It’s happening again. The media is talking about art as a money story. The headline from Art News magazine last week ballyhooed that Sotheby’s in London “brings in $23 million for Francis Bacon triptych.”

But Art News said nothing about the painting – “Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” – except who owned it and who modeled it. Especially troubling is that this reporting came from a venerable 120-year-old art journal.

Granted, it’s notable that this portrait was owned by media mogul William Paley, and that upon his death it was placed on long-term loan to the Museum of Modern Art.

It’s also nice to know that the Paley Foundation used the proceeds of the sale to benefit charitable causes.

Art talk?

But shouldn’t an art magazine do some art talk, do more than, say, identify the model as a fellow painter and a good friend to Bacon? This is no Page Six story, the kind you get in the gossip column at the New York Post.

Shouldn’t an art magazine certainly have mentioned that John Russell, once chief art critic at the New York Times, bestowed the utmost praise on a painting that just sold for $23 million? He said: “This is the most that can be said in painting at this time about human beauty.” (The painting was made in 1963).

After quoting Russell, Art News might then have expounded on why Bacon’s contorted vision was touted as beautiful.

The expounding might begin with a look at the artist’s thought process, which was well-documents in art writer James Lord’s 1997 book “A Giacometti Portrait.”

Lord quotes Bacon saying he wanted to paint portraits, but he didn't know how. "Out of despair, I just use paint anyway. Suddenly the things you make coagulate and take on just the shape you intend.

Totally accurate marks, which are outside representational marks."

The nitty gritty

Bacon also made it known that he wanted to picture Henrietta, but not as an actual representation of her. Instead, he wanted to capture her varying looks in order to reveal what he called “the most elemental state.

Why did Bacon go outside of representation, you might ask?

Art News could have cited the painter's answer: “To record the nervous system,” he said. He also acknowledged that the portrait is “irrational,” saying, “I want to unlock the vowels of feeling on various levels.”

Bacon worked hard at unlocking those “vowels.” His workday began at the first light. “It’s all how much you want to do,” he said, noting that his friend Lucien Freud slept only two or three hours a night.

Art News might also have talked about Bacon’s other works to give the Henrietta portrait context. Despairing figures, often solitary, were his signature themes.

"Portrait of Isobel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho" is the embodiment of anxiety. Tense and wary, Rawsthorne’s face, in real life considered well-turned, is made hideous to show her angst.

Also, Bacon broke the street scene up like a picture under cracked glass.

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifix features an uncharacteristic show of multiple figures, the form of their bodies twisted into formlessness. Bacon added further devastation by smudging the figures.

Surely there was more to say about Bacon’s portrait of Henrietta Moraes than how much some millionaire paid for it, don’t you think?