Francis Bacon

Nationality : British

Birth Year : 1909

Death Year : 1992

Place of Birth : Dublin, Ireland

Place of Death : Madrid, Spain

Specialities : Modern Art

Biography

Occupation: Painting 
Movement:  Expressionism,  Figurative Art      
Famous Artworks
“Crucifixion,” 1933
“Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,” 1944
“Painting,” 1946
“Study after Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” 1953
“Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes,” 1963
“Triptych, May–June 1973,” 1973
“Study for a Self-Portrait – Triptych,” 1986
Not to be confused with the former Chancellor of England, Francis Bacon (the artist) was a British painter who achieved international acclaim with his dark but poignant renderings of figures. Often set on steely, cage-like ground, his subjects were largely abstracted and isolated victims of Bacon’s bleak interpretation of the human condition.
Early Life
Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October of 1909, Bacon grew up in a wealthy family descended from the cultured aristocracy of Old England. His father, Captain Anthony Bacon, was a racehorse trainer believed to be a direct relation of Sir Nicholas Bacon, brother of the artist’s namesake. His mother, Christina Winifred Firth, was heiress to a Sheffield steel and coal mine business, while his great-great-grandmother was a known lover of Romantic poet Lord Byron.
Bacon’s childhood was dominated by violent conflicts with his father who, according to varying reports, was physically abusive and intolerant of the artist’s budding homosexuality. His nanny Jessie Lightfoot played a pivotal role in raising the young boy and sought to protect him from his father’s ire. Bacon’s shyness and effeminacy created friction between father and son, and it has been reported that the Captain went so far as to order a groom to horsewhip the boy. He was finally disowned when his father caught him admiring himself in the mirror clothed only in his mother’s underwear.
Street Education
The end of 1926 found Bacon in London, dodging rent, reading philosophy and living on the £3 a week budget his mother’s trust fund allowed him. He supplemented his income with petty theft and domestic service but remained restless and bored. He worked briefly as a secretary at a women’s boutique but was fired after an altercation with the owner. He drifted through London’s homosexual underbelly, often ensnaring a rich older man to temporarily finance him. One such gentleman was a relative of his mother’s, named Harcourt-Smith, who in 1927 took Bacon to Germany and exposed him to the decadent, baroque lifestyle of Berlin.
Having saved some of the money Harcourt-Smith had lavished upon his lover, Bacon moved to Paris for the next year and a half. Almost upon his arrival, he encountered French pianist Yvonne Bocquentin at an exhibition opening and moved into her house in Chantilly for three months. He spent this time learning French, reading and visiting cinemas and galleries in the city. It was in Paris that he saw Nicolas Poussin’s The Massacre of the Innocents, a work to which he later often referred. After seeing an exhibition of Picasso’s drawings in 1927, Bacon was inspired to develop his own career as an artist. In the autumn of that year, once he had mastered the language, Bacon moved out of Chantilly to the Hotel Delambre in Montparnasse, where he lived alone for the remainder of his time in France.  
Life in London
Moving back to London in late 1928, he took up work as an interior designer, converting a garage in South Kensington into his studio. He advertised himself in local newspapers as a ‘gentleman’s companion’ and made the acquaintance of a cousin of Douglas Cooper’s, whose collection of modern art was thought to be the finest in England. The gentleman approached Cooper to foster Bacon’s developing talent in furniture and interior design and was successful in commissioning some work for the fledgling craftsman. It was this fortunate connection that allowed Bacon a foothold into the legitimate art world.
In the winter of 1929, Bacon staged his first exhibition – of a collection of rugs and furniture, along with his earliest known surviving painting Watercolour. The reception of Bacon’s work was largely positive; he received commissions for furniture and was featured in various design publications. Throughout the 1930s, Bacon mounted several exhibitions of his works, and was speculated to have shared a studio with Australian artist Roy de Maistre, who would later become a close friend and mentor.
His breakthrough came in 1944 with the triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, a painterly distortion of faces with open mouths, motifs that would recur in his later works. The painting gained public traction, and was later donated to the Tate Gallery in 1953.
From the 1950s to the end of his career in the early ’90s, the unwavering theme of his art was the loneliness and isolation of the individual. His compositions usually involved a single figure in a boxed-in interior, almost as if trapped in eternity.
Legacy
Bacon died of a heart attack on April 28, 1992, in Madrid, Spain. His entire estate was bequeathed to his long-time friend John Edwards, who donated the contents of the artist’s studio to the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin. The same studio has since been reconstructed inside the gallery.
Timeline
1909  -  Born in Dublin
1911  -  Move to London
1918  -  Return to Ireland
1927  -  Moves to Berlin
1929  -  Begins working as an interior decorator
1943  -  Begins working again after more than a decade living as a drifter
1946  -  Moves to Monte Carlo
1964  -  Becomes involved with George Dyer
1974  -  Meets John Edwards, who becomes his good friend
1992  -  Dies of a heart attack in Madrid
Exhibitions
1933  -  Mayor Gallery, London
1934  -  First solo show at the Transition Gallery, London
1945  -  Lefevre Gallery, London
1946  -  Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
1998  -  Hayward Gallery, London
1999  -  San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art
2002  -  Fondation Van Gogh, Arles
2005  -  Faggionato Fine Art, London
2005  -  National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
2008  -  Retrospective Tate Britain, London
2009  -  Centennial at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Museums/Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Tate Gallery, London
Falmouth Art Gallery
Dublin City Gallery
Manchester City Art Gallery
Musée Cantini, Marseilles
National Gallery of Victoria
Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid
The Albertina, Vienna
Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
Books/Publications
“Francis Bacon: The Final Vision,” by Michel Archimbaud
“Bacon-Picasso: The Life of Images,” by Anne Baldassari
“Francis Bacon,” by Andrew Brighton
“Francis Bacon’s Studio,” by Margarita Cappock
“Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation,” by Gilles Deleuze
“Francis Bacon,” by Christophe Domino

