Background: Francis Bacon was born on 28 October 1909. He was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. Bacon’s painterly but abstracted figures typically appear isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds.
Achievements: He began painting during his early 20s and worked only sporadically until his mid-30s. Before this time he drifted, earning his living as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs. Later, he admitted that his career was delayed because he had spent too 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 mid 1950s that sealed his reputation as a notably bleak 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 by painting variations on the Crucifixion and later focused on half-human, half-grotesque portraits, best exemplified by the 1949 “Heads in a Room” series. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover George Dyer, Bacon’s art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with themes and motifs of death. The climax of this late period came with his 1982 “Study for Self-Portrait”, and his late masterpiece Study for a SelfPortrait- Triptych, 1985-86.
Despite his existentialist outlook on life expressed through his paintings, Bacon always appeared to be a bon vivant, spending much of his middle and later life eating, drinking and gambling in London’s Soho. Despite Margaret Thatcher having famously described him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”, he was the subject of two major Tate retrospectives during his lifetime and received a third in 2008. Bacon 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 presumed destroyed major works, iincluding Popes from the early 1950s and Heads from the 1960s, surfaced on the art market.