Last month, to mark the 108th anniversary of Francis Bacon’s birth, the English Heritage honoured him with a blue plaque at his chaotic London studio-home 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington. One of the most famous works that he painted there was Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962. We delve into the ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’ to find out some things you may not know about the piece:
Did you know the left panel was repainted in March 1962 having originally been white, pale in colour? The portraits title, ‘has proved resistant to interpretation, as though its transgressive content abrogated the possibility of defining the iconography of the triptych’.
The genuinely violent nature of the painting comes to light as the right panel ‘was influenced by Cimabue’s Crucifixion’, which ‘reminded him of a worm crawling down a cross’
Rolf Laessoe contended that ‘the figure on the right, dressed in a black body stocking or tights, referred to Bacon’s claim that he was expelled from the family home in 1926’.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, FSA. 62-04 Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962. Catalogue Raisonné Volume III, page 682-687.
“I am very influenced by places – by the atmosphere of a room … I just knew from the very moment that I came here that I would be able to work here.” – Francis Bacon
On the 108th anniversary of his birth, English Heritage have honoured Francis Bacon with a blue plaque at his chaotic London studio-home 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington.
Bacon moved to 7 Reece Mews, a converted Victorian coach house, in 1961. The tiny studio on the first floor was to become the most important room in the artist’s life and his main home and studio until his death in 1992. Soon after moving into Reece Mews, Bacon completed his first large-scale triptych, Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962. Over the next three decades he created many of his most significant works there, including portraits and self-portraits, among them Portrait of George Dyer Talking, 1966.
“I work much better in chaos. I couldn’t work if it was a beautifully tidy studio, it would be absolutely impossible for me…Chaos for me breeds images.” – Francis Bacon
The chaotic nature of Bacon’s studio in 7 Reece Mews has become legendary. He used the walls to mix and test paints and he littered the studio with used paint tubes, jars of loose pigment, paintbrushes, utensils, tin cans, sticks of pastel, pieces of fabric, empty bottles of turpentine, cans of spray paint and of fixative, tins of household paint and countless roller sponges. Paint brushes, cut off ends of thick corduroy trousers, cashmere sweaters, ribbed socks and cotton flannels all featured among the tools of Bacon’s trade, which attests to the sheer range of his painting techniques.
In 1998, six years after Bacon’s death, the studio and its entire contents including the walls, doors, floor and ceiling were removed and painstakingly recreated in The Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, the city in which Bacon was born on 28 October 1909. Today, 7 Reece Mews is in the care of The Estate of Francis Bacon.
The English Heritage London blue plaques scheme, which has been running for 150 years, links significant figures of the past to the buildings in which they lived and worked.
“It’s a great idea to put up a blue plaque for Francis Bacon at the idiosyncratic, almost insanely eccentric, tiny upstairs flatlet in which he did some of his finest work. I’m sure he would have loved it.” – Author and broadcaster, Melvyn Bragg
Bacon is also presently recognised by two other plaques. A National Art Collections Fund plaque marks where the artist and other notable residents lived at 7 Cromwell Place, London. A Dublin Tourism plaque marks 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin, where the artist was born on this day in 1909.
From 14 October to 4 February 2018, the ARoS Museum in Denmark will be displaying works by Francis Bacon as part of their ‘Bacon, Freud, and the London Painters‘ exhibition, in collaboration with Tate London.
The exhibition will present works from some of the most visionary and uncompromising post-war painters and marks the beginning of a collaboration between ARos and Tate London.
The works of Francis Bacon that can be viewed in the exhibition include Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake), 1955 (pictured), Figure in a Landscape, 1945, Dog, 1952, Reclining Woman, 1961, Study for Portrait on Folding Bed, 1963, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966, Three Figures and Portrait, 1975, Second Version of Triptych 1944, 1988, as well as two sketches from Bacon.
In addition to paintings from Francis Bacon, the exhibition includes works from Lucian Freud, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, William Coldstream, R.B. Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego and Euan Uglow.
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting the ARoS Museum for all confirmation regarding the display.
For our next ‘Catalogue Raisonné Focus’, we take a look at Triptych, 1967, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, with it also being five decades this month since the portrait was delivered as a wet piece of artwork to Marlborough Fine Art.
In his diary Bacon recorded that he began work on the triptych on the 21st August 1967. The portrait has often been referred to as Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’, however, ‘Bacon repeatedly complained that the long title was not his intention, saying he had merely remarked that he had been reading Eliot’s verse drama at the time’.
