Francis Bacon (British artist)

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2015-06-26 10:58:24

Francis Bacon (28 October 1909 – 28 April 1992) was an Irish-born British artist regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century.

History

Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909, and settled in London in 1929 to begin a career as an interior decorator. Whilst earning a living designing furniture and rugs, he began to paint - despite having had no formal artistic training. Despite painting throughout the 1930s, his breakout came in 1944 with his work 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion'.

The sale of his next major work 'Painting' (1946) allowed him to move to Monte Carlo, where he would spend the next few years until running out of money. He returned to London in the late 1940s, having become so poor whilst away that he could no longer afford canvases to paint on. Forced to turn over existing works and paint on the other side, he discovered that he preferred working on this untreated surface and continued to use the 'wrong' side of canvases for the rest of his career.

Bacon developed his reputation as an artist throughout the 1950s, becoming a regular figure in Soho drinking establishments such as The Colony Room. It was during this period he developed a close friendship and rivalry with painter Lucien Freud, which would inspire the two to create some of their finest works. Bacon also took a short stint as a tutor at the Royal College of Art, along with frequent gambling trips around Europe.

The 1950s was perhaps one of Bacon's most creative, as he began to experiment with the themes of isolation and imagery including screaming heads, popes, caged animals, and distorted figures. He also became involved in a number of destructive love affairs, culminating in 1964 when he met career criminal George Dyer.

The two men began a relationship that would inspire Bacon - producing numerous portraits of Dyer during a period in which his mainly figurative works were based on friends and contemporaries. However, the pair - each man a borderline alcoholic - began fighting regularly. Their relationship began to disintegrate into violence, and in October 1971 Dyer killed himself with an overdose of barbiturates whilst accompanying Bacon to an exhibition in Paris.

Bacon continued to produce important works throughout the 1970s and 80s, including several dark and meditative self-portraits. He died on 28 April 1992 of a cardiac arrest, whilst on holiday in Madrid.

Notable sales

Study for a Portrait 1953

Study for a Portrait 1953 far surpassed its £11m estimate when it sold for £18m at Christie’s on June 28 2011. The oil on canvas, which depicts an unknown figure, had never before appeared at auction.

Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud

Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud, oil on canvas, 1964, brought $37,097,999 at Sotheby's London on February 10th in 2011.

Triptych, 1976

In December, 2010-12-09 Triptych, 1976 sold for $86.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction, beating the previous high price for a Bacon work which was £52.7 million paid for Study For Innocent X.

See main article: Top 10 Francis Bacon paintings sold at auction

Three Studies of Lucian Freud 1969

In November 2013 Bacon's 1969 triptych sold for $142,405,000 – making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

 

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