Behind every great man there’s an even greater foul-mouthed muse. The inspiration for Francis Bacon, who’s currently the focus of a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a Soho hostess named Muriel Belcher who ran the Colony Room Club on New York’s Dean Street, “a refuge of sorts” for the painter. She opened the club, frequented by a disparate group from writers to shady politicians to Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud, until 1979. Bacon unofficially became one of Belcher’s “daughters”—as she called most men—and he deemed her establishment “a place where we came to dissolve our inhibitions.” In the 1998 film Love is the Devil starring Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig, Tilda Swinton portrays the “benevolent witch” hampered with a caustic wit. Alas, the Colony closed this year, leaving aspiring artists to pour their drinks at home.
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