Francis Bacon (28 October 1909 – 28 April 1992) was an Irish-British figurative painter known for his bold, grotesque, emotionally charged, raw imagery. He is best known for his depictions of popes, crucifixions and portraits of close friends. His abstracted figures are typically isolated in geometrical cage like spaces, set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon said that he saw images "in series", and his work typically focuses on a single subject for sustained periods, often in triptych or diptych formats. His output can be broadly described as sequences or variations on a single motif; beginning with the 1930s Picasso-informed Furies, moving on to the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s screaming popes, and the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures, the 1960s portraits of friends, the nihilistic 1970s self-portraits, and the cooler more technical 1980s late works.
Bacon took up painting late in life, having drifted in the late 1920s and 1930s as an interior decorator, bon vivant and gambler. He said that his artistic career was delayed because he spent too long looking for subject matter that could sustain his interest. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which sealed his reputation as a uniquely bleak chronicler of the human condition. From the mid-1960s he mainly produced portraits of friends and drinking companions, either as single or triptych panels. Following the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971 his art became more sombre, inward-looking and preoccupied with the passage of time and death. The climax of this later period is marked by masterpieces, including his 1982's "Study for Self-Portrait" and Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych, 1985–86.
Despite his bleak existentialist outlook, solidified in the public mind through his articulate and vivid series of interviews with David Sylvester, Bacon in person was highly engaging and charismatic, articulate, well-read and openly gay. He was a prolific artist, but nonetheless spent many of the evenings of his middle age eating, drinking and gambling in London's Soho with like-minded friends such as Lucian Freud (though the two fell out in the mid-1970s, for reasons neither ever explained), John Deakin, Muriel Belcher, Henrietta Moraes, Daniel Farson, Tom Baker, and Jeffrey Bernard.
After Dyer's suicide he largely distanced himself from this circle, and while his social life was still active and his passion for gambling and drinking continued, he settled into a platonic and somewhat fatherly relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards. Robert Hughes described Bacon as "the most implacable, lyric artist in late 20th-century England, perhaps in all the world" and along with Willem de Kooning as "the most important painter of the disquieting human figure in the 50's of the 20th century." Francis Bacon was the subject of two Tate retrospectives and a major showing in 1971 at the Grand Palais. Since his death his reputation and market value have grown steadily, and his work is among the most acclaimed, expensive and sought-after. In the late 1990s a number of major works, previously assumed destroyed, including early 1950s popes and 1960s portraits, reemerged to set record prices at auction. In 2013 his Three Studies of Lucian Freud set the world record as the most expensive piece of art sold at auction.
Francis Bacon’s figurative works are renowned for their bold, austere, graphic and often tortured imagery. Francis Bacon’s abstract figures typically appear isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds as depicted in Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies of the Human Body’ (panneau central) 1977. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych inspired by Oresteia of Aeschylus’ 1981. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study of a Human Body after Ingres, Diptych’ (panneau de droite) 1982. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Self-portrait Triptych’ 1985-86. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three Studies for a Self portrait’ 1983. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Edipe and the Sphinx after Ingres’ 1983. Francis Bacon, print, signed, ‘Seated Figure’ 1977. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych, (panneau de droite) 1991. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study for a Human Body’ no 2. 1987. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study for a Bullfight (panneau central)’ 1987.
Francis Bacon’s breakthrough came when he produced the master piece ‘Painting (1946)’. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies for figures at Base of a Crucifixion’ and Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Second Version of Painting 1946’ 1971. ‘Painting (1946)’ was shown at the Musee National d’art modern and bought by the Hanover Gallery a year later.
Francis Bacon made paintings related to the Crucifixion at pivotal moments in his career. The paradox of an atheist choosing a subject laden with Christian significance was not lost on Francis Bacon, but he claimed, ‘as a non-believer, it was just an act of man’s behaviour’. The instincts of brutality and fear combine with a deep fascination with the ritual of sacrifice. Francis Bacon had already made a very individual ‘Crucifixion’ in 1933 before returning to the subject with his break-through triptych ‘Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion’ in 1944. This is a key precursor to later themes and compositions, containing the bestial distortion of human figures within the triptych format. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych’ 1974-1977. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych August’ 1972. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych inspired by Oresteia of Aeschylus’ 1981. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych’ 1983 Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Second version of the Triptych 1944, en homage a Pierre Boulez, 1988. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Second version of the Triptych’ 1944, 1988.
In 1948 The Hanover Gallery held Francis Bacon’s first one man show. Exhibiting his Head series. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Head I’. Leading critics to write “Bacon is one of the most powerful artists in Europe today and he is perfectly in tune with his time”. And “Bacon has proved himself once more to be the most astonishingly sinister artist in England, and one of the most original”.
During the 1960’s, the larger part of Francis Bacon’s work shifted focus to portraits and paintings of his close friends; Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies for a Portrait of John Edwards’ (panneau de droite) Triptych 1984. Francis Bacon, print, signed, ‘Study for a Portrait of John Edwards’ 1986. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies for a portrait of Peter Beard I’ (panneau central) 1976. Francis Bacon, print, signed, ‘Portrait of Michel Leiris’ 1976. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study of portrait II, after the Life Mask of William Blake’. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Miroir de la tauromachie, Michel Leiris’ 1990.These works centre on two broad concerns: the portrayal of the human condition and the struggle to reinvent portraiture. Francis Bacon’s approach was to distort appearance in order to reach a deeper truth about his subjects. To this end, France’s Bacon’s models can be seen performing different roles; Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Seated Figure’. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study for a Human Body’ no 2, 1987.
With a mixture of contempt and affection, Francis Bacon depicted George Dyer, his lover and most frequent model, as fragile and pathetic. This is especially evident in Dyer’s first appearance in Francis Bacon’s work, ‘Three Figures in a Room’, in which Frances Bacon represents the absurdities, indignities and pathos of human existence. Everyday objects occasionally feature in these works, hollow props for lonely individuals which reinforce the sense of isolation that Francis Bacon associated with the human condition. After The death of his lover George Dyer in 1971 Francis Bacon recorded the event in his Triptych series George Dyer. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych in memory of George Dyer’ (panneau de gauche) 1971. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Triptych in memory of George Dyer’ (panneau central) 1971.
Produced at the beginning of the 1970’s; Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study for a Bullfight’. And in the late 1970’s; Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Figure at a Washbasin’ 1976.
Francis bacon often said in interviews that he saw images “in series”. Such as; Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies of the human body.’ Francis bacon, print, signed, ‘Three studies for self portrait’ 1983. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Study for a self portrait’ 1982. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Three studies of Male Back’ 1970. Francis Bacon, print, signed ‘Studies of human body’ 1981.
Francis Bacon also said that “he had been very impresses by the work of a photographer who had produced striking effects using mirrors and natural light filtered through sc