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Francis Bacon (28 October 1909 – 28 April 1992) was an Irish born British figurative painter. His artwork is known for its bold, austere, homoerotic and often violent or nightmarish imagery, which typically shows room-bound masculine figures isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon had begun painting by his early 20s, yet he worked only sporadically and without commitment during the late 1920s and early 1930s, when he worked as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs. He later admitted that his career was delayed because he had spent so long looking for a subject that would sustain his interest. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, and it was this work and his heads and figures of the late 1940s through to the early 1960s that sealed his reputation as a notably bleak, world famous, chronicler of the human condition.

From the mid 1960s, Bacon mainly produced portrait heads of friends. He often said in interviews that he saw images "in series", and his artistic output often saw him focus on single themes for sustained periods (including his crucifixion, Papal heads, and later single and triptych heads series). He began painting variations on the Crucifixion, and later focused on half human-half grotesque heads, best exemplified by the 1949 "Heads in a Room" series. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover, George Dyer, his art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with death. The climax of this late period came with his 1982 "Study for Self-Portrait", and his masterpiece, Study for a Self Portrait -Triptych, 1985-86. Despite his seemingly existentialist outlook on life, Bacon appeared to be a bon vivant, spending much of his middle and later life eating, drinking and gambling in London's Sohomarker with Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Daniel Farson, Jeffrey Bernard, Muriel Belcher and Henrietta Moraes, among others. Following Dyer's death he distanced himself from this circle and became less involved with rough trade to settle in a platonic relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards.

Since his death, Bacon's reputation has steadily grown. He continues to draw admiration and disgust in equal measures; Margaret Thatcher famously described him as "that man who paints those dreadful pictures". Bacon was the subject of two major Tatemarker retrospectives during his life time and received a third in 2008. He always professed not to depend on preparatory works and was resolute that he never drew. Yet since his death, a number of sketches have emerged and although the Tate recognised them as canon, they have not yet been acknowledged as such by the art market. In addition, in the late 1990s, several presumedly destroyed major works, including Popes from the early 1950s and Heads from the 1960s, have surfaced on the art market which are considered equal to any of his "official" output.

Early life

Francis Bacon was born in a nursing home in Old Georgian Dublinmarker at 62 Lower Baggot Street, the son of an Irish-born mother and an Australian-born father both of British descent.Captain Anthony Edward Mortimer ("Eddy") Bacon, his father, was a veteran of the Boer War who became a racehorse trainer. Christina Winifred "Winnie" Firth, his mother, was an heiress to a Sheffieldmarker steel business and coal mine. It is believed that his father was a direct descendant of Sir Nicholas Bacon, the elder half-brother of Sir Francis Bacon, the Elizabethan statesman, philosopher and essayist. His beautiful great-great-grandmother, Lady Charlotte Harley, was intimately acquainted with Lord Byron, who called her "Ianthe", so much so that he dedicated his famous poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, to her. When Bacon's paternal grandfather was given the chance to revive the family title of Lord Oxford by Queen Victoria, he refused for financial reasons. Bacon rarely discussed his illustrious roots, preferring to portray himself as an outcast destined to carve his own path in the world, which was an apt description, to a large extent.

Bacon had an older brother, Harley, two younger sisters, Ianthe and Winifred, and a younger brother, Edward. He was raised by the family nurse, a Cornish woman named Jessie Lightfoot. A sickly child with asthma and a violent allergy to dogs and horses, Bacon was often given morphine to ease his suffering during attacks. The family shifted houses often, moving back and forth between Ireland and England several times during this period, leading to a feeling of displacement that would remain with the artist throughout his life. In 1911 the family lived in Cannycourt House near Kilcullenmarker, County Kildaremarker, but later moved to Westbourne Terrace, London, close to where Bacon's father worked at the Territorial Force Records Office.
Francis Bacon's birthplace at 62 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin


On returning to Ireland after World War I, Bacon was sent to live for a time with his maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, Winifred and Kerry Supple, at Farmleigh, Abbeyleixmarker, County Laoismarker. Eddy Bacon later bought Farmleigh from his mother-in-law, though they soon moved again to Straffanmarker Lodge near Naasmarker, County Kildaremarker, the birthplace of his mother.Although Francis was a shy child, he enjoyed dressing up. This, coupled with his effeminate manner, often enraged his father and created a distance between them. A story emerged in 1992 of his father having had Francis horsewhipped by their groom. In 1924 his parents moved to Gloucestershiremarker, first to Prescott House in Gotheringtonmarker, then to Linton Hall, situated near the border with Herefordshiremarker. Francis spent eighteen months boarding at Dean Close Schoolmarker, Cheltenhammarker, from the third term of 1924 until April 1926. This was to be his only brush with a formal education as he quit the school right before he was to be expelled.

At a fancy-dress party at the Firth family house at Cavendish Hall, Suffolk, Francis dressed up as a flapper with an Eton crop, beaded dress, lipstick, high heels, and a long cigarette holder. In 1926 the family moved back to Ireland, and Straffan Lodge. His sister, Ianthe (b. 1921), recalls that Bacon made drawings of ladies with cloche hats and long cigarette holders. Later that year, Francis was banished from Straffan Lodge following an incident in which his father found him admiring himself in front of a large mirror draped in his mother's underwear.

London, Berlin and Paris

Bacon spent the autumn and winter of 1926 in London, with the help of an allowance of £3 a week from his mother's trust fund, living on his instincts, simply 'drifting', and reading Nietzsche. When he was broke, Bacon found that by the simple expedient of rent-dodging and petty theft, he could manage a reasonable economy. To supplement his income, he briefly tried his hand at domestic service, but although he enjoyed cooking, he quickly became bored and resigned. He was sacked from a telephone answering position at a shop selling women's clothes in Poland Street, Soho, after writing a poison pen letter to the owner. He discovered that he attracted a certain type of rich man, an attraction he was quick to take advantage of, having developed a taste for good food and wine. One of the men was an ex-army friend of his father, another breeder of race-horses, named Harcourt-Smith. Bacon later claimed that his father had asked this friend to take him 'in-hand' and 'make a man of him'. Francis had a difficult relationship with his father, once admitting to being sexually attracted to him. Doubtless, Bacon was aware of his friend's reputation for virility, but not of his penchant for young men.

In the early Spring of 1927, Bacon was taken by Harcourt-Smith to the opulent, decadent, "wide open" Berlin of the Weimar Republicmarker, where they stayed together at the Hotel Adlonmarker. It is likely that Bacon saw Fritz Lang's Metropolis during this time.

Bacon spent two months in Berlin, though Harcourt-Smith left after just one — "He soon got tired of me, of course, and went off with a woman...I didn't really know what to do, so I hung on for a while, and then, since I'd managed to keep a bit of money, I decided to go to Paris." Bacon then spent the next year and a half in Parismarker. He met Yvonne Bocquentin, pianist and connoisseur, at the opening of an exhibition. Aware of his own need to learn the French language, Bacon lived for three months with Madame Bocquentin and her family at their house near Chantillymarker. He also went into Paris to visit the city's art galleries. At the Château de Chantillymarker (Musée Condé) he saw Nicolas Poussin's Massacre of the Innocents, a painting to which he was often to refer in his own later work. From Chantilly, he went to an exhibition that was largely to inspire him to take up painting. His visit to a 1927 exhibition of 106 drawings by Picasso at the Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Parismarker, aroused his artistic interest, and he often took the train into Paris five or more times a week to see shows and art exhibitions. Bacon saw Abel Gance's epic silent film Napoléon at the Paris Opéra when it premiered in April 1927. From the autumn of 1927, Bacon stayed at the Parismarker Hôtel Delambre in Montparnasse.

Return to London

Bacon returned to London in late 1928 or early 1929, and started work as an interior designer. He took a studio in a converted garage, 17 Queensberry Mews West, South Kensingtonmarker, and shared the upper floor with Eric Alden (who was later to become his first collector) and his nanny, Jessie Lightfoot. In the first issue of Cahiers d'Art for 1929, Bacon saw Picasso's painted biomorphic figures, reproduced in an article by editor Christian Zervos: Picasso à Dinard, Été 1928. (Likely to have been bought either from Zwemmers bookshop, on the Charing Cross Roadmarker, or in Paris.) The 1927 show at Rosenberg's in Paris had been of Neo-classical drawings, and it was the 1928 Les Baigneuses and Le Baiser in Cahiers d'Art, that gave Bacon his direction as a painter.

Bacon was befriended by Geoffrey Gilbey, then the racing correspondent for the Daily Express, and for a time worked as his racing secretary. Gilbey had a house in Ormonde Gate, Chelseamarker. Bacon advertised himself as a "gentleman's companion" in The Times, on the front page (then reserved for personal messages and insertions). Among the many answers carefully vetted by Nanny Lightfoot was one from an elderly cousin of Douglas Cooper, at that time owner of one of the finest collections of modern art in England. The gentleman, having paid Bacon for his services, found him part-time work as a telephone operator in a London club and further sought Cooper's help in promoting Bacon's developing skill as a designer of furniture and interiors. Cooper also commissioned a desk from Bacon in battleship gray around this time.

In 1929 he met Eric Hall at the Bath Club, Dover Streetmarker, London, where Bacon was working at the telephone exchange. Hall (who was general manager of Peter Jonesmarker) was to be both patron and lover to Bacon, in an often torturous relationship.

'The 1930 Look in British Decoration'

The first show in the winter of 1929, at Queensberry Mews, was of Bacon's carpet rugs and furniture (a rug was purchased by Hall), but may have included Painted screen (c.1929–1930) and Watercolour (1929), both bought by Eric Alden. Watercolour (1929) his earliest surviving painting, seems to have evolved from his rug designs, in turn influenced by the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. Sydney Butler (daughter of Samuel Courtauld and wife of Rab Butler) commissioned a glass and steel table and a set of stools for the dining room of her Smith Squaremarker house.... Bacon's Queensberry Mews studio was featured in the August 1930 issue of The Studio magazine, in a double page article entitled "The 1930 Look in British Decoration". The piece showed work including a large round mirror, some rugs and tubular steel and glass furniture largely influenced by the International Style, Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier / Charlotte Perriand and Eileen Gray.

He returned to Germany in 1930. A dramatic studio portrait taken of Bacon by Helmar Lerski, a Swiss photographer and cinematographer, probably dates from this visit. Bacon was later to tell Stephen Spender that he had been very impressed by the work of a photographer who had produced striking effects using mirrors and natural light filtered through screens, but that he could not remember the artist's name. Later that year Francis Bacon met Roy de Maistre, an Australian painter who was to become a close friend and mentor. De Maistre's circle included Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Patrick White and Douglas Cooper. A second exhibition was held between 4-22 November at 17 Queensberry Mews. Alongside de Maistre and Jean Sheppeard, Bacon showed four paintings and one print. Gouache (1929) may be the piece titled as A Brick Wall in the hand-list. Painting (1929–1930) (probably the work listed as Tree by the Sea) is Bacon's earliest surviving oil painting. Both were bought by Alden. The two other paintings (Self-portrait and Two Brothers) and print (Dark Child in an edition of three) are now lost.

Bacon left the Queensberry Mews West studio in 1931, and was not to have a settled space for some years. Bacon probably shared a studio with Roy de Maistre, about 1931/1932, at Carlyle Studios, (just off the Kings Road), in Chelsea. Portrait (1932) and Portrait (c.1931–1932) (the latter bought by Diana Watson) both show a round-faced youth with diseased skin (painted after Bacon saw Ibsen's Ghosts), and date from a brief stay in a studio on the Fulham Road. In 1932, Bacon was commissioned by Gladys MacDermot, an Irish woman who had lived in Australia, to redesign much of the decoration and furniture of her flat at 98 Ridgmount Gardens in Bloomsbury. Bacon recalled that she was 'always filling me up with food'.

In April 1933, he moved to 71 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea Road from Ebury Streetmarker, where de Maistre had his temporary studio). The studio there was in a converted garage (like the Queensberry Mews West studio). A friend, the interior designer (and property developer) Arundell Clarke, had had his showroom there before moving on to Mayfair.

Early works

Douglas Cooper, then curator of the Mayor Gallery in Cork Streetmarker, arranged for one of Bacon's paintings, Women in the Sunlight, to be included in a group show in April 1933. It was also thanks to Cooper that Bacon's Crucifixion was reproduced in Herbert Read's book Art Now (opposite a 1929 Baigneuse by Picasso — plates 60/61). The publication was accompanied by an exhibition of the works, in October, at the Mayor Gallery, where Crucifixion was shown as Composition. 1933. Crucifixion was subsequently purchased by Sir Michael Sadler (who, other than friends or relations, was the first to buy a painting), and who also commissioned a second version, Crucifixion (chalk, gouache and pencil), and sent Bacon an x-ray photograph of his own skull, with a request that he paint a portrait from it. Bacon duly incorporated the x-ray directly into The Crucifixion.

Composition (Figure) (1933) (gouache, pastel and pen and ink on paper)
At the start of 1934, with the help of Arundell Clarke, who had just taken over the building, Bacon set up a gallery space in the cellar of Sunderland House, Curzon Streetmarker, Mayfairmarker, with plans to deal in his own work and organize his own shows. In February 1934, Bacon held his first solo show, Paintings by Francis Bacon, of seven of his oil paintings and five or six gouaches, at the new Transition gallery. This was to be the only show at the Transition gallery. All but two gouaches of figures in flight (Composition (Figure) (1933) (gouache, pastel and pen and ink on paper) and Composition (Figures) (1933) (gouache, pastel and pen and ink on paper)) purchased by his cousin Diana Watson were afterwards destroyed by Bacon. Among these was the Wound for a Crucifixion, destroyed despite having a prospective purchaser in Eric Alden, and one of a very few that Bacon was to express regret at its loss.

Two studio interiors survive from 1934: Studio Interior (1934) and Corner of the Studio (1934) (purchased by Gladys MacDermot). Interior of a Room survives from circa 1935 (c.1933 in Alley/Rothenstein).

Bacon visited Paris in 1935, purchasing there a second-hand book on diseases of the mouth containing high quality hand-coloured plates of both open mouths and oral interiors, which both haunted and obsessed him for the remainder of his life. (Bacon had sinus problems since childhood and had undergone an operation on the roof of his mouth at some stage in the mid-1930s.) He also saw, for the first of many times, Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin in 1935, the scene of the nurse screaming on the Odessa stepsmarker later becoming a major theme in his paintings, with the angularity of Eisenstein's image often combined with the thick red palette of his recently purchased medical tome.

In the Winter of 1935-6, Roland Penrose and Herbert Read, making a first selection for the International Surrealist Exhibition (which was to be held in London from 11 June to 4 July 1936), visited his studio at 71 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, saw "three or four large canvases including one with a grandfather clock," but found his work "insufficiently surreal to be included in the show." Bacon claimed that Penrose had said to him "Mr. Bacon, don't you realize a lot has happened in painting since the Impressionists?" In 1937 (or late in 1936), Bacon moved from 71 Royal Hospital Road to the top floor of 1 Glebe Place, Chelsea, which Eric Hall had rented (and kept until 1943). Patrick White had moved to London, into a small flat in Ebury Street, in 1936, and, on meeting de Maistre in his ground-floor studio there, quickly fell in love with him. The following year, White moved to the top two floors of the building where de Maistre now had his studio, on Eccleston Street, and commissioned from Bacon, who was by now a friend, a writing desk (with wide drawers and a red linoleum top). White also bought the glass and steel dining table from Rab and Sydney Butler.

In January 1937, at Thomas Agnew and Sons, 43 Old Bond Street, London, Bacon was in a group show, Young British Painters, which included Graham Sutherland, Victor Pasmore, and Roy de Maistre. Eric Hall, also a friend of Jerry Agnew, organized the show; Agnew's was then known for shows of Old Master paintings. Four works by Bacon were shown: Figures in a Garden (1936), purchased by Diana Watson; Abstraction, and Abstraction from the Human Form, known from magazine photographs (they prefigure Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) in variously having a tripod structure (Abstraction), bared teeth (Abstraction from the Human Form), and both being biomorphic in form); Seated Figure is lost entirely.

Only Figures in a Garden remains of paintings from 1936, however, a small sketch in black ink on lined paper, Biomorphic Drawing, in the collection of the Estate, at the Hugh Lane gallerymarker, which resembles Abstraction (1936), may be a survivor from this year.

A small self-portrait, putatively dated to 1930 and identified with the self-portrait in the hand-list to the Queensberry Mews show, was exhibited at the Fine Arts and Antiques Fair, Olympia, London in 1998; however, it has been claimed on technical grounds that it dates from 1937 onwards (the canvas board on which it was painted was not available until then, although this has been disputed). Stylistically, the work fits best around the mid 1930s. The work has an unusual provenance (it was kept by Bacon until 1982 and then given away), but the attribution to Bacon is sound (although a detailed technical analysis remains to be done).

On 1 June 1940 Bacon's father died. Bacon was named sole Trustee and Executor of his father's will, which requested that the funeral be as 'private and simple as possible'.

Man in a Cap (c.1943)


Bacon, unfit for active service, volunteered for Civil Defence and worked full-time in the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) rescue service. But the fine dust of bombed London worsened his asthma and he was discharged. So, at the height of The Blitz, Eric Hall rented a cottage for Bacon and himself at Bedales Lodge, Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshiremarker.Figure Getting Out of a Car (c. 1939 - 1940) was painted here but is known only from an early 1946 photograph taken by Peter Rose Pulham (taken shortly before it was painted over by Bacon and retitled Landscape with Car). An ancestor to the biomorphic form of the central panel of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), the composition was suggested by a photograph of Hitler getting out of a car at one of the Nuremberg rallies, (Bacon claims to have "copied the car and not much else.")

Man in a Cap, and Seated Man (recto) / Man Standing (verso) (now separated), both on composition board and from about 1943, are abandoned works. The composition of Man in a Cap derives from a picture of Joseph Goebbels that appeared in Picture Post. A photograph of Hitler from the same issue was the basis for Seated Man, and the more roughly painted Man Standing.

Bacon ordered that none of his works prior to 1944 were allowed into the canon and insisted that retrospectives show nothing prior to 1944.

The Millais House studio, 7 Cromwell Place: 1943 - 1951

Returning from Hampshire at the latter part of 1943, Bacon and Hall took the ground floor of 7 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, John Everett Millais' old house and studio. High vaulted and north lit, it had had its roof recently bombed - Bacon was able to adapt a large old billiard room at the back of the house as his own studio. Nanny Lightfoot, lacking an alternative location, slept on the kitchen table. Illicit roulette parties were held there, organized by Bacon with assistance by Hall, to the financial benefit of both.

Now home to the Art Fund, the Millais house is just a short walk from the Victoria and Albert Museummarker, holder of a National collection of paintings by John Constable, whose oil sketches were much admired by Bacon. It was also at the V&A that Bacon would first discover and study the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge.

The April 1945 show Recent Paintings by Francis Bacon, Frances Hodgkins, Matthew Smith, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland at the Lefevre gallery (then on New Bond Street, London) had two paintings by Bacon - Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) and Figure in a landscape (1945).

Breakthrough

If Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) is Bacon's fons et origo, then Painting (1946) has a good claim to be his magnum opus. Originally to be a painting of a chimpanzee in long grass (parts of which may be still visible), he then attempted to portray a bird of prey landing in a field. Bacon described it as his most unconscious work - the marks suddenly suggesting this image - at once magnificent and appalling.

FB:"Well, one of the pictures I did in 1946, which was the thing that's in the Museum of Modern Art…"
DS:"The butcher-shop picture."
FB:"Yes. It came to me as an accident. I was attempting to make a bird alighting on a field. And it may have been bound up in some way with the three forms that had gone before, but suddenly the line that I had drawn suggested something totally different and out of this suggestion arose this picture. I had no intention to do this picture; I never thought of it in that way. It was like one continuous accident mounting on top of another."
- Excerpt from the October 1962 interview with David Sylvester for the BBC.

Graham Sutherland saw Painting (1946) in the Cromwell Place studio, and urged his dealer, Erica Brausen, then of the Redfern Gallery, to go to see the painting and to buy it. Brausen wrote to Bacon several times, and visited his studio in early autumn 1946 and promptly bought the work for £200. (Painting (1946) was shown in several group shows including in the British section of Exposition internationale d'arte moderne (18 November - 28 December 1946) at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, for which Bacon travelled to Paris.)

Within a fortnight of the sale of Painting (1946) to the Hanover Gallery, with the proceeds, Bacon had decamped from London to Monte Carlomarker. After staying at a succession of hotels and flats, including the Hôtel de Ré, Bacon settled in a large villa, La Frontalière, in the hills above the town. Eric Hall and Nanny Lightfoot would come to stay. Bacon spent much of the next few years in Monte Carlo, short visits to London apart. From Monte Carlo, Bacon wrote to Graham Sutherland and Erica Brausen. His letters to Erica Brausen show that he did paint there, but no paintings are known to survive.

In 1948, Painting (1946) finally sold to Alfred Barr for the Museum of Modern Artmarker in New Yorkmarker for £240. Bacon wrote to Sutherland asking that he apply fixative to the patches of pastel on Painting (1946) before it was shipped to New York. Painting (1946) is now too fragile to be moved from MoMA for exhibition elsewhere.

Head I, Head II - Head VI

Head I (1948)
Bacon returned to London and Cromwell Place to paint, late in 1948. Head I was shown at the Summer Exhibition at the Redfern gallery from July to September 1948. By the end of 1948 Erica Brausen, who had advanced Bacon money for works, left the Redfern Gallery. Brausen had found private capital to start her own gallery in Mayfair. In the spring, a Bacon painting, presumably Head I, was shown at her new Hanover Gallery (and was noted by Wyndham Lewis, as a preview of the main show, in an exhibition review of 12 May 1949). Held between 8 November and 10 December 1949 at the Hanover Gallery, Francis Bacon: Paintings; Robert Ironside: Coloured Drawings, was, in effect, his first professional one-man show (Robert Ironside's watercolors were on an upper floor). A series of six paintings Head I to Head VI, with Study from the Human Body (1949) and Study for Portrait (1949) formed the core of the show with four other paintings by Bacon.
Bacon's paintings attracted the support of Wyndham Lewis writing in The Listener. "The Hanover [Gallery] Show is of exceptional importance. Of the younger painters none actually paints so beautifully as Francis Bacon", Lewis wrote, adding: "Bacon is one of the most powerful artists in Europe today and he is perfectly in tune with his time". The following year he wrote of another exhibition: "Three large new canvases by Bacon prove him once more to be the most astonishingly sinister artist in England, and one of the most original".

Head I differs from Head II - Head VI in one important respect: while the first is painted on hardboard and dates from 1948 (or 1947-8), the rest of the series date from 1949 and are painted on the reverse of a (commercially) primed canvas.

"Well, I was living once down in Monte Carlo and I had lost all my money, and, I had no canvases left and so, the few I had I just turned them, and I found that the, that the, what is called the wrong side, the unprimed side of the canvas worked for me very much better. So I've always used them. So it was just by chance that I had no money to buy canvases with."- Excerpt from an interview with Melvyn Bragg in Francis Bacon (1985), for the South Bank Show for London Weekend Television.

Head II is, for Bacon, very thickly painted, this was one of very few instances when he had been able to 'rescue' a painting after it had become overworked and the weave of the canvas clogged (as happened with two abandoned works on canvas from the Head series, from 1949, also in the 1949 Hanover show). The arrow, or pointer, motif in Head II is taken from the book Positioning in Radiography by Kathleen Clara Clark, 1939.

Head VI was Bacon's first surviving engagement with Velázquez's great Portrait of Pope Innocent X (three 'popes' were painted in Monte Carlo in 1946 but were destroyed). The Cobalt Violet mozzetta, crimson in Velázquez's painting, may reflect Bacon's use of printed reproductions of the painting. Bacon later said that, although he admired "the magnificent color" of the Velázquez, Velázquez "wanted to make it as much like a Titian as possible but, in a curious way he cooled Titian".

An article by Robert Melville titled Francis Bacon appeared in the December 1949 – January 1950 issue of Horizon magazine (edited by Cyril Connolly). Melville placed Bacon in the context of European painting and film, comparing and contrasting his work with that of Picasso, Duchamp, Eisenstein and, in particular, Salvador Dalí and Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou. (The piece, along with Reproductions of Paintings by Francis Bacon, was printed between a short story by James Lord and an essay on the Marquis de Sade by Maurice Blanchot).

The Colony Room

The Colony Roommarker is a private drinking club at 41 Dean Street, Soho, also known as Muriel's after Muriel Belcher, the formidable proprietor. Belcher, who had run a club called the Music-box in Leicester Squaremarker during the war, had secured a 3pm - 11pm drinking licence for the Colony Room bar as a private-members club (public houses had to, by law, close at 2:30pm). Bacon was a founding member, and joined the day after its opening in 1948. He was 'adopted' by Belcher as a 'daughter', and was allowed free drinks and £10 a week to bring in friends and rich patrons. It was here that Bacon became friends with Lady Rose McLaren.

Bacon met the painter and illustrator John Minton in 1948. Minton was soon to become a regular at 'Muriel's, as were the painters Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Timothy Behrens, Michael Andrews, the two Roberts, Colquhoun and MacBride, and above all the sometime Vogue photographer, John Deakin. In 1950, Bacon met the art critic David Sylvester, then best known for his writing on Henry Moore and praise for Alberto Giacometti's work. Sylvester had admired and written about his work (first writing about Bacon for a French periodical, L'Age nouveau, in 1948) but had erroneously perceived it to be a form of Expressionism. Head I, in particular, at the 1949 Hanover Gallery show, was, for Sylvester, proof of Bacon's importance as a painter. John Minton left for the West Indies in September 1950. Aware that Bacon was in need of money, Minton asked him to take over his post as a tutor at the school of painting at the Royal College of Artmarker. On condition that he did no formal teaching, Bacon agreed. So for three months, he was on hand to talk to the students for two days a week.

Painting (1950) and Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950) were among the works shown at Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings; Hilly: Paintings, at the Hanover gallery, 14 September - 21 October 1950. Also Study for Figure (1950) (destroyed) and Man at a Curtain (1949) - an abandoned work.

Study after Velázquez

Figure in Frame (1950)
This series of three paintings after Velázquez were painted for the September 1950 Hanover gallery exhibition. The exhibition was advertised as Francis Bacon: Three Studies from the Painting of Innocent X by Velázquez but the series was withdrawn before the start of the show by Bacon. In November 1950, after Bacon had gone off to South Africa, the Hanover gallery offered on his behalf Study after Velázquez (1950) to the Arts Council, for the Festival of Britain show Sixty Paintings for '51. On his return in May, Bacon again withdrew the painting before it was shown, although it is in the catalogue to the exhibition. Study after Velázquez (1950) and Study after Velázquez II (1950) were sent to his art supplier for the frames and stretchers to be reused. Bacon apparently believed them destroyed.

Study after Velázquez (1950) and Study after Velázquez II (1950) were rediscovered carefully rolled-up at Bacon's art supplier in September 1998 (and shown at the Tony Shafrazi gallery). Study after Velázquez II (1950) (also known as Untitled (Pope) (1950)) is an abandoned work. Study after Velázquez III (1950) is destroyed (but was photographed). In January 1951 Bacon was featured in World Review in The Iconoclasm of Francis Bacon by Robert Melville (describing Study after Velázquez (1950) seen at the studio and on the destruction of the three paintings in the series of studies after Velázquez; Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950) and Man at a Curtain (1949) are shown in monochrome).

Study for Nude Figures (1950) (also known as Untitled (Crouching Figure) (1950)), and Figure in Frame (1950) (also known as Untitled (figure) (1950-1)), were among the abandoned paintings found in storage after the painter's death. Figure in Frame (1950), in particular, is a compellingly beautiful wreck, with thin dry-brushed paint on raw linen over a spectral smear and scrapes of oil paint.

By 1950, Bacon's affair with Eric Hall had come to an end - he no longer appears on the electoral register with Bacon and Jessie Lightfoot at 7 Cromwell Place - but he was to remain a loyal patron, friend and supporter. During November 1950, Bacon visited his mother in South Africa. This suited his asthma better than spending winter in London. Bacon was impressed by the African landscapes and wildlife, and took photographs in Kruger National Parkmarker. On his return journey he spent a few days in Cairomarker, and wrote to Erica Brausen of his intent to visit Karnakmarker and Luxormarker, and then go via Alexandriamarker to Marseillesmarker. The visit confirmed his belief in the supremacy of Egyptian art, embodied by the Sphinxmarker. He returned in the Spring of 1951.

On 30 April 1951 Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon's old nurse, died at Cromwell Place. Bacon was gambling in Nicemarker when he learnt of her death. Lightfoot was Bacon's closest companion and had joined him in London on his return from Paris, and had lived with him and Eric Alden at Queensberry Mews West, and with him and Eric Hall at the cottage near Petersfield, in Monte Carlo and at Cromwell Place. Stricken, Bacon sold the 7 Cromwell Place apartment.

Later life

In 1964, Bacon began a relationship with 30-year-old Eastender George Dyer, whom he met, he claimed, while the latter was burgling his apartment. A petty criminal with a history of borstal and prison, Dyer was a somewhat tortured individual, insecure, alcoholic, appearance obsessed and never really fitting in within the bohemian set surrounding Francis. The relationship was stormy and in 1971, on the eve of Bacon's major retrospective at the Paris Grand Palaismarker, Dyer committed suicide in the hotel room they were sharing, overdosing on barbiturates. The event was recorded in Bacon's 1973 masterpiece Triptych, May-June 1973. In 1974, Bacon met John Edwards, a young, illiterate Eastender with whom he formed one of his most enduring friendships.

Bacon died of a heart attack on 28 April 1992 while vacationing in Spain. He bequeathed his entire estate (then valued at £11 million) to John Edwards. Edwards, in turn, donated the contents of Francis Bacon's chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensingtonmarker, to the Hugh Lane gallerymarker in Dublin. Bacon's studio contents were moved and the studio carefully reconstructed in the gallery. Additionally draft materials, perhaps intended for destruction, were bequeathed to Barry Joule who later forwarded most of the materials to create the Barry Joule Archive in Dublin with other parts of the collection given later to the Tate museum.

The tiny and cramped nature of Bacon's London studio and apartment were subjected to some critical analysis in an article in The Guardian by Aida Edemariam. She claims Bacon being frequently locked screaming for hours in a cupboard as a young boy, by a nanny, formed the basis of his preference for working in cramped conditions and his unwillingness to work on a larger scale. The article states: "That cupboard," Bacon apparently said years later, "was the making of me."

Personality

Bacon's close personal friend and biographer, Michael Peppiatt, describes the artist's "magnetic presence," remarking:

The artist had an impulsive, conflicted, and yet charming personality, when he chose to display it.He claimed to be optimistic, even if he was "optimistic about nothing" in his state of "exhilarated despair."Bacon ultimately believed "that life was ridiculous," saying "Even as a child, I knew [life] was impossible, a kind of charade."

Themes

The Crucifixion

The imagery of the crucifixion weights heavily in the work of Francis Bacon. The critic John Russell wrote that the crucifixion in Bacon's work is a "generic name for an environment in which bodily harm is done to one or more persons and one or more other persons gather to watch". Bacon admitted that he saw the scene as "a magnificent armature on which you can hang all types of feeling and sensation". He believed that the imagery of the crucifixion allowed him to examine "certain areas of human behaviour" in a unique way, as the armature of the theme had been accumulated by so many old masters.

Though he came to painting relatively late in life-he did not begin to paint seriously until his late 30s, crucifixion scenes can be found in his earliest works. In 1933, his then-patron Eric Hall commissioned a series of three paintings based on the subject. These early paintings were influenced by such old masters as Matthias Grünewald, Diego Velázquez and Rembrandt, but also by Picasso's late 1920s and early 1930s biomorphs and the early work of the Surrealists.

The scream

The open mouth was a motif which fascinated the artist from early in his career; the theme is examined in one of his first surviving works, Abstraction from the Human Form. By the early 1950s it became an obsessive concern, to the point, according to art critic and Bacon biographer Michael Peppiatt, "it would be no exaggeration to say that, if one could really explain the origins and implications of this scream, one would be far closer to understanding the whole art of Francis Bacon." The inspiration for the recurring mofit of the screaming mouths in many Bacon's of the late 1940s and early 1950s were drawn from a number of sources, including medical text books, the works of Matthias Grünewald and photographic stills of the nurse in the Odessa Stepsmarker scene in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent The Battleship Potemkin. Bacon first saw the film in 1935, and viewed it frequently thereafter. In his studio, he kept a photographic still of the scene which showed a close-up of the nurse's head which showed her screaming in panic and terror and with broken pince-nez spectacles hanging from her blood stained face. He referred to the image throughout his career, using it as a source of inspiration.

Legacy

Bacon's Soho life was portrayed by John Maybury, with Derek Jacobi as Bacon and Daniel Craig as George Dyer (and with Tilda Swinton as Muriel Belcher), in the film Love Is the Devil (1998), based on Daniel Farson's 1993 biography The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon.

On 14 May 2008, the Triptych, 1976, “a landmark of the 20th-century canon,” sold at Sotheby's contemporary art sale for €55,465 million ($86.28 million), a record for the artist and the highest price ever paid for a post-war work of art at auction. Sold by the Moueix family, producers of Château Pétrus wines, it was bought by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. The sale broke the 2007 record for his work of €34,212 million ($52.68 million). The triptych had remained in the same European collection since its 1977 purchase from a London gallery.

A major retrospective of Bacon's work opened on 11 September 2008 at Tate Britainmarker, London. It was billed as the largest retrospective of his work ever mounted, containing around sixty of his works. In January 2009, it travelled on to the Prado Gallery in Madridmarker, Spain, where it was exhibited until April 2009. Then it travelled on to the Metropolitan Museum of Artmarker in New Yorkmarker, "where it ended in the summer of 2009."

Artist H. R. Giger has credited Bacon's work as inspiration for part of his design on the movie Alien. Said Geiger "It was Francis Bacon's work that gave me the inspiration... of how this thing would come tearing out of the man's flesh with its gaping mouth, grasping and with an explosion of teeth ... it's pure Bacon."

Notes

Bibliography

  • Archimbaud, Michel (1994) Francis Bacon: The Final Vision New York: Phaidon Press ISBN 0714829838
  • Bacon, Francis (1998) Francis Bacon: Important Paintings from the Estate Tony Shafrazi gallery ISBN 1891475169
  • Baldassari, Anne (2005) Bacon-Picasso: The Life of Images London: Flammarion ISBN 2080304860
  • Brighton, Andrew (2001) Francis Bacon London: Tate Publishing Ltd ISBN 1-85437-307-2
  • Cappock, Margarita (2005) Francis Bacon's Studio London: Merrell Publishers Ltd ISBN 1858942764
  • Deleuze, Gilles (2004) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation Continuum International Publishing Group - Mansell ISBN 0826473180
  • Domino, Christophe (1997) Francis Bacon London: Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0500300763
  • Edwards, John (2001) 7 Reece Mews: Francis Bacon's Studio London: Thames & Hudson Ltd ISBN 0500510342
  • Farson, Daniel (1994) The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon London: Vintage ISBN 009-9307812
  • Gale, Matthew; Sylvester David (1999) Francis Bacon: Working on Paper London: Tate Publishing Ltd ISBN 1-85437-280-7
  • Hammer, Martin (2005) Bacon and Sutherland Boston: Yale University Press ISBN 0-300-10796-X
  • Hammer, Martin (2005) Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland ISBN 190327866X
  • Harrison, Martin (2005) In Camera, Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting Thames & Hudson ISBN 0500238200
  • Harrison, Martin; Daniels, Rebecca (2009) Francis Bacon Incunabula Thames & Hudson ISBN 978-0500093443
  • Kundera, Milan; Borel, France (1996) Bacon: Portraits and Self-portraits London: Thames & Hudson Ltd ISBN 0500092664
  • Peppiatt, Michael (1996) Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN 0297816160
  • Peppiatt, Michael (2006) Francis Bacon in the 1950s London: Yale University Press ISBN 030012192X
  • Rothenstein, John (introduction); Alley, Ronald (Catalogue raisonnè and documentation) (1964) Francis Bacon Thames and Hudson Ltd
  • Russell, John (1993) Francis Bacon London: Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0500202710
  • Schmied, Wieland (2006) Francis Bacon: Commitment and Conflict London: Prestel Verlag ISBN 3-7913-3472-7
  • Sinclair, Andrew Francis (1994) Bacon: His Life and Violent Times. London, Sinclair Stevenson, 1993; New York, Crown
  • Steffen, Barbara; Bryson, Norman (2004) Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art Zurich: Skira Editore ISBN 88-8491-721-2
  • Sylvester, David (1975, 1980, 1987) Interviews with Francis Bacon (revised edition 1993) London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 0-500-27475-4
  • Sylvester, David (2000) Looking Back at Francis Bacon London: Thames & Hudson Ltd ISBN 0-500-01994-0
  • Sylvester, David (1998) Francis Bacon: The Human Body London: Hayward Gallery ISBN 1-85332-175-3
  • Sylvester, David (1996, 1997, 2002) About Modern Art: Critical Essays 1948-2000 revised edition, London: Pimlico ISBN 0-7126-0563-0
  • Todoli, Vincente (2003) Francis Bacon: Caged. Uncaged. Lisbon: Fundacao De Serralves ISBN 972-739-109-5
  • Van Alphen, Ernst (1992) Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self London: Reaktion Books ISBN 0-948462-34-5
  • Zweite, Armin (2006) Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real London: Thames and Hudson Ltd ISBN 0-500-09335-0


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