Francis Bacon (born 1909, died 1992)

Francis Bacon was born at 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin on 28 October 1909. His father, a former captain in the British army, had moved to Ireland to breed and train racehorses. At the age of 16, he moved to London and subsequently lived for two years in Berlin and Paris. Following his return to London in 1929, he established himself as an interior designer. He also began to use oil paints, although he was subsequently to destroy all his work from that period.

Bacon was an entirely self taught painter and it was an exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso that inspired him to make his first drawings and paintings. This influence can clearly be seen in the biomorphic figures of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944). It was the exhibition of this triptych at a group show at the Lefevre Gallery in 1945 that established Bacon’s post-war reputation. The Hanover Gallery staged Bacon’s first one man exhibition in 1949. One of the seminal events in post-war British culture, the exhibition included full length figures and a series of tormented heads.

By the 1950s, Bacon had developed his distinctive style as a figure painter, depicting distorted human forms screaming in physical and psychic pain within stark spaces, bedrooms, bathrooms and cages. Subject matter included portraits of friends and lovers and images drawn from movie stills, medical photos and reproductions of historic paintings such as Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Vincent Van Gogh's The Painter on the Road to Tarascon. Bacon’s Study After Pope Innocent X (1950) depicted the subject enthroned and enclosed by a box and drew attention to the discrepancy between the belief systems present at the time of Velazquez and the contemporary discrediting of authority.

Bacon quickly gained international recognition and acclaim. His first solo exhibition outside England was held in 1953 at Durlacher Brothers in New York and his first retrospective was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1955. In 1962 the Tate Gallery organized a Bacon retrospective, a modified version of which traveled to Mannheim, Turin, Zurich and Amsterdam. Other important exhibitions were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1963 and the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971. Paintings from 1968 to 1974 was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1975 and retrospectives of his work were held at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1989-90 and at the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1996.

Bacon was an outspoken, volatile character, well known for his taste for gambling and alcohol. In 1964, he began a friendship with Eastender George Dyer, who he met while the latter was burgling his apartment. Their relationship was stormy and in 1971, on the eve of Bacon's major retrospective at the Grand Palais, Dyer committed suicide. In 1974, Bacon met John Edwards, a young Eastender with whom he formed an enduring, paternal relationship. Bacon died on April 28, 1992 in Madrid and bequeathed his entire estate to Edwards after his death. Edwards, in turn, donated the contents of Francis Bacon's chaotic studio at 7 Recce Mews, South Kensington, to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where the studio was carefully reconstructed in the gallery.

The largest retrospective of Bacon's work to date opened at Tate Britain in September 2008 and travelled on to the Prado Gallery in Madrid as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

On 14 May 2008, Triptych, 1976 sold at Sotheby's contemporary art sale for €55,465 million ($86.28 million), a record for the highest price ever paid for a post-war work of art at auction.

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Francis Bacon

Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres

Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres, 1983-1984

New aquisition (see all) Lithograph Edition size: 150 Image height 128 cm, width 90 cm Sheet height 128 cm, width 90 cm