See More Lots FOR FREE
at Blouin Art Sales Index
ART PRICES

LOT SOLD (2001 - 2009)

1369

MAX PRICE

$86,281,000

AVG PRICE

$13,785,284

TOTAL SALES (2001 - 2009)

$523,840,807

 Trois ?tudes pour un autoportrait (after, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1983) by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Trois ?tudes pour un autoportrait (after, Three St

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$23,103  USD

 Triptych (after, Triptych 1983) by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Triptych (after, Triptych 1983)

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$28,434  USD

 Triptyque Ao?t 1972 (after, Triptych August 1972) by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Triptyque Ao?t 1972 (after, Triptych August 1972)

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$35,543  USD

 Lying Figure by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Lying Figure

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$23,103  USD

 Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$35,543  USD

 Seated Figure (after, Study for a Portrait 1981) by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Seated Figure (after, Study for a Portrait 1981)

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$14,217  USD

 Triptych: right panel by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Triptych: right panel

Phillips, London

January 21, 2016

$5,687  USD

 Portrait de Michel Leiris by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Portrait de Michel Leiris

Il Ponte, Via Pontaccio, Milan

December 16, 2015

$14,919  USD

 Taken from an old press cutting of Woodrow Wilson in Paris for the peace conference 1919 by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon

Taken from an old press cutting of Woodrow Wilson

Segre Subastas, Madrid

December 15, 2015

$5,472  USD

NEWS

Wildenstein Tax Fraud Case Delayed, Diary Sheds Light on Francis Bacon’s Early Career, and More

By Mostafa Heddaya | January 6, 2016

— Wildenstein Tax Fraud Case Suspended Until May 4: After beginning on Monday in French criminal court, the Wildenstein tax fraud trial was suspended Wednesday as the Court of Cassation...

Sales Kick Off Slow But Steady at Art Basel Miami Beach

By Judd Tully | December 3, 2015

MIAMI BEACH — The 14th edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, the venerable and polished Swiss imported event presenting contemporary art, appeared to lose a bit of market steam on Wednesday during...

Paris Museums Reopen, Sculptor Adel Abdessemed Responds to Attacks, and More

By Noelle Bodick | November 16, 2015

— Paris Museums Reopen After Closure for National Mourning: The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, and numerous other Paris museums have been given permission to...

Gagosian Looks at Francis Bacon’s Late Period

By Noelle Bodick | November 12, 2015

In old age, masters like Titian, Velázquez, and Rembrandt loosened up, allowing for more free-flowing brushstrokes, informal compositions, and unplanned events to enter their canvases. The late...

Sotheby’s Reassuring $294M Contemporary Evening Sale

By Judd Tully | November 12, 2015

The contemporary art market settled down to a steadier pace at Sotheby’s New York Wednesday evening, turning in a solid and respectable $294,850,000 sale for the 44 lots that sold. Ten of...

Sotheby's $377M "A. Alfred Taubman: Masterworks” Sale

By Judd Tully | November 5, 2015

The big fall auction season in New York got off to a glitzy yet tentative start at Sotheby’s with “The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Masterworks” hauling in $377,034,000. The tally squeaked by...

    View More
SLIDESHOWS

Francis Bacon: Late Paintings at Gagosian Gallery

By Noelle Bodick | November 11, 2015

Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale

By Regina Mogilevskaya | May 11, 2015

Sotheby's Frieze Contemporary Art Evening Auction

By Regina Mogilevskaya | October 17, 2014

Sotheby's, Christie's, and Phillips Court Frieze

By Benjamin Park | October 10, 2014