Christie's to reunite two halves of lost Francis Bacon painting

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2016-02-29 13:39:08

A forthcoming Christie's sale will reunite two halves of a lost Francis Bacon artwork for the first time in decades.

The Modern British and Irish Art sale in London will include two early paintings by Irish artist Tony O’Malley – with the reverse of each canvas concealing half of the unfinished nude by Bacon, painted in the late 1950s.

In 1959 Bacon traveled to the Cornish town to work on paintings for his forthcoming exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in London. He rented 3 Porthmeor Studios, from the sculptor William Redgrave and his wife Mary, amidst a row of studios used by artists including Ben Nicholson.

He had intended to stay for six months, during an important period in his career during which he began to experiment with colour, technique and his use of space within his works.
However, his stay was quickly cut short following a series of arguments with his then partner Ronnie Belton. Having moved out swiftly, the owners of the studio then disposed of the unfinished works he left behind, giving the canvases to their artist friends to be resued.

Painter Tony O’Malley received a canvas featuring one of Bacon's unfinished nudes, and was propositioned by an unscrupulous art dealer to finish the work himself. He refused, cut the work in two, and used the reverse sides of the separate canvases to create two of his own works, Currach, Clare Island and Evening Landscape Tehidy Hospital.

Now reunited for the first time in 60 years, the two canvases will now be offered as a single lot, with an estimated price of £20,000-£30,000.

Further highlights from the sale will include Reconstructed Head by Louis le Brocquy, estimated at £30,000-£50,000; 25.12.74 by John Hoyland, also estimated at £30,000-£50,000; and Terrace in Provence by Mary Fedden, estimated at £30,000-£30,000.

The Christie's Modern British and Irish Art sale takes place in South Kensington on March 17.

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