Francis Bacon

About Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was an Irish-born, British figurative painter known for his raw, abstracted crucifixions, popes, animals and portraits. A self-taught and prolific artist, Bacon focused on single subjects in series often creating triptych or diptychs.

Working as an interior designer and moving between London and Paris in his 20s, Bacon was inspired to start panting after seeing an exhibition of work by Pablo Picasso at Chez Paul Rosenberg gallery in 1927. In 1933, he received some critical attention for Crucifixion but his real breakthrough came in 1944 with a triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. These canvasses, based on the Eumenides or Furies of Aeschylus’s Oresteia, depicted three anthropomorphic creatures against a burnt orange ground. Exhibited in London at Lefevre Gallery during the war, the works resonate as a stark, existential statement on the human condition.

“I am always surprised when people speak of violence in my work. I don’t find it at all violent myself…There is an element of realism in my pictures which might perhaps give the impression, but life is so violent; so much more violent than anything I can do!” Archimbaud, Francis Bacon (2010)

In 1954, Bacon represented Britain at the Venice Biennale alongside Lucian Freud, Reg Butler and Ben Nicholson. After travels to South Africa and periods in Morocco, Bacon took a studio in 1961 at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

A retrospective exhibition of his work in 1962 at the Tate Gallery was followed by another at the Guggenheim Museum in New York with a catalogue raisonne published in 1964. In 1975, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted another retrospective, the first there for a living artist.

Bacon who was charismatic, articulate and well-read was also known to spend many evenings drinking and gambling with friends including Graham Sutherland and Lucian Freud – with whom he famously fell out in the mid-1970s.

In 1971, Bacon’s estranged partner George Dyer committed suicide. The death continued to haunt Bacon, his life and artwork, until his own death in 1992. Since his passing, the market value of his work has continued to grow. His Three Studies of Lucien Freud set a world record for the most expensive piece of art sold at auction in 2013.