolutely adored each other from start to finish, until Lacy’s death in 1962. That’s new. They couldn’t live very well together. They were often separated. They were never exceeded. “
Stevens and Swan, a married couple who have written extensively on the arts, won the 2005 Pulitzer for Biography for De Kooning: An American Master, a study by Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning.
His next biography, Francis Bacon: Revelations, offers new perspectives on Lacy and the artist’s other lovers, many of whom Bacon described as tormented and twisted figures in masterpieces that captured the pain and loneliness of human existence. In Study for Three Heads, A 1962 triptych painted shortly after Lacy’s death, Bacon was depicted as a heartbroken man between two portraits of his lover.
Their relationship spanned most of the 1950s, on and off. Biographers found that it went beyond “pain and anger” to “intimacy and reconciliation.”
They drew parallels between the two men, showing that Bacon had never before fallen passionately in love with someone so close to his age and of a similar social background and that he would never do so again. Both men came from wealthy Midlands families with Irish ties and whose parents condemned homosexuality.
Swan said: “It’s really interesting that the love of Bacon’s life comes from his own social and economic background, someone who also had a frustrated childhood and faced class and family disdain for homosexuality. In every way, Lacy stands out as the true, albeit tortured, rival of Bacon. “
The biography shows that, during the war, Lacy was an aircraft mechanic and later a pilot: “He saw no action, but he delivered bombers to distant theaters of war.”
It portrays him as a man who loved to play the jazz piano, particularly Fats Waller, dabbling in being a stockbroker and driving fancy cars. In 1948, he inherited a significant fortune from his father, a stockbroker, only to lose it through a failed investment.
Stevens said: “Not long before her death, Lacy confessed her ‘extraordinary love’ for Bacon to a stranger in Spain in an astonishing letter at Tate that has never been thoroughly analyzed.”
In response to the latest inquiry, Barry Joule, Bacon’s friend who gave the Tate some 1,200 sketches of Bacon’s study in 2004, showed The Guardian an unpublished photograph he took in 1986 of Bacon alongside a “photograph of Lacy from the mid-1950s stained with paint. ” in a suit and tie ”that he had kept all those years.
Joule recalled that it was right after Mike Tyson won the world boxing championship: “Francis was greatly attracted to Tyson, collecting pictures of the boxer … We were talking about violent sports … So our conversation turned to violence in the a lover’s bed … My question posed: “Was Peter Lacy really a violent man as the press had painted him?” He immediately replied: ‘No, Peter was never a violent man in the sense that I have known to some really tough men, as I suspect the boxer must be … But what couple, when they have been together long enough, not fight and fight? In fact compared to me – Peter was a real pussy.
“There was a long pause as Francis looked down, tears welled up … He added poignantly, as he stabbed Lacy’s photograph so hard it fell with a loud clack, ‘you know, Joule, I really loved that man'” .
Francis Bacon: Revelations is published by William Collins on January 21.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism