Francis Bacon News






Francis Bacon in the 1950s

by Michael Peppiatt


From the screaming heads and snarling chimpanzees of the late 1940s to the anonymous figures trapped in tortured isolation some ten years later, British artist Francis Bacon during one crucial decade created many of the most central and memorable images of his entire career. The artist enters the decade of the 1950s in search of himself and his true subject; he finishes ten years later having completed some of his great masterpieces and having acquired technical mastery over one of the most disturbing and revealing visions of the twentieth century. This book brings both Bacon the man and Bacon the painter vividly to life, focusing for the first time on this key period in his development. Michael Peppiatt, the leading authority on Bacon and a close friend of the artist for thirty years, offers a groundbreaking study that reveals essential keys to understanding Bacon's mysterious and subversive art. The book presents a wide range of paintings (many of them rarely seen before) representing all of Bacon's major themes during the 1950s, analyzes the significant developments in his art, and assesses the particular importance of key works.

Also included is the most comprehensive account of the artist's life in the 1950s ever written and a series of fascinating and revealing conversations between Peppiatt and Bacon in 1964, 1987, and 1989. It is published in association with the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.





     20 Illustrations, 70 colour images, 224 pages

     Format: Hardback  ISBN: 0-300-12192-X

     Price: £29.99  Publication Date: 30th September 2006




Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s


Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 26th Sep 2006 - 10th Dec 2006


A rare and exciting insight into the early career of the artist Francis Bacon.


Francis Bacon (1909 -1992) created many of the most central and memorable images of his entire career during the 1950s. From the screaming heads and snarling chimpanzees of the late 1940s through the early Popes and portraits of Van Gogh to the anonymous figures trapped in tortured isolation of some ten years later. For a painter whose imagination so rarely strayed beyond the walls of dark claustrophobic interiors, there were even glimpses of landscape, recollections of Africa and the South of France. It was a period which saw Bacon still searching for himself and eager to explore a variety of impressions and take all kinds of risks.

Throughout his life, Bacon carefully controlled the way his work was selected, presented and even interpreted. He ensured that all museum exhibitions devoted to his work took the form of classic retrospectives, with the emphasis placed on his most recent paintings and especially on the late triptychs. As a result, the latter part of Bacon’s oeuvre has been far more widely exhibited than the earlier half of his career.

This exhibition will take the thirteen Francis Bacon paintings in the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection as the nucleus for a show which will include loans from public and private collections across the world, a number of which have rarely been seen in public before. The exhibition will explore the major themes that interested Bacon between the late 1940s and the early 1960s, affording an unprecedented insight into the artist’s imaginative powers as well as his constantly evolving sources and techniques.

The exhibition is curated by Michael Peppiatt on behalf of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. A fully illustrated catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition.



Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s
January 27 - April 15, 2007
Baker/Rowland Exhibition Galleries


Francis Bacon in the 1950s is the first exhibition to look in detail at this extraordinarily fertile decade in Bacon's life and affords the viewer unprecedented insight into the artist's imaginative powers as well as his constantly evolving sources and techniques. Although the most fruitful years in Bacon's career, they were also the most tumultuous and tortured in the artist's unsettled existence; Bacon was regularly without a fixed address, borrowing rooms and changing studios with bewildering frequency. 

By the 1950s, Bacon had acquired sufficient technical prowess to forcefully express his vision, but he was still not fully in command of his disturbing images, which appear to rise from a dark well of the unconscious. Yet the rawness and sense of urgency exhibited in these pictures transcend any pictorial problems that Bacon eventually did come to resolve with experience and technical ability. 

From the screaming heads and snarling chimpanzees of the late 1940s through the early Popes and portraits of van Gogh to the anonymous figures trapped in tortured isolation of some ten years later, Bacon created many of the most central and memorable images of his entire career during this time. Also making an appearance were dogs, owls, and elephants; sphinxes, children, and naked women; heads of William Blake, self-portraits, and portraits of friends. For this painter whose imagination so rarely strayed beyond the walls of a dark, claustrophobic interior, there were even glimpses of the African and French landscape


 Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real


   Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen   September 16, 2006 – January 7, 2007




Dramatic depictions of human forms - writhing painfully, dissolving, wrestling or engulfing one another, seated or in motion - are ubiquitous in the work of Francis Bacon (1909-1992), the most eminent 20th century British painter. Like no other artist of his generation, Bacon scenarized the ordeal of the vulnerable, defenselessly exposed body. His individuals are usually alone, isolated from their surroundings, trapped in empty, windowless rooms or behind the bars of cages. Bacon’s figures act on stage-like platforms, doubled over in torment, sliding into formlessness. By wiping, scratching, and erasures, Bacon converted the picture surface into a field of perpetually irritating activity - and in the process, created images of great forcefulness, sensibility, and beauty. At the center of this retrospectively conceived exhibition will be Bacon’s disturbing yet captivating studies of the human figure. The presentation will consists of approximately 60 works, among them both of Bacons owned by the Kunstsammlung since 1964 and 1986 respectively: Lying Figure No. 3 of 1959, and Man in Blue V of 1954. The accent will be on the painterly expression of a still prevalent sense of the loss of stable identity, and on a self that is vulnerable to “invisible forces” and threatened by deprivation of any secure place in the world.

Everything anecdotal or narrative has been excluded in favour of a concentration on the physical presence of human flesh. Bacon scenarizes bodies which appear mutable, vulnerable, or decrepit, while simultaneously asserting themselves with an aggressive, even boastful vitality. In aesthetically heightened form (for Bacon‘s images are always suggestively beautiful), such contradictoriness is conveyed in the form of the disquieting experience of the grandeur and finitude of human existence. Bacon said: “Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence ...” (Francis Bacon to Hugh Marlais Davies, 1973).



            Francis Bacon Nude: preview for The Violence of the Real, Duesseldorf 15/9/06


Bacon sought to rend the veil of false perceptions and ideas that continually superimposes itself on the factual. He shows us forms and human traits whose artistic appearance is as fascinating as their physical deformations are alarming. His beings – which occasionally regress to the zoomorphic level – remain for the most part isolated, moving tentatively on stage-like platforms, in empty, windowless rooms or in structures resembling cages. Bacon discovered stimuli for his agitated image world in the works of artists such as Michelangelo, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Degas and van Gogh, although he was inspired by reproductions rather than by originals. Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic sequences of human and animal locomotion, books containing medical illustrations, newspaper photographs showing current events: all provided him with impetus.

Like a kind of “mill,” Bacon reworked this flood of reproduced visual material. Only after being transformed and profoundly defamiliarized were individual subjects incorporated into his paintings. Manifesting itself in Bacon’s oeuvre is an aesthetic image world that is inextricably entangled with the existential abysmal.                                         

The 60 exhibited works – produced between 1945 and 1991, among them 10 triptychs, and photographic material from the artist‘s studio – provide insight into an unsettling yet captivating image world. Francis Bacon envisioned the human individual as a subject deprived of any stable (masculine) identity. Here we find a self that is exposed to “invisible forces,” one rendered incapable of locating itself securely in the world. To a large extent, this accounts for the continuing actuality of Bacon‘s creative achievement.






Alongside colour illustrations of all exhibited works, this 224 page volume includes texts by Armin Zweite, Peter Bürger, Martin Harrison, Daria Kolacka, Frank Laukötter and Maria Müller. Published by Hirmer Verlag, Munich. The price in the museum shop is 28.00 Euros.

The Department of Education and Communication presents materials and
photographs from the artist’s studio.



Long live mortality


A brilliantly conceived exhibition places works by Britart bad boy Damien Hirst next to paintings by Francis Bacon, revealing their shared obsession with flesh, decay and death. 


By Sarah Crompton, The Daily Telegraph, 11th July 2006




One of the most exciting developments in art in Britain in recent years is the way commercial galleries have started to mount shows to rival those planned by public institutions. And, although the current exhibition of Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon at the Gagosian Gallery in North London is comparatively small, its brilliance of conception - displaying these two artists alongside each other - and execution - full of air and thoughtfulness - puts many museum shows to shame.

The links between the two men are obvious. Just before his death in 1992, Bacon saw and admired Hirst's A Thousand Years (1990), the chilling glass tank displaying an entire life cycle as flies hatch, feed and rush to their deaths on an electronic fly-catcher. Seeing it again, its bleak cruelty still stuns.

For his part Hirst was, and is, clearly in awe of his great predecessor, a man whose obsession with flesh, decay and mortality was as intense as his own. The best piece on display at the Gagosian is directly inspired by that obsession. The Tranquility of Solitude (For George Dyer) (2006) takes the form of a triptych of vitrines.

In one, a flayed sheep's carcass, its tongue horrifically jutting from its mouth in throes of agony, pokes out of a lavatory bowl, a bloodied syringe in one bony leg, the detritus of drug-taking scattered on the floor; in the centre, a crucified carcass hangs over a basin, scalpels standing in a pot beneath; in the third, the carcass is wrenched so that it sits astride the lavatory, bending over a basin as if to vomit, vodka and pills strewn beneath it. A carefully removed watch lies on the sink.

The work puts paid, once and for all, to the idea that Hirst's preserved animals are some kind of gimmick. You may not like the piece, but anyone with eyes would have to acknowledge the seriousness of its intent, its savage depiction of abject loneliness (note the ironic title) and its oddly tender humanism.

The inspiration for this work hangs in the next room. Triptych May-June 1973 is one of many paintings made by Bacon as a tribute to George Dyer, his lover for seven years, who committed suicide in 1971, in their hotel room. Bacon was full of guilt about his death, believing that if he had not been so bound up in the retrospective of his work that was about to open, he would have been able to save him.

This emotion seeps into each panel of this giant canvas, in which Dyer's fleshy pink figure, pinned between two sharp parallels, bends - as in the Hirst - over a basin and a lavatory. In the central section he looms from a doorway, a dim lightbulb lighting his drama of despair, the shadow he casts on the floor looking like an image of the devil.

As always, the sheer power and control of Bacon's brushwork take the breath away. As you stand among the triptychs that dominate this show - and that the artist himself regarded as being among his best work - it is the beauty of the painting as much as the ferocity of the vision that is overwhelming.

In Triptych 1976, the panels are dominated by two huge ovoid heads, their features missing, their bodies vanishing into limbless sketches, their spinal chords and jutting bones exposed. In the central panel, a vulture tears at the flesh. But what a vulture, swooping into the frame on freely-rendered wings; and what flesh, revealed in tones of purple and red. A splash of yellow on the bag carried by the figure in the left frame completes the composition.

In these paintings, and the three-panelled portraits on display in an adjoining room, Bacon makes his images speak to one another, the shapes balancing and sliding into one another, a narrative unfolding across his closely controlled canvas.

In Four Studies for a Self Portrait, unusually for him, he puts the faces on top of one another, as if creating a totem pole. The top face dissolves into the one below, as if the features have melted; swirls of green define the dissolution. He is using the devices of film to make a movie in paint.

What's striking about Bacon is both how modern and how distinguished he seems. He fits perfectly comfortably alongside Hirst, but the glory of his technique allows him to take his place alongside Rembrandt, Velázquez and Picasso as well. His is an art of constant challenge, richer the longer you look at it.

In such company, Hirst's limitations are revealed. If Tranquility of Solitude reveals him at his best, then Like Flies Brushed Off the Wall We Fall (2006) - butterflies and flies trapped in high-gloss orange paint and arranged in an aesthetically pleasing shape - displays him at his most limited and superficial.

His work has become art on an industrial scale, produced to meet the demands of the market rather than of his own thought. He is repeating himself, occasionally to great effect, but within the same groove nonetheless.

You might argue that Bacon was doing the same, in great sequences of reworked images of screaming Popes and writhing bodies. But he could repeat an image while altering its execution. The hand that held the brush was as subtle as the mind behind it. Hirst has a subtle mind, but his execution is mechanical.

It is both ironic and admirable that a gallery so closely associated with the commercial propagation of conceptual art should mount a show that clearly offers both a celebration and a critique of its own star artist.

'Francis Bacon: Triptychs' and 'Damien Hirst: A Thousand Years and Triptychs' are at Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London WC1 (020 7841 9960), until Aug 4.



Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst

Until August 4


Time Out, London, Fri July 7 2006


An enthralment with mortality, a predilection for imprisoning flesh within transparent cubes, a slow descent into self-parody – yes, there are parallels between the careers of Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst. This show finds another link or, rather, Hirst opportunistically creates one.

Focusing on five triptychs from the 1970s, much of the gallery is given over to Bacon, who was notably variable by this point – sometimes throwing far too many elements into the mix. Through the raw painterly mist of Triptych 1976, for instance, you can discern an attacking bird, a blood-filled toilet and a headless harpy perched on a rail; they menace a figure whose elongated face appears to be part of a canvas within the image that has a fleshy and bloodied body mutating around it. It’s hysterical. By contrast In Memory of George Dyer (1971), whose subject clings to the toilet, casts a demonic shadow and pukes in the sink, is a true tenement symphony – pained, brutally spare and twice as powerful. The roomful of Bacon’s anguished popes and portraits, mostly from a decade earlier, is far more consistent; the popes, in particular, feel like some of the darkest and greatest paintings of the last century.

The less said about Hirst the better. He plays up his well-known love of Bacon in a series of triptychs; an execrable three-vitrine tribute features flayed sheep hunched in formaldehyde-filled bathrooms, stabbed with hypodermics and  mouths contorted in screams. Also on show, the still-extraordinary A Thousand Years (consisting of a cow's head, flies, sugar cubes and humming blue insect-o-cutor) illustrates how far he has fallen since 1990, when it was originally made.

Martin Herbert, Fri Jul 7



Francis Bacon’s Studio

By Margarita Cappock

The Villager, Volume 75, Number 30, December 14 - 20, 2005

Several years after Francis Bacon’s death in 1992, the executor of his estate, John Edwards, donated the contents of the English painter’s studio to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, the artist’s birthplace. Inside Bacon’s legendary studio were a maelstrom of photos, paint supplies, liquor bottles, destroyed and half-finished paintings, and other detritus from his life’s work. The Hugh Lane, utilizing a massive team of experts and archeologists, catalogued and moved the studio piece by piece, down to every paint tube cap, from London to Dublin and reconstructed the space for public view.

This book is an impressive documentation of both the move and the contents of the studio itself. Cappock pulls back the curtain on Bacon’s work, showing us hundreds of photographic sources, dozens of drawings (Bacons always said he never drew), several unfinished works including his last, and views of the studio in all its glory.

Cappock connects the various items from the studio to Bacon’s paintings, and the reproductions include rarely seen work from his entire career. We see Bacon’s obsession with his lover George Dyer, and the reliance he had on photos before, during, and after a painting’s completion. This book is a must have for fans of Bacon’s work, as well as a unique look into the artist’s private laboratory.







DANCE   SHERRY DAWN KNETTLE    VUE Weekly, Canada, 27 April, 2006.

Edmonton's independent arts and entertainment weekly magazine




Choreographer Emily Molnar had already heard painter Francis Bacon (a descendant of the Renaissance philosopher) was largely misunderstood when she first saw his work at the Tate Gallery in London years ago.

His work is known for its violent, disturbing nature, and with that in mind, Molnar searched out other qualities in the work that would eventually end up influencing her impressions of him as she prepared to choreograph a modern work for seven male dancers as part of Alberta Ballet’s Up Close.

“I liked the way he captured the figure of the body, how he showed motion, and the three-dimensionality of the work,” she says. She also noticed that he painted the male figure rather than using the more traditional female model.

Molnar recalled Bacon’s paintings and decided to incorporate some of her impressions of them into the piece “Portrait of a Suspended Grace,” a melding of ideas about the human body and its relationship to dance, music and visual art.

The choreographer weighed how much of her own interpretations to offer the dancers, and she decided to allow them to respond both to her ideas and their own about the paintings and music.

Describing the collaboration as a conversation, Molnar found that the classically trained dancers loved her choreographic process. “The music and paintings actually became a point of departure,” she says. “I gave the artists information, but then let them experience that with their own point of view.

“But dance is an abstract art, so the choreography doesn’t necessarily illustrate Bacon’s paintings or the words to the music,” she says, referring to an aria she chose by the composer Pergolesi.

Fri, Apr 28 (8 pm)
Up Close
By Alberta Ballet
Timms Centre for the Arts
(87 AVEnue & 112 Street), $30



Medical books 'inspired Bacon paintings'

Ireland Online 11/12/2005 


Controversial Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon used gruesome images in medical books for inspiration for some of his most shocking paintings, it was revealed today.

Dr Margarita Cappock, the head of the permanent collection at Dublin’s Hugh Lane gallery said textbooks on skin disorders, forensic pathology, surgery and x-ray techniques were behind some of Bacon’s most eye-catching paintings.

“He was very interested in medical imagery,” said Dr Cappock, who has just penned a book, Francis Bacon’s Studio, on the rebuilding of the artist’s painting den in the Dublin city gallery.

A painstaking restoration project got underway at the gallery in 1998 after his long-time companion donated the studio and its contents.

Among the 7,500 items – including dirty paint brushes, books, photographs, drawings and slashed canvases – found strewn across the floor of Bacon’s chaotic studio in South Kensington, London, there were sheets ripped from books containing images of diseased toes.

“Twelve other medical textbooks were found in the studio. Some contain relentlessly gruesome images, such as A Colour Atlas of Forensic Pathology and A Colour Atlas of Nursing Procedures,” she wrote.

“A lot of people are horrified by his paintings,” Dr Cappock admitted, adding a close examination of his distorted paintings can reveal people with skin flaws and bodies modelled on meat carcasses.

More than 100,000 people have been to view the lifelike reconstruction of the artists London studio in the Hugh Lane gallery since the walls, ceiling, doors and entire contents were moved to Dublin and opened in the gallery in 2001.

Dr Cappock said the 83-year-old artist, known to have a taste for alcohol and socialising, had stuck to his cramped studio in No 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington between 1961 and his death in 1992 as he liked the light in the building.

Dr Cappock revealed: “He said he liked to work in chaos as it bred images in him. The chaos was important to him.”

The book, which is being launched on Tuesday, revealed the materials found in the studio have shown a host of topics captured the attention of the artist including paranormal phenomena, political leaders, war and assassination attempts.

“Several loose leaves with features on the assassinations of Leon Trotsky, John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were found throughout the studio,” she said.

