Francis Bacon was one of the iconic figures of modern art, a painter who transformed the way we see – the way we experience – the human body. Jonathan Littell, the novelist, also appears as a critic of great depth and subtlety, a populist in the tradition of Robert Hughes and Simon Schama. He reveals the life behind the art –Bacon’s Irish childhood, his bohemian life in London, the catastrophe of his lover George Dyer’s suicide, which inspired his most famous triptych. Always in the background is the author himself, haunting a Bacon exhibition at the Prado, tracking down Bacon’s sources, sitting in a cafe and thinking about the illusion of reality that art creates in the mind of the viewer. Erudite but never pedantic, Littell references history, scholarship, journalism, biography, theory and social anthropology with ease. He’s familiar with the writers Bacon read (Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot), the painters he studied with such an obsessive eye (Goya, Velazquez), the friends and lovers whose portraits he painted, the bohemian Soho he inhabited. In this gem-like meditation on one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Littell has made art criticism a living story, and teaches us in the process how to look at art.