FRANCIS BACON

Born to an English family in Dublin on 28 October 1909, Francis Bacon was the second of five children of Christina Firth, a steel heiress, and Edward Bacon, a race-horse trainer and former army officer. His childhood, spent at Cannycourt, Co. Kildare, was blighted by asthma from which he suffered throughout his life. With the outbreak of war in 1914, his father took the family to London and joined the Ministry of War; they divided the post-war years between London and Ireland. After his authoritarian father, repelled by his burgeoning homosexuality, threw him out of the family home for wearing his mother’s clothes, Bacon arrived in London in 1926 with little schooling but with a weekly allowance of £3 from his mother.

Bacon then travelled to Berlin and Paris, and impressed by Picasso’s 1927 exhibition at Galerie Paul Rosenberg, began to draw and paint while attending the free Academies. Returning to London in the following year, he worked as a furniture and interior designer in the modernist style of Eileen Gray. As well as designing, Bacon continued to paint - the results showed the impact of Jean Lurçat and Picasso, and a Crucifixion shown at the Mayor Gallery in 1933 was juxtaposed with a Picasso in Herbert Read’s Art Now and bought by the collector Sir Michael Sadler.  

With the coming of war in 1939, Bacon was exempt from military service on account of his asthma. He spent 1941 painting in Hampshire, before returning to London where he met Lucian Freud and was close to Graham Sutherland. From these years emerged the works which he later considered as the beginning of his career, pre-eminently the partial bodies of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 which was first shown at the Lefevre Gallery to unease and acclaim alike. Bacon became central to an artistic milieu in post-war Soho, which included Lucian Freud, Michael Andrews, the photographer John Deakin, Henrietta Moraes, Isabel Rawsthorne and others.

The early 1950s saw a period of success and rootlessness. Bacon’s first post-war solo exhibition included the first of many works inspired by Velazquez’s 1650 Portrait of Pope Innocent X and showed his use of characteristic enclosing frameworks. The paintings of Popes, which established his reputation, alternated with those of contemporary figures in suits who were similarly entrapped; however, following a trip to Egypt and South Africa in 1950 a lighter tonality emerged in paintings of sphinxes and of animals. During this period, Peter Lacey became Bacon’s lover and inspired homoerotic images of wrestlers derived from Eadweard Muybridge’s Victorian photographs in Animal LocomotionAnimals in Motion and The Human Figure in Motion; the photographs became a habitual source, just as the theme of sexual encounter persisted. In Italy in 1954, Bacon avoided seeing Velazquez’s Pope Innocent X in Rome and his own paintings at the Venice Biennale, where he shared the British pavilion with Ben Nicholson and Freud.

In 1961, Bacon settled in Reece Mews, South Kensington, where he remained for the rest of his life, and in the following year the Tate Gallery organised a major touring retrospective which saw the resumption of his use of the triptych which would become his characteristic format. At that time he recorded the first of the interviews with the critic David Sylvester which would constitute the canonical text on his own work. In 1963-4, Bacon’s international reputation was confirmed with his retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1963) and by the publication of Ronald Alley’s catalogue raisonée. On the eve of Bacon’s large retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris (1971), his long-time lover George Dyer committed suicide and this event left haunting echoes in ensuing paintings.

In the 1970s Bacon travelled regularly to New York and Paris, and publications helped to establish the popular image of his work as a reflection of the anxiety of the modern condition. Further international exhibitions reinforced the perception of Bacon as the greatest British painter since J.M.W. Turner. His works from this period were dominated by the triptych, but the figures grew calmer and were set against flat expanses of colour. In isolated images without a human presence, an animal power was retained in segments of dune and waste land.

Bacon died following a bout of pneumonia in 1992.

Portrait of George Dyer Staring at Blind Cord
Lithograph, 1966
33.5 x 25cm (image)

Henrietta Moraes  Lithograph, 1966 27.5 x 27cm (image)

Henrietta Moraes
Lithograph, 1966
27.5 x 27cm (image)

WORKS FOR SALE:

Both of the works above are for sale, including gold leafed frames and museum standard mounting and glazing.
These prints were two of a suite of five, produced to accompany Bacon’s exhibition of seventeen paintings at Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1966. As with all prints from this series, they are unsigned, but are in excellent condition, and look absolutely stunning with bespoke gold leaf frames, anti-reflective museum glass and a thick, conservation-standard mount.

Please email us at gallery@gallagherandturner.co.uk or call on 0191 261 4465 for more information or to purchase them. They are sold as a pair for £1,350 or at £740 each.

More images of the frames are below, although please note the colours in the close images above are more accurate.

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