The author said Bacon had experienced a lot of violence during his life, from 1914 when his father went to work in the War Office in London, to their return to Ireland during the war of independence
Dr Cappock said Bacon had found it inhibiting to work from live subjects and had instead relied on photographs – with 1,000 black and white images and 420 colour photographs found in his studio.

“He only painted close friends and contemporaries, rarely took commissions, he felt he had to know a person’s character intimately before he could paint them,” she said.

She said: “Some of his images are so distorted, looking at it you see a distorted thing, but the amazing thing about Bacon is no matter how distorted you can always see who the portrait was of. In one way Bacon was trying to capture the essence of a person.”

Around 100 slashed canvases were found in Bacon’s studio after his death. “They were very interesting as they were never seen before. The interesting thing about the ones we found in the studio was the meticulous way he cut out the faces, some were slashed quite violently with a Stanley knife,” she said.

Dr Cappock said the art experts carrying out the reconstruction had made a major find in the discovery of 41 drawings. She said the works refuted Bacon’s persistent denials he had ever made preliminary sketches for his paintings.




  Francis Bacon's Studio

   Tate Britain  Free Lectures

    Friday Lecture

Friday 10 February 2006, 13.00–14.00
Tate Britain  Auditorium

Margarita Cappock, author of Francis Bacon’s Studio (Merrell, 2005), reveals the extraordinarily rich contents of Bacon’s South Kensington studio, which total 7,500 objects, range from handwritten notes to slashed canvases, and offer unprecedented insights into Bacon’s source materials and working methods.

Free, no bookings taken



'Iran is on brink of a dark age'


By Lillian Swift, The Sunday telegraph, 20 November 2005


Iran is on the brink of entering another dark age under its new conservative regime, according to one of its leading artistic luminaries.

Ali Reza Sami-Azar, who recently resigned as the head of the Teheran Museum of Contemporary Art, said the cultural glasnost of the past five years had come to an end.

"We are in very grave danger of reverting back to the post-revolutionary days, when only those artists who were deemed as expressing so-called Islamic values were displayed," he said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

"In those days artists who had flourished under previous regimes were persecuted. Culturally it was the dark ages for Iran."

Dr Sami-Azar spoke out after the phenomenal success of what he called his "goodbye show" - a big exhibition of 20th-century Western art that he knew would risk offending the piety of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new administration.

The exhibition, which included works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Jackson Pollock, has proved the most popular show since the museum's inception in 1977 and will end this week.

Visitors have been undeterred by the hardline rhetoric of Mr Ahmadinejad, who last week toured Iran reiterating his campaign promise to rid the Islamic Republic of "corrupting Western culture".

But its closure, said Dr Sami-Azar, would also mark the end of the period of relative cultural freedom begun by the reformist president Mohammad Khatami eight years ago.

"It took many years for the atmosphere to become relaxed enough to show it," he admitted.

"We experienced a certain cultural enlightenment under Khatami, there was a relative freedom of artistic expression and a shift from controlling the artistic community to supporting and encouraging it. But all this will come to an end now."

The collection, which had been languishing in Teheran vaults since the 1979 Islamic revolution, is controversial not only for its subject matter but because it was compiled by the deposed shah's wife, Farah Pahlavi.

Among visitors to the exhibition have been women wearing all-encompassing black chadors, who have browsed works including Bacon's sexually explicit triptych, Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendant, which Dr Sami-Azar sent on loan to Tate Britain last year.

In the censors' one intervention, the central panel - which depicts two naked men lying on a bed - was removed by Iran's morality police.

Staff at the museum say the reaction to the exhibition has "been like a bomb".

Dr Sami-Azar also fears for his personal safety. "I was instrumental in pushing the boundaries and the conservatives won't forget that," he said. "I fully expect that when they get round to it they will cook up some charges against me."



Iran Daily  Thursday, Nov 10, 2005


TEHRAN, Nov 9 - A portrait by the famous British artist Francis Bacon which was expected to be returned to Iran for presentation in an exhibit at Tehran Contemporary Arts Museum has instead been sent to the Museum of Modern Arts in Hamburg, said ISNA.

The portrait which was painted in 1972 and Tehran Contemporary Arts Museum had given it on loan to Edinburgh Museum to be displayed in an exhibit of portraits of Bacon until September 4, was sent to Germany instead of being returned to Iran.
Tehran Contemporary Arts Museum had planned to present the portrait in Tehran to replace three other paintings of Bacon which will not be displayed due to ethical reasons.

Former head of Tehran Contemporary Arts Museum Ali Reza Sami Azar said that the portrait was given on loan to Edinburgh Museum as a trust and it is scheduled to be presented in Hamburg Modern Arts Museum in November-December. Iran had asked for sending it back to Tehran to be displayed in the exhibit, he added.

The head of Tehran Contemporary Arts Museum Abdol Majid Hosseini said that the museum has not received the portrait, despite an earlier call to Edinburgh Museum to return it to Iran.



$23.8 Million Steel Sculpture Sets Another Auction Record


Carol Vogel, The New York Times, November 10, 2005


Prices for Francis Bacon's works have soared this season. Last night Three Studies for Self-Portrait, a 1976 triptych being sold by Robert Shaye, the chairman and chief executive of New Line Cinema, was estimated at $4 million to $6 million. Four bidders went for the painting, which sold to Andrew Fabricant, the Manhattan dealer, for $5.1 million.



    Sami Azar’s last stand


        The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art has left his post—this time for good


        By Mark Irving, The Art Newspaper, 13 October 2005



             On display in Iran for the first time in three decades: Bacon’s sexually explicit 1968 triptych: but the central panel was removed and censored.


LONDON. Dr Ali-Reza Sami Azar, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, has resigned from his post running the best-known and most important modern art gallery in Iran.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper in a telephone interview on his last day in the job, Dr Azar, who is regarded by diplomats and museum officials in the West as the most important and enlightened figure in Iran’s cultural establishment, said his decision to leave was prompted by “political changes arising in the aftermath of the recent presidential election”. The new conservative government has, he says, “appointed a very conservative culture minister, Saffar Harandi, who works with the Revolutionary Guard and the intelligence services”.

Dr Azar had already tendered his resignation in March, as reported in our April issue (No.157, p.1), because of what he described as the restrictive pressures of an increasingly difficult political climate at the Ministry of Culture. His resignation was not accepted by the Ministry following a groundswell of public support.

“This time, I knew I was going to be asked to resign and that they would accept it happily. I feel I am released. I have been under great pressure. There’s no budget, no help, just threatening signals from the authorities. If it was difficult to promote art under the reformist government of Mr Khatami, there was no chance it would work under the conservatives”.

Before leaving, Dr Azar has, however, played a brilliant trump card. Ever since the early days of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, most of the museum’s collection of more than 400 paintings, prints and drawings by the major names of western 20th-century art has been kept under lock and key in the basement storerooms. A generation of Iranians has grown up without ever seeing it.

The collection, formed under the auspices of the former Empress, Farah Pahlavi, includes work by Picasso, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Ernst, Derain, Miro, Chagall, Monet, Warhol, Rothko and Twombly, among many others.

Days before leaving the museum, Dr Azar filled the galleries with an exhibition of 190 major works from the collection—the first time such an extensive showing has taken place since 1979—ostensibly to celebrate the publication of his new and updated catalogue. On display for the first time in nearly three decades is Francis Bacon’s sexually explicit Two Figures lying on a bed with attendants, 1968, which Dr Azar sent on loan to Tate Britain last year.

“It’s my goodbye show”, he says. “The reactions to it from the public have been fantastic. We’ve had 2,000 visitors a day and it’s the most successful show we’ve ever had. It’s been favourably and widely covered in the newspapers, some have printed lists of the works on show so that the information is now in the public record. Although the show promotes western art, the authorities can’t close it because it’s just too popular. Even the hardline newspapers haven’t criticised the show because they know people won’t agree with them”.

Dr Azar acknowledges it is a risky strategy and has some fears for his own personal safety. “I have a heavy report against me. They accuse me of opening the doors to the outside world, regardless of the political and ideological view they want me to project”.

Last year, the museum hosted a British Council exhibition of British sculpture, which gained a wide and appreciative audience, and many other exhibitions from outside Iran have been included in the institution’s programme in recent years.

“Talent is not important to them”, he says, referring to the Iranian authorities. “I’m sure that once they are less busy they will come back and interrogate me. They accuse me of creating this environment. But it would make me a hero. We know we will be back. We know that what’s happening at the moment is not supported by the public. Our attitude will make a come-back and will be more powerful, more influential, even if it’s after a period of stagnation”. In the meantime, he says he will be teaching at Tehran’s Art University and writing books.

As for the collection, Dr Azar believes that because the nation is now aware of its contents “anything that happens to it will at least be known”. His prognosis for the museum’s future exhibition programme is, however, gloomy. “There is now less enthusiasm to work with any Western countries on loan exhibitions and there is no major project to present Western art in Iran”. There will, he predicts, be a shift to Iranian artists who are keen on the Islamic Republic and a concentration on revolutionary values.

Despite recent developments, Dr Azar is hopeful: “We have to accept the election. We should remedy an ill-democracy, not reject it. I hope we will have a more free, clean and just election in the future”.

Dr Azar confirmed that his replacement is to be Majid Hosseini-Rad, a former employee at the museum. Mr Hosseini-Rad was educated in France and is believed to be a very religious man. “They couldn’t appoint outside the museum, as this would be difficult for them. He’s a nice man but one who can be controlled”. Mark Irving




Lifting the veil


The finest collection of 20th-century western art outside Europe and America has been gathering dust in storage. Why?

Because it's owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran. But now, Christopher de Bellaigue reports, these spectacular works are finally being displayed in Tehran

The Guardian, Friday October 7, 2005     

An Iranian woman looks at a Francis Bacon painting

Modern masters ... an Iranian woman looks at a Francis Bacon painting displayed at Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art. 

It is hard to decide what to marvel at - the Picasso, or the fact that it hangs here, in the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, part of a big show of modern western art. In Tehran, any big exhibition is scrutinised before it begins, by censors from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. What, you wonder, did they make of the Picasso? Are the model's breasts too removed from conventional anatomy and her genitalia, paraphrased by an inky sliver, too figurative for her to be considered a proper (and therefore impermissible) nude? Perhaps they were flummoxed by the phallic limb protruding from her side? Whatever the reason, they let the Picasso through but acted decisively when they came to Francis Bacon's Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendant, a few rooms further on. The censors have shorn this triptych, whose gorgeous passages of paint evoke a terrible solitude, of its central panel. That panel - as visitors to Tate Britain, where it was on loan until the summer, will recall - depicts two naked men lying on a bed. It was deemed too gay for the Islamic Republic. (A little bit gay is too gay for the Islamic republic). The Bacon is now a diptych partitioned by a phantasmal smudge.


Banned art in a show of revolt against mullahs


The Sunday Times, September 25, 2005    


  Francis Bacon: central panel censored

A COLLECTION of art including works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Andy Warhol has gone on show in Tehran, more than a quarter of a century after Iran’s religious leaders banished it to a museum basement as immoral and “anti-Islamic”.

The 190 paintings, prints and drawings — among them a sexually charged triptych by Francis Bacon showing two men lying on a bed with “attendants” — are among 400 collected by Farah Pahlavi, the late Shah’s art-loving wife.

They have been put on display in the Museum of Contemporary Art in a parting shot by Ali-Reza Samiazar, its director, who has been forced to resign by the hardline new regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There are limits to what Samiazar could get away with, however. Three works, including a Renoir portrait of a semi-nude girl, never made it out of the basement.

The Bacon made only a brief appearance. Visitors on the first day of the exhibition were startled to see two black-clad members of the Basij militia stride up to the triptych, take down the central panel depicting the sleeping men and walk off with it. Its fate is not known.





By Isla Leaver-Yap, Exhibitions, 24 Hour Museum, 22 June, 2005 



Isla Leaver-Yap took in Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, on show until September 4 2005.

“I’m always hoping to deform people into appearance; I can’t paint them literally,” Francis Bacon once said. And, over two decades on from his death, the artist has achieved his wish in this latest exhibition.

This show is the first to focus exclusively on a series of portraits, produced by Bacon from the 1940s right up until his death in 1992, of his closest lovers and friends.

Including triptychs, full-length portraits, photographs recovered from his studio and scrapbooks, the images retain their fresh menace and the unsurpassed skill of an artist who, in hindsight, is emerging as one of the most important in living memory.


But this is not merely a retrospective. The gallery enthusiastically frames Bacon as an artist who is impressive not merely because of his technical skill or his ability to create images that impinge upon our sense of understandable, safe art. Here, he is shown as a pioneer who both annihilated and rebuilt the vocabulary of what constitutes a modern portrait.

His works, when put alongside the photographs, do not resemble his sitters in any conventional sense – they refuse to simply convey likeness. Instead, Bacon lays on his paint thick and muddy, orchestrating a sense of the character of each of his subjects, a kind of ‘essence’.


Bacon often worked from found photos or specially commissioned portraits by his friend and photographer John Deakin. Some of Deakin’s photographs on display at the exhibition document and pin down their subjects as if the images were a guarantor of their existence in a specific place or context: Henrietta Moraes was standing on a street corner in Soho, Lucien Freud did visit Bacon’s studio.

But the Bacon paintings that quite deliberately lift from Deakin’s images work against these very certainties; his re-representations mercilessly tear his figures away from the safety of their surroundings.

He isolates his friends’ features against oppressive block colours of vibrant red or pink or else he lets them melt away into deep blues and hollow blacks.


At their best, it is possible to see a kind of finesse and sophistication maturing in his work – the articulation of paint becomes finer and more deliberate as you progress chronologically from room to room.

While at its most disturbing, this sophistication articulates fantastical and frightening figures that rise up from the canvas like Frankenstein’s monstrous creations. Each exquisite corpse is imbued with a presence that threatens to emerge twitching from the caked, dry paint.


The exhibition labels talk of ‘tenderness’ in a few of Bacon’s images. Yet this is hard to fathom. Perhaps some seem less violent or disturbing than others, but this is the tenderness of an artist who manipulates paint, who stretches and mutilates the canvas - someone who has excelled in dealing with distortion.

However, the later portraits have a luminous beauty that seems new to Bacon’s work. Gone are the blown-off faces, the post-apocalyptic cynicism, the hybrid humans. He replaces them instead with traces of absence – ghosts of younger lives juxtaposed with his own self-portraits.


This departure brings a sense of finish to each work. But this, however daring, was to be something short-lived at the end of Bacon's long alcohol addiction.


Bacon’s astute understanding of the human form is unrivalled, even in retrospect and, as he spoke of painting: “It lives on its own… so that the artist may be able to unlock the values of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life more violently.”

Certainly, violence may be one of the most menacing themes in his work, but it is his ability to ‘unlock’ that is something both inspiring and entirely unique.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art , Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR, Lothian, Scotland
T: 0131 624 6200
Open: Mon-Sat 1000-1700 Sun 1400-1700



Bacon Estate forces museum to banish Joule material to basement

by Martin Bailey  The Arts Newspaper, Thursday, 21 April 2005



On show upstairs: the central panel of Bacon's Second Version of Triptych 1944, 1988.


LONDON. The latest row in the Bacon world has erupted in Paris, where the Musée Picasso was last month forced to banish archival material donated by Barry Joule to a separate display in the basement, rather than show it in the main exhibition. “Bacon Picasso: the life of images” (until 30 May) is the main show, with 120 works by the two artists, demonstrating Picasso’s influence on the British painter.

The Francis Bacon Estate, which wields great power since its permission is necessary to reproduce the artist’s work, insisted that the Joule material should not be integrated with the paintings, on the grounds that its authenticity has not yet been established. It would have been impossible for the Musée Picasso to have produced an illustrated catalogue for “The life of images” without this clearance—and hence the museum’s reluctant decision to move the Joule donation to another gallery.

The original notice of the exhibition, issued earlier this year, recorded that the subtitle of the main show would be “The brutality of fact”, and it clearly noted that it would include the Joule material, which was described as “important”. It also announced that the exhibition catalogue would be 350 pages, but the final publication was 240 pages and a separate catalogue on the Joule donation is due out shortly.

Barry Joule, a long-time friend of Bacon, was given over a thousand papers just a few days before the artist’s death in 1992. Many of these are illustrations from magazines or books, some with Bacon’s sketched additions or marks. Although the authenticity of the material has been questioned, last year the Tate Archive accepted the donation of the bulk of the collection. A relatively small number of items related to Picasso were kept back and donated by Mr Joule to the Paris museum last October. The Joule donation currently on show at the Musée Picasso comprises 38 illustrations and five books.




Bacon Estate forces museum to banish Joule material to basement


by Martin Bailey, The Arts Newspaper, Thursday, 21 April 2005


On show upstairs: the central panel of Bacon's Second Version of Triptych 1944, 1988.


LONDON. The latest row in the Bacon world has erupted in Paris, where the Musée Picasso was last month forced to banish archival material donated by Barry Joule to a separate display in the basement, rather than show it in the main exhibition. “Bacon Picasso: the life of images” (until 30 May) is the main show, with 120 works by the two artists, demonstrating Picasso’s influence on the British painter.

The Francis Bacon Estate, which wields great power since its permission is necessary to reproduce the artist’s work, insisted that the Joule material should not be integrated with the paintings, on the grounds that its authenticity has not yet been established. It would have been impossible for the Musée Picasso to have produced an illustrated catalogue for “The life of images” without this clearance—and hence the museum’s reluctant decision to move the Joule donation to another gallery.

The original notice of the exhibition, issued earlier this year, recorded that the subtitle of the main show would be “The brutality of fact”, and it clearly noted that it would include the Joule material, which was described as “important”. It also announced that the exhibition catalogue would be 350 pages, but the final publication was 240 pages and a separate catalogue on the Joule donation is due out shortly.

Barry Joule, a long-time friend of Bacon, was given over a thousand papers just a few days before the artist’s death in 1992. Many of these are illustrations from magazines or books, some with Bacon’s sketched additions or marks. Although the authenticity of the material has been questioned, last year the Tate Archive accepted the donation of the bulk of the collection. A relatively small number of items related to Picasso were kept back and donated by Mr Joule to the Paris museum last October. The Joule donation currently on show at the Musée Picasso comprises 38 illustrations and five books.


  Head to Head


    International Periscope


     Jenny Barchfield, Arts, Newsweek, April 11/18 2005


Francis Bacon claimed his career truly began in the spring of 1927 after seeing the drawings of Pablo Picasso at a small exhibit in Paris. "Seeing Picasso's work gave me a shock," Bacon recalled in an interview before his death in 1992. "It made me want to be a painter." A new exhibition at Paris's Musee Picasso, "Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images," shows us that the shock never went away. It is a full-blown case of anxiety of influence, with the younger Bacon struggling to compete with his already legendary elder.

Seen side by side, the more than 100 paintings on display are hauntingly similar. Superficially, the artists were both fascinated by bullfighting and the Crucifixion (who's not?). But the British-born Bacon also stole—as great artists always do—Picasso's visual language. Early on in his work, Bacon transposed Picasso's impossibly distorted surrealist forms directly. (With its deformed star-shaped body, the figure in Bacon's 1934 pastel "Studio Interior" is clearly lifted from Picasso's 1929 painting The Swimmer.) Bacon refined his thefts as his style matured, turning his later work into a near critique of Picasso's. His take on Picasso's giraffe-necked surrealist figures is raw and dark; his grotesquely magnificent Crucifixion series makes Picasso's Crucifixion look like child's play. Filled with gaping, fang-toothed mouths, and what look to be medieval torture devices, Bacon's art became the stuff of Picasso's nightmares. Head to head, we see how one great artist's groundbreaking vision became the dark inspiration for another's.



Bacon Picasso. The Life of Images at Picasso Museum


Art Daily, April 1st 2005


PARIS, FRANCE.  Through about a hundred key works by Picasso and Bacon, this exhibition aims to show the fascination that Picasso’s art held for Francis Bacon from the early 1930s. The plastic, thematic and philosophic dimensions of this virtual dialogue are particularly clear in the “brutality of fact” which Bacon felt was the link between his work and Picasso’s art.

A study of his interaction with Picasso’s work is crucial to an understanding of Bacon’s oeuvre, especially its origins. Although the artist himself always explicitly acknowledged that his discovery of Picasso’s art prompted him to become an artist, and influenced the themes and styles he later explored, the relationship between the two has never been systematically analysed.

The exhibition covers the period which began with Bacon’s trip to Paris in 1927-1928; he first saw the Spanish master’s work at an exhibition of A Hundred Drawings by Picasso at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery (June-July 1927). Out of the blue, Bacon decided to start painting. 1933 to 1944 was a crucial period of experimentation which culminated in the triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) derived from Picasso’s Crucifixion, 1930, and the series of drawings that Picasso had done at Boisgeloup two years later.

The exhibition, which includes important loans from prestigious public and private collections from all over the world, has been designed around the major themes common to both artists.

It begins with an introductory room which brings several major testimonies to Bacon’s early work face-to-face with Picasso’s Surrealist drawings and paintings (1927-30), from which they were directly derived. (These testimonies are rare because Bacon destroyed almost all his youthful works.)

The main body of the exhibition is divided into several sections, each centred on a theme:

- Keys/Shadow: Picasso’s works Bathers with a Cabin, 1927-28, and The Studio, 1928, are shown opposite Bacon’s Triptych, In Memory of Georges Dyer.

- Crucifixion: here, grouped around Picasso’s Crucifixion, 1930, and his drawings from Boisgeloup, 1932, we see a small Crucifixion, 1933 and the second version of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1988, by Bacon.

- Nudes: Around Picasso’s Pan’s Flute, 1923, are gathered Bacon’s Triptych, 1972 (Tate Gallery), and Study from the Human Body, 1987. Similarly, Picasso’s Large Nude in a Red Chair, 1929, drawings for Women of Algiers After Delacroix, 1954, and his last Odalisques are hung opposite Bacon’s Lying Figure, 1969.

The presentation of this group of major works gives an idea of the importance of Picasso – a modern anti-model of the great master – in the puzzle of images in Francis Bacon’s “imaginary museum”.

Exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée Picasso, Paris. Media partners: Le Figaroscope, i-télé, RTL, Le Point.




Artistic brilliance as sharp as a bull's horn or a thorn in the foot


Rachel Campbell-Johnson  |  Arts Notebook  |  The Times  |  March 17, 2005


THE PAINTER Francis Bacon had faith. But it was a faith in futility. “We are born and we die, that’s how it is.”

His philosophy was blunt. “But in between,” he declared, “we give this purposeless existence a meaning by our drives.” And these drives — these passions, lusts and compulsions — are laid bare as much in his life as his work. He poured his talents into both. Even as he struggled to capture “the vitality of accident” on canvas, even as he sought to evoke the “brutality of fact”, he also worked on his character to make it as vivid, as unnatural, as contradictory as he could.

His biography illuminates his painting. This week I watched a preview tape of a BBC Two documentary, Arena: Francis Bacon, which will be broadcast on Saturday. It is the first time since Bacon’s death in 1992 that a broadcaster has obtained unrestricted access to his work and to previously unshown archive footage. Adam Low, the director, has interviewed the artist’s sister as well as friends and acquaintances who, often for the first time, are prepared to speak. The resulting programme is riveting. The world that Bacon created was as complex, flamboyant and cruel as a bullfight, as the shocking opening sequences of a matador’s death suggest.

But what lingered in my mind was an interview with the brother of George Dyer, the East End cat burgler, who (or so legend had it — and life and legend were soon one where Bacon was concerned) became the artist’s lover after breaking into his flat. Bacon described him as the most beautiful man he had ever met and made him the subject of more than 40 paintings. But “all men kill the thing they love”. It is Bacon himself who quotes Oscar Wilde. Dyer, increasingly out of his depth, eventually committed suicide on the evening of Bacon’s triumphant Paris retrospective.

“It was a waste of a life,” his brother says sadly. But then the camera pans across the magnificent triptych that captures this act of futility.

But was it a waste of a death? The implicit question disturbs the spectator. But the Marlene Dietrich song that Bacon used to play in his studio suddenly takes on a haunting, a taunting resonance:

Men flock around me
Like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn
I know I’m not to blame




              Francis Bacon in 7 Reece Mews, June 1982 photographed by Barry Joule




Music the star in grim portrait of a painter


Stuart Young, ,The New Zealand Herald, 3rd March, 2005  




Having written The Secret Death of Salvador Dali, with Three Furies Australian playwright Stephen Sewell turns to the greatest figurative painter of the 20th century, the Anglo-Irish artist Francis Bacon.

Like The Boys, for which Sewell wrote the screenplay, Three Furies offers an extremely grim portrait of masculinity and male relationships.

The "scenes" from Bacon's life deal in particular with the destructive relationship between Bacon (Simon Burke) and his lover, also his model and muse, George Dyer (Socratis Otto). There is occasional tenderness and affection, but much more cruelty and violence.

In exploring this dark material, Sewell shrewdly hits on the mode of cabaret, punctuating episodes between Bacon and Dyer with songs and monologues.

Brian Thomson's set, which cleverly combines the world of cabaret and Bacon's studio, allows director Jim Sharman to contrive a series of images that echo the contorted figures of Bacon's paintings.

Most crucially, three doorways upstage provide for a series of triptychs, a Bacon hallmark.

Damien Cooper's lighting faithfully enhances the effects.

The highlight of the production is the music, composed by Basil Hogios and performed by three musicians and, as chanteuse, Paula Arundell, who has a splendid, sultry voice and remarkable control.

Indeed, Arundell gives the standout performance of the show. She is the third fury, Tisiphone, a Chorus-figure, who comments on the action between the The Painter and The Model.

The haunting, intoxicating music draws us in and promises to raise the temperature of the drama.

But the mise en scene, with its too carefully calculated images, and the other performances - especially Burke's mannered Painter - keeps us too cool and at a distance.

This may be intentional, but it is strangely at odds with the powerfully visceral quality of Bacon's painting.

Although there are some strong images, increasingly others too patently lack the intensity and dis-ease of the paintings they quote.

The carcass that slides into the left doorway from time to time has none of the impact of the originals. The debauchery in which Bacon and Dyer supposedly indulged also proves surprisingly anodyne.

There is certainly much to admire in the production and performances.

The stage management is impressively slick in dealing with scene and costume changes, and the actors are highly accomplished.

It is exciting to see this kind of adventurous work staged with such high production values at a venue like Skycity. But overall, this medley of scenes does not quite add up to the sum of its parts.

*What: Three Furies: Scenes from the life of Francis Bacon

*Where: Skycity Theatre




Bacon and Picasso - two parts of the same whole

Two shows about Bacon and Picasso have opened simultaneously in different parts of the same Paris museum. Why?



The Times, March 02, 2005


NEVER mind The Da Vinci Code, the shenanigans behind the scenes of a new exhibition which makes connections between the work of Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso make Dan Brown’s thriller look as intricate as Enid Blyton.

The Bacon/Picasso show, which opened today at the Picasso Museum in Paris, is radically different from the one which it had planned — because of a dark, unexpected intervention by the Francis Bacon estate in London.

It is not the first time the estate has indulged in fisticuffs with the art world. In 2002 a long-running and acrimonious dispute between the estate and Marlborough Fine Art, Bacon’s dealer for 34 years, was brought to an abrupt end, with Marlborough claiming victory.

This time the dispute is over authenticity of material, and the extent to which any museum has a right to be in charge of the staging and promotion of its own exhibition — if that exhibition happens to include works by Francis Bacon, at any rate.

The saga began last October, when the Picasso Museum was given a suitcase full of miscellaneous images and books from Bacon’s studio at Reece Mews in South Kensington. This was material from the Barry Joule archive, the greater part of which had been donated to the Tate Gallery and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

An examination of these documents by experts at the Paris museum demonstrated once again how obsessed Bacon had been by the person and the work of Picasso. Here were images of Picasso and his works, many torn out of magazines, on which Bacon had drawn, painted and scribbled. The gift also included books owned by him, such as a hardback edition of Brassaï’s Picasso and Company, published by Thames and Hudson. The book is full of Bacon’s feverish tamperings — he cut out and superimposed one image upon another; he modified photographs; he annotated.

The museum’s intention was to embed some of these Picasso-related objects into the show, and to publish a catalogue which would knit together its exhibition of original works by Bacon and Picasso with its own research into the material from the studio.

Then, according to a Picasso Museum spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous, “about two months ago” the Francis Bacon estate forbade them to do so. The Joule material could not be shown alongside Bacon’s paintings because, argued the estate, it had not been properly authenticated by experts from the Tate Gallery in London. Until that happened, it should not be shown at all. Other works by Bacon in the show come from a variety of sources: the Tate, the Pompidou Centre, Marlborough International Fine Art and various private collections. The fact that they were owned by these institutions meant that the estate had no power to prevent their being loaned out to other museums.

The ruling meant that the catalogue could no longer be published in the form that the museum had planned, because it now had to exclude all the research into its own archival material. But after The Times contacted the Bacon estate it relented on two important issues; first it scrapped its insistence that the museum must publish the catalogue only in French — now English is also deemed acceptable — and then it revoked a decision to ban the publication of all Bacon images from the show alongside reviews.

Nonetheless, in what could be a financially damaging move, the museum is forbidden to sell its catalogue anywhere other than in its own bookshop.

Although the estate, for which the sole executor is Professor Brian Clarke, cannot prevent a museum such as the Tate lending its works to another museum, it can intervene when visual representations of those same works is involved, such as in the production of a catalogue.

So the Picasso Museum fought a rearguard action. It went ahead with the official catalogue of the exhibition, but it also produced a second catalogue about its own Barry Joule archive. Instead of abandoning all plans to display the Barry Joule material, it decided to devote a room to it in the basement, a long way from the temporary exhibition devoted to Bacon and Picasso. So two shows about Bacon and Picasso have opened simultaneously in the same museum.

And why has the estate behaved in this way? A spokesman close to the Picasso Museum alleges that it is all, ultimately, down to power and money. If the estate flexes its muscles in this way, lenders will ultimately be intimidated into feeling that all Bacon-related transactions will need to go through the estate in order to obtain some kind of official approval.

Olivier Lorquin, director of the Musée Maillol in Paris, which last year staged an exhibition of Bacon’s works calledThe Sacred and the Profane, has had similar problems with the estate recently. “The estate made life very difficult for me,” he says. “They refused to let me do a co-edition of the catalogue. They wanted me to print only 2,000 copies — I eventually was able to do 6,000 — and at first they would let me sell it only in my own museum bookshop. They also have the right to dictate in what language the catalogue appears. All this is quite contrary to the wishes of Bacon himself, in my opinion. I had to go to London and be very diplomatic. I guess I was lucky too. It was très douloureux. I do think that it is a question of power and greed ...”

The Bacon estate was first approached for an explanation of its alleged behaviour. Why was there no Barry Joule material in the show at the Picasso Museum? The public had been led to believe — see this month’s Art Newspaper, for example — that it would be a part of the show. An estate spokeswoman had no comment. And why was the catalogue available in French only? Again, no comment.

What else could be at issue here? Close scrutiny of the show, painting by painting, print by print, reveals to what an extraordinary extent Bacon was influenced by Picasso — at times you are more than tempted to describe the work as derivative. Could this be an unspoken reason for all this unwelcome intervention? Would Bacon himself be less bankable if it became more commonly known that he owed quite so much to a greater master than himself?

Bacon and Picasso: La vie des images, Musée National Picasso, rue de Thorigny, Paris (00-33-1-42712521) until May 30






For Francis Bacon the camera wasn’t a threat to painterly creation but the perfect means to an end. A fascinating new book reveals how the artist used the ‘significant falsehood’ of photography to expose brutally even those he loved most.


by John Banville, The Sunday Telegraph, 27 February 2005


All art is touched with the prophetic, and none more darkly so than the art of Francis Bacon. There are two particularly uncanny instances of Bacon’s involuntary ability to foretell the future in his paintings. In Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (1963), a study based on a series of photographs of Bacon’s friend Henrietta Moraes, the syringe was added only because, the artist said, he wanted the effect of a nailing of the flesh onto the bed’. Years later, however, Moraes, on her own admission, did become addicted to drugs.

A more startling, and for Bacon surely a more harrowing, case of artistic divination occurs in the triptych Three Figures in a room, the left-hand panel of which depicts a broad backed naked man, seen from behind, sitting on a lavatory. The painting was done in 1964, the year that Bacon began an affair with George Dyer, an East Ender who moved on the fringes of the criminal underworld. Dyer, a handsome, stocky, silkily brutal looking man with an exciting edge of danger to him, became a rich source of images for Bacon images which are among the most powerful in the Bacon oeuvre.

The figure in the triptych is most likely Dyer, for it bears a strong resemblance to the subjects of other paintings of male nudes in which Dyer is the named sitter. In October 1971, seven years after Three Figures and barely 36 hours 1971 before one of the high points of Bacon’s career, the opening in Paris of a huge retrospective at the Grand Palais, Dyer committed suicide in the room he and Bacon were sharing at a hotel on the rue des Saints Pères. The dead man was discovered slumped on the lavatory, a scene hauntingly commemorated in the stark but beautiful Triptych May June, 1973.

In the early 1930s, at the very start of Bacon’s career as an artist, there was another, subtler presagement when the collector Sir Michael Sadler, having purchased, by telegram, Bacon’s early Crucifixion (1933) after seeing a photograph of it in an art magazine, went on to commission a portrait from the young artist. He sent an X ray of his own skull as the model. The result was another crucifixion scene, incorporating a representation of the transparent skull; it was an apt image for a depiction of the agony on Golgotha the place of the skull’ a subject to which Bacon returned often in the early years of his career, and traces of which persist throughout his work.

This was the first occasion on which Bacon transferred an image straight from the camera on to the canvas; it was not to be the last. Indeed, from the early 1960s onwards he would paint portraits only from photographs taken by specially commissioned professionals, especially the Vogue photographer John Deakin, whose portrait studies Bacon considered ‘the best since Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron’. Bacon adopted this method at least partly out of regard for his sitters, whose features he would distort to the point of turning them into grotesques. ‘If I like them,’ he said, ‘I don’t want to practise the injury that I do them in my work before them. I would rather practise the injury in private…’

Bacon’s use of photography, either as a stimulus for inspiration or as a source of subject matter, was not as extensive as that of, for instance, Picasso, among whose effects after his death were discovered several thousand photographs, many taken by the artist himself. But Bacon did leave many photographs strewn about his studio in Reece Mews, Kensington, the contents of which were donated to the city of Dublin by Bacon’s heir, John Edwards; the studio, lovingly recreated in Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, is a Baconian room within a room, a kind of camera lucida that is viewed from the back through spy holes fitted with lenses.

Amid the dense clutter of painting materials in the studio bristling pots of brushes recall the patch of thorns into which the agonised figure in the right side panel of the 1944 Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is thrusting its hand there are countless smudged and scribbled on photographs, including studies of Bacon himself by John Deakin, Peter Beard, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others. Bacon drew on photographs literally, in many cases as a means of capturing the world and people at moments of physical contingency and stress. He frequently incorporated photographic images directly into his paintings, most famously stills of the nurse’s face in the Odessa Steps sequence from Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin, and colour reproductions of Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X.

The Velázquez picture was one to which Bacon returned repeatedly, and which he made the basis of what are perhaps his most famous works, the ‘Screaming Popes’ series done at various stages from the 1950s through to the early 1970s. He said of Pope Innocent X, ‘I became obsessed by this painting and I bought photograph after photograph of it. I think really that was my first subject.’

In light of this, it is an indication of his preference for reproductions over originals that during a three month visit to Rome in 1954, after parting from his lover Peter Lacy and when he had time on his hands, he did not bother to go to see the Velazquez portrait, which he could easily have done, since it is housed in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. This omission was not unusual; there are many accounts of Bacon on his travels being urged by the curators of this or that great gallery to come and view their treasures always in vain. (It is surely not incidental to his preference for reproductions over originals that Bacon’s own pictures, even the biggest and most complex of them, retain a remarkable vividness and clarity of composition even when reproduced in quite small photographs, as can clearly be seen in a new study of his work, In Camera, Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, by Martin Harrison.)

A central source of images for Bacon in his early years as a painter was the weekly illustrated news magazine Picture Post. There are some telling working documents in the Bacon archives showing images clipped from Picture Post, notably, for instance, two shots of Goering and Goebbels, both of them haranguing their supporters with mouth agape and an arm uplifted, a pose which is endemic in Bacon’s work.

Bacon also kept by him throughout his working life a small number of key books with photographic illustrations. One was a volume on diseases of the mouth, with hand tinted plates, bought from a Paris bookstall in the 1930s. Another was Positioning in Radiography by KC Clark, published in 1939, showing the correct ways in which to situate patients undergoing X ray investigation. The artist plundered both these books for working material. A further important source of images was the splendidly named Baron Albert von Schrenck Notzing’s Phenomena of Materialisation, published in English in 1920. It is a photograph from this last, of the medium Eva Carrière apparently producing from her head an ectoplasmic image of a woman’s face, which is a direct model for the figure in the left-hand panel of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), the breakthrough work for Bacon and the one he considered his first real painting.

Bacon was nonetheless indifferent to photography as an art form and does not seem to have had any great interest in taking pictures himself, although Triptych March 1974 is directly modelled on a Polaroid self portrait shot in a mirror. The few of his own photographs that survive are surprisingly conventional; the portrait of his cousin Diana Watson taken in the late 1930s, for example, and the pictures of his sister lanthe Knott that he took in the 1960s. Yet in the triptychStudies from the Human Body (1970) the camera itself makes an appearance, a wonderfully bug eyed, minatory monster that is a sort of parody of the human head.

It is Bacon’s revolutionary treatment of the head that is his greatest overall achievement. No one, not even Picasso, had dared to twist and mould the skull and the face as Bacon does, smearing them, scooping great hollows out of them, turning them inside out, and yet always retaining a likeness which, as in the case especially of George Dyer and Henrietta Moraes, becomes more compelling and unmistakable the more violent the distortion. He took his inspiration in this area from a wide variety of sources the scream of the mother in Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents he described as the greatest human cry in art’ and even from antiquity. Consider, for instance, the striking echoes of another of Bacon’s working documents, a photograph of an early Egyptian bust of Pthames, in the Sketch for Portrait of Lisa (1955). Bacon’s picture, bathed in an uncharacteristic stillness, is a profound, post-Freudian study which yet retains the classical poise of the ancient head or at least the reproduction of that ancient head that was in part its inspiration.

Before 1962 Bacon used only trouvailles, the bits and scraps chanced upon in illustrated books, or clipped from magazines, or in the action studies of Eadweard Muybridge, or found in film stills. After 1962 he began to commission photographs of models ‘to conform,’ according to Martin Harrison, ‘with preconceived ideas for a painting.’ Important instances of such commissioning are John Deakin’s pictures of Henrietta Moraes, Muriel Belcher and George Dyer Deakin’s photograph of Dyer with his head turned violently to the left, as if flinching from a blow or from the sight of something terrible, recurs throughout the series of memorial pictures Bacon painted of his dead lover in the 1970s, pictures which are perhaps the pinnacle of Bacon’s art. Bacon always deplored the interpretation of his pictures as testaments of philosophical angst, despite the extremities into which he forces his human subjects. What he was after was the actual, and his people, no matter how physically deformed they may be in his representation of them, are real human beings.

Bacon may be considered to have set out specifically to answer the confrontational question which many painters in the 19th century thought photography to pose: what is the best means of representing quotidian reality? The advent of photography led some artists to despair. The painter Paul Delaroche declared, as early as 1839, From today painting is dead.’ Even an eminence as lofty as Turner observed mournfully: ‘This is the end of Art. lam glad I have had my day.’ They were wrong, of course, as Bacon among others was to prove. True, painting lost to the camera something of its pre eminence, particularly in documentary terms, and it was that something that Bacon was determined to recoup. In that endeavour he utilised the photograph itself, but only, in the critic John Russell’s fine phrase, as a ‘significant falsehood’.

Bacon himself expressed his position with his usual candour and eloquence: ‘I think of myself as a kind of pulverising machine into which everything I look at and feel is fed. I believe that I am different from the mixed media jackdaws who use photographs etc more or less literally or cut them up and rearrange them. The literalness of photographs so used even if they are only fragments will prevent the emergence of real images, because the literalness of the appearance has not been sufficiently digested and transformed. In my case the photographs become a sort of compost out of which images emerge from time to time. Those images may be partly conditioned by the mood of the material which has gone into the pulveriser.’

It was the real that Bacon was after, and he concentrated his quest in a lifelong interrogation of the human form. What is remarkable in Bacon’s work is not the deformities he inflicts upon his subjects or the sense of desperation and violence they express, but the extraordinary sense of human presence that he achieves. These people, twisted, as it might seem, almost out of recognition, are fleshy, palpable not nude but stark naked and graspable in the extreme painterly quality of their appearance. ‘Bacon’s version of realism,’ Harrison writes, ‘depended on live, full pigment. He did not paint simulacra of photographs, but he appropriated their transformative charge to disrupt European cultural traditions, to dissolve past into present.’ That dissolution is a large part of Bacon’s greatness, the alchemical process which makes him one of the quintessential artists of our desolated and blood boltered time.




 In Camera, Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting (Thames & Hudson, £35) by Martin Harrison, published on 7 March. An 'Arena' programme on Francis Bacon  will be broadcast on 19 March at 9pm on BBC 2.




Francis Bacon: lost and found


Martin Harrison analyses the information that has recently come to light about paintings that Bacon destroyed, mutilated or radically altered. What do such incidents reveal about Bacon's attitude to his art?


Martin Harrison, Apollo, March 2005


When Francis Bacon died, in 1992, the floor of his studio in Reece Mews, South Kensington, was left in the state that had already become sedimented in the Bacon mythology, strewn with tattered magazines and books, and creased, torn and paint-spattered photographs (Fig. 1). Painstakingly excavated and transferred in its entirety in 1998 to the Hugh Lane Gallery in the city of Bacon's birth, Dublin, the studio is now preserved for study, and the cataloguing of its contents is enabling some of the obfuscation surrounding the relationship between Bacon's source material and his painting procedures to be penetrated.

Elsewhere, further previously unidentified artefacts continue to emerge. Among these documents is a handful of photographs that recorded, sometimes incidentally, paintings that Bacon subsequently either altered or destroyed: these, too, are proving to be invaluable in illuminating certain unresearched aspects of Bacon's practice.

Six months after Bacon's death, his paintings were hung together with Picasso's Crucifixion (1930), and some of the Crucifixion drawings Picasso made in Boisgeloup in 1932, in the exhibition 'The Body on the Cross' at the Muse Picasso, Paris. Intrigued and delighted at the prospect of sharing a space with the artist who, more than sixty years earlier, had inspired him to take up painting, Bacon agreed to be interviewed by Jean Clair for the catalogue of the exhibition. He told Clair of the profound impression made on him in 1971 when Valerie Eliot published her late husband's The Waste Land alongside the extensive corrections and deletions made by Ezra Pound to the original text. Although Bacon remained staunchly independent of any established literary or artistic circles, next to Picasso the poetry of Aeschylus and of T.S. Eliot inspired more of his paintings than the work of any artist. 'Pound made it ten times better', (1) commented Bacon on the excisions and alterations to Eliot's poem; he frequently reiterated his regret at not having a comparable guru figure to tell him what to discard, although he admitted that: 'Of course, it's true there are a very, very few people who could help me by their criticism'. (2)

It is hard to imagine Bacon being even remotely receptive to such trenchant advice, however distinguished its author. On the other hand, he was a ruthless self-editor, at least as hard on his own efforts as on those of his contemporaries. He was as scathing in condemnation of his widely-admired 'Popes', for example, as he was about the paintings of Jackson Pollock ('that dribbling of paint all over the canvas just looked like old lace') or Mark Rothko ('rather dismal variations on colour'); (3) even when praising the masters he most admired - Velazquez, Rembrandt, Seurat - he seldom omitted to qualify his approbation.

Dissatisfaction with his own paintings usually resulted in their destruction. Indeed, he was so ruthless that from the first fifteen years of his career, between 1929 and 1944, only fourteen paintings and drawings survive. Subsequently, as Bacon came under increased pressure from his dealers to fulfil scheduled exhibition dates, it is probable that he jettisoned proportionately less of his work, but even towards the end of his life either he, or more usually a friend, maintained the ritual slashing with a knife-blade of rejected canvases.

Today, notwithstanding these depredations, Bacon's oeuvre comprises nearly six hundred paintings - sufficient, it might be thought, to represent a great artist. How, then, could the urge be justified to resurrect works that Bacon presumably wished to remain buried? Firstly, Bacon, unlike most artists, did not make preliminary drawings, although, consistent with the stimulation he found in literature, he frequently compiled hand-written lists of ideas for paintings. Apart from his mass-media source imagery and a handful of vigorous but fairly schematic compositional sketches dating from around 1960, (4) there is scant surviving material that might elucidate the evolution of his paintings. Secondly, even Bacon himself regretted having destroyed certain paintings, in particular one of his earliest 'Popes', Study after Velazquez (1950). He had intended to send the painting to the Festival of Britain exhibition '60 Paintings for 51', but withdrew it and - or so he misremembered later - destroyed it. Included in John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley's 1964 catalogue raisonne of Bacon as a 'destroyed picture', it was in fact removed from its stretcher and stored away at the Chelsea artists' suppliers Bacon used. It was not until 1996 that it was rediscovered.

