A Course of Severe and Arduous Trials: Bacon, Beckett and Spurious Freemasonry in Early Twentieth-century Ireland

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Peter Lang, 2009 - Art - 210 pages
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The artist Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and the writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) both convey in their work a sense of foreboding and confinement in bleak, ritualistic spaces. This book identifies many similarities between the spaces and activities they evoke and the initiatory practices of fraternal orders and secret societies that were an integral part of the social landscape of the Ireland experienced by both men during childhood.
Many of these Irish societies modelled their ritual structures and symbolism on the Masonic Order. Freemasons use the term 'spurious Freemasonry' to designate those rituals not sanctioned by the Grand Lodge. The Masonic author Albert Mackey argues that the spurious forms were those derived from the various cult practices of the classical world and describes these initiatory practices as 'a course of severe and arduous trials'. This reading of Bacon's and Beckett's work draws on theories of trauma to suggest that there may be a disturbing link between Bacon's stark imagery, Beckett's obscure performances and the unofficial use of Masonic rites.

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Few weeks ago I read a fragment of this book on google books and it left me speachles. Not in a good way. I can't advocate for Beckett as I am not an expert, but I can confirm that what Lynn Brunet wrote on Francis Bacon is absolutely ridiculous, it's just a speculation not supported by facts of any kind. I think she chose Bacon not because he was related in any way to freemasonry (because he wasn't), or she was paricularly interested in his work, but simply because he was born in Ireland and he went through many traumatic experiences, reflected later in his painting, so he could match her thesis. She just needed to twist some facts to make them fit into it...
The author blames Bacon's interest in Egyptian art on an early traumatic experience suffered as a child at Dublin Masonic Lodge, even though there is no proof that this had ever happened. We don't even know if his family was ever close to freemasonry... The author supposes that possibly maybe something like that took place, but there are virtually no facts to support this thesis. There are so many better ways to explain his fascination with the figure of Sphinx, rather than the story of his supposed abuse in front of one when he was a baby. (His family moved to Kildare in 1911 when he was about 1,5, so how could he possibly remember his "visit"?) Bacon owned numerous books on Egyptian art, he visited Egypt and he went frequently to the Brtish Museum, several reproductions of "Oedipus and Sphinx" by Ingres were found in his studio, etc... btw, he didn't have any books on freemasonry, there were no photographs or cuts related to this subject in his studio.
I cannot understand why this "study" was ever published. What really saddens me is that somebody can pick an artist an write this sort of absurd theories on him, because he won't protest, as he's already dead.


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About the author (2009)

The Author: Lynn Brunet is an Australian art historian whose research examines the coupling of trauma and ritual in modern and contemporary art and literature. She was a full-time lecturer in art history and theory from 1994 to 2006 and she is a practising artist. She lives and works in Melbourne.

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