Two women on the left panel ‘lie motionless, disengaged, on a Spartan raised floor; unpainted, it resembles two stacked canvasses’. The portrait’s title could relate to the women in the portrait who could be ‘identified as Eliot’s Doris and Dusty’, whilst the man on the telephone who’s reflected in the mirror on the right hand panel might be Pereira.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, FSA. 67-16 Triptych, 1967. Catalogue Raisonné Volume III, page 858-859.
The show marks the centenary of the death of artist Edgar Degas and celebrates his lifetime’s achievements. Within the exhibition there will be a range of his work including painting, pastels, drawings, watercolours, prints of different types of counterproofs and bronze and wax sculptures.
The exhibition’s final section examines Degas’s artistic legacy in the 20th and 21st centuries, notably in the work of Walter Sickert, Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj, Ryan Gander and Francis Bacon. It is here that Two Figures, 1953, makes it’s mark, on show for the first time since the Grand Palais ‘Francis Bacon’ exhibition of 1971.
Bacon painted Two Figures, 1953, at the Berkshire cottage of Peter Lacy, during the most intense stage of their love affair. The ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’ remarks on the painting:
‘The curtained background is augmented with extra vertical striations through the two heads, simultaneously diffusing and activating the embrace, while the textures of the flesh and white sheets are painted with exquisitely directed vigour and élan. The ‘mahogany’ bed-heads, an atypically domestic inclusion, was anticipated in (or repeated in) ‘Lying Figure’, c.1953 (53-21).’
Word ref: Fitzwilliam Museum website and the ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’, 2016, Voll II, p. 360.
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting the Fitzwilliam Museum for all confirmation regarding the display.
Francis Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm, 1955 and Study of Red Pope, 1962. 2nd version, 1971, are due to be included in a free public display in London by Christies.
Until this display and auction, the location of Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm, 1955 was untraceable during the compiling of the catalogue raisonné. The painting’s reappearance is considered a remarkable reappearance of Francis Bacon art. The piece was last exhibited in 1962, at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin, and acquired by the present owners in the following year.
The auction house highlights that Study of Red Pope, 1962. 2nd version, 1971 has been unseen in public since its unveiling at Bacon’s landmark retrospective at the Grand Palais 46 years ago. Martin Harrison FSA compares the work to its first version (Study from Innocent X, 1962) in the ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’:
‘The paint is applied more sparingly, and indeed almost half the canvas is left unpainted. On the other hand, Bacon introduced an entirely new element in the later painting, the figure (presumably George Dyer) seen reflected in the curved mirror to the right.’
The display of these rarely seen Bacon works begin on 30 September at Christies’ King Street address, proceeding their ‘Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction’ in October, find out more via Christie’s website.
Word reference: Christies website and the ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting the Christies for all confirmation regarding the display.
For our next ‘Catalogue Raisonné Focus’, we look at Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968, which is currently on display at the Musée Fabre as part of their ‘Francis Bacon / Bruce Nauman. Face to Face’ exhibition.
In Portrait of George Dyer, 1967, Bacon’s diary referenced ‘George folded’ and this representation can be directly related to this portrait of George Dyer.
The smartly-attired Dyer is only a rehearsal for the image that appears in the mirror, where his head is ‘sliced and severed into two parts’.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, FSA. 68-05 Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968. Catalogue Raisonné Volume III, page 880-881.
The exhibition brings together works from different periods, art movements and disciplines where you can discover 20th Century art history, stories and dialogue. Other artists on show in the exhibition include Vincent van Gogh, Egon Schiele, Pablo Picasso and Louise Bourgeois.
The five Francis Bacon works on display include Portrait of John Edwards 1988, Seated Figure circa 1984, Study of the Human Body 1987 (oil on canvas), Study of the Human Body 1987 (oil and pastel on canvas) and Two Owls circa 1957.
In addition to these, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge) 1961 as part of its collection and the exhibition.
Word ref: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag website
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag for all confirmation regarding the display.
Francis Bacon’s Henrietta Moraes, 1966, is currently on display at the National Museum Cardiff as part of their ‘Bacon to Doig: Modern Masterpieces from a Private Collection’ exhibition.
The exhibition brings together one of the UK’s most important private collections of modern British art. It was created over a number of decades with work often being purchased before the artists were famous. In addition to Francis Bacon, there is work from other British artists of the 20th century, including Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney.
Word ref: National Museum Cardiff website
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting the National Museum Cardiff for all confirmation regarding the display.