David Sylvester both confirmed the genuineness of Bacon's expressions of regret at losing the painting, and gave his own opinion that it was the 'finest "Pope" ever', (5) Bacon's dealers, Hanover Gallery and Marlborough Fine Art, arranged as a matter of course for his completed paintings to be photographed, but those he abandoned were, understandably, seldom recorded. Study after Velazquez was an exception, no doubt reflecting Bacon's ambivalence about the painting. But fortunately, a few of the definitely lost works were captured, partly fortuitously, by the camera, and in somewhat different circumstances.

In 1962, the first of two Tate retrospectives held in Bacon's lifetime substantially raised his public profile. Gregarious as a mainly nocturnal drinker and gambler, by day he was reclusive and solitary as a painter. There was an increasing demand for him to be photographed and filmed in his studio, but he always took the precaution of turning the painted side of his canvases away from the lens. Among his circle of friends, however, were several accomplished photographers, notably his fellow Soho-ites Dan Farson and John Deakin. After 1962 Bacon rarely painted from life. Instead he commissioned John Deakin to document the friends who became the models for many of his portraits during the next two decades - Lucian Freud, George Dyer, Henrietta Moraes and Isabel Rawsthorne. Probably operating under Bacon's direction, Deakin used a Rolleiflex rollfilm camera attached to a tripod. Other photographers had evolved a modus operandi with hand-held 35mm cameras that was more rapid, informal and relatively non-intrusive: having been photographed by the doyen of this technique, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and photojournalists such as Larry Burrows, Bacon was accustomed to the quick fire of the miniature format camera shutter. The wildlife photographer Peter Beard, whom Bacon met in 1966, became a close friend and the subject of more than twenty of Bacon's paintings between 1975 and 1980. He provided most of the self-portrait photographs of his head from which Bacon painted his portraits, and he in turn photographed Bacon constantly.

On his frequent visits to London, Beard's diaristic camera became a natural accompaniment to their socialising, and evidently Bacon was relaxed enough to allow Beard to continue photographing while his paintings remained visible. At least two of the paintings that can be observed in the backgrounds of Beard's photographs were, it transpired, eventually destroyed by Bacon. Beard's black and white images are, therefore, the sole visual evidence of two compelling, but in several respects atypical, paintings.

The first of these paintings, George Dyer with camera, is visible in Figure 5. Painted c. 1969, it depicts Dyer, Bacon's lover and muse, apparently metamorphosing into an organic version of a bulky, primitive, large-format bellows camera which is supported by a rather perfunctory tripod. This early example of Bacon's referencing of photographic equipment was an overt indication that photography was, by this time, established at the core of his practice; in the right-hand panel of the triptych Studies from the human body (1970), Bacon depicted himself as the voyeuristic operator of elaborate photographic paraphernalia. The attitude of the squatting figure in George Dyer with camera was almost certainly developed from the conflation of two (or more) of John Deakin's photographs of George Dyer: a profile head-shot taken in Soho (Fig. 3) and a seated, cross-legged semi-nude done in the Reece Mews studio (Fig. 4). A striking variant of this pose can be seen in the left-hand panel of Two figures lying on a bed with attendants (1968), the painting recently acquired by Tate Britain on extended loan from Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Bacon continued to explore this configuration until at least 1988, latterly transposing John Edwards's head for Dyer's, with Edwards's portrait identified as the nominal subject. In most of the paintings in which Dyer's identity is reliably established he is represented as naked, child-like and vulnerable; yet despite him wearing a collar and tie in George Dyer with camera (a typically Baconic 'reversal' tactic) the treatment was, on this occasion, among the most visceral and animalistic of the series based on this pose, and the paint is applied with a bravura violence and spontaneity in slashing, sweeping brushstrokes.

Since Bacon is unlikely to have been dissatisfied with the dynamic painting of the figure in George Dyer with camera, it could, therefore, be conjectured that there was a formal aspect of the painting that, in his judgment, had failed to coalesce. Given that the painting appears to have been conceived in his standard 78 x 58 inches (198.1 x 142.3 cm) format, and considering the shape and position of the arcing 'board' device on which the figure was supported, it is likely to have been intended as the left-hand panel of a planned triptych; it is comparable with the two outer wings of Triptych in memory of George Dyer (1971), which develops similar imagery and may represent the further development of a related composition, or alternatively Bacon's resolution of the original idea of 1969.

By comparison, The last man on earth (c. 1974), a painting recorded in several of Peter Beard's photographs of Bacon moving around the studio (Fig. 6), appears to have been both formally and conceptually completely resolved. The lone figure is loosely based on Eadweard Muybridge's serial photographs of a man throwing a discus, although Bacon's quoting of pictorial sources was seldom straightforward and he may also have had in mind a classical discobolus (he would have known the copies in the British Museum and the Terme Museum, Rome) and Rodin's bronze La grande ombre. Since the man's pose resembles that of the figure in the centre panel of Triptych March 1974, the painting may be another instance of a panel that was ultimately rejected from a triptych.

Another factor in Bacon's rejection of The last man on earth may have been that he considered the depiction of existential isolation, of Nietzschean solipsism, too literal in its poignancy. Apparently the painting (was this also an instance of the older pictorial sources having been conflated with a modern image of a cricketer about to field the ball?) evoked for observers either the Apollo space mission's moon landing, or a scene from Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which case it would have approached dangerously closely to what Bacon professed was his greatest aversion, to illustration. He often demeaned paintings that illustrated a passage from a literary text, citing, for example, Fuseli's scenes from Shakespeare's plays. Bacon strove to avoid the kind of excessive pictorial data that threatened to impose a linear narrative on his paintings, although the extent to which he achieved the elimination of narrativity has recently become a matter of debate among art historians. (6) Nevertheless, his optical blurring, his strategies of spatial and temporal disjunction, tended to represent an action that was out of time, that had no before and no after.

The painting now known as Portrait of a dwarf (1975, private collection, Australia) is, uniquely, in a narrow upright format, the result of Bacon having eliminated two-thirds of the original canvas (Figs. 7 and 8). Formerly, the dwarf occupied the role of what Bacon called an 'attendant'; these attendants were either voyeuristic, or paradoxically disengaged, witnesses of a horrifying spectacle, or of sexual intercourse. In Portrait of a dwarf, the homunculus stares back implacably at the viewer, returning our gaze while apparently indifferent to the upturned, writhing nude male in a glass cage to his left.

It is interesting to speculate on Bacon's motives for excising the caged figure. He could have envisaged the achondroplastic man as representing Pygmalion and the convulsive figure as (an albeit distinctively Baconic) Galatea: if so, again he possibly considered the allusion to the Greek myth as too specific, too illustrational. He had notoriously inverted Cimabue's Crucifixion, and may have been performing a similar rotation in a regendering of the figure of Galatea in Jean-Leon Gerome's Pygmalion and Galatea (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, c. 1890). The dwarf's seated, cross-legged pose recalls both Velazquez's A dwarf sitting on the floor (c. 1645, Prado Museum, Madrid) (Fig. 9) and the ancient Egyptian statue of Seneb, the chief of the palace dwarves, in the National Museum, Cairo; Bacon, who considered Egyptian art to have been mankind's highest cultural achievement, had visited Cairo in 1951 and is likely to have seen the figure.

Bacon's cavalier cropping of canvases is evidence of his uninhibited attitude towards the picture field, another aspect of his technique that is paralleled in photography, in the facile enframings associated with the camera and with the darkroom. When questioned about his ubiquitous 'cages', the internal frameworks he placed around many of his figures, Bacon liked to pass them off simply as devices for seeing 'the image' more clearly. Critics have essayed more profound interpretations, but they bear a close resemblance to the Chinagraph markings that photographers employ on their contact prints to indicate the precise area of the negative that requires enlargement. On a visit to Bacon's studio in 1955, his patrons Robert and Lisa Sainsbury found him about to destroy a 'Pope' painting with which he was dissatisfied: when they remonstrated he produced a razor blade, cut out the central portion of the canvas (evidently he thought the head not unsuccessful), and presented it to them; as Study (Imaginary portrait of Pope Pius XII), 1955, it is now in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

A neccesarily approximate demarcation can be imposed in Bacon's oeuvre around 1968, after which date he sought to pare down his paintings, rationalising their spatial organisation and working with a more concise vocabulary of forms. It is probably not coincidental that this transition occurred at a time when Minimalism occupied a central position in art practice and critical theory; the acceptance at face value of Bacon's protestations of cultural isolation has belatedly come under question, and rightly so, since at no time were his paintings created in an ahistorical vacuum. The broadly applied and thickly impasted paint of his 'Van Gogh' homages in the 1950s invite comparison with the bold painterliness of his friend Karel Appel (and another contemporary, Asger Jorn) as much as that of Chaim Soutine, whose techniques Bacon is known to have revered. Similarly, in the 1970s, the densely absorbent black grounds he adopted for his posthumous tributes to George Dyer may well have been indebted to the looming negative swathes of paint in Robert Motherwell's Spanish elegies.

When Bacon embarked on a new painting, he generally had a rough idea of its overall structure in mind: his method was to paint the 'image' first--that is, the human form(s) - and the ground afterwards. While the success of the 'image' depended, for him, primarily on chance elements related to the application of paint, the flat backgrounds, ostensibly at least, presented less of a challenge. Bacon's deprecation of abstract art lends support to this, yet there is abundant evidence that he regarded the symbiosis of image and ground as important, and devoted considerable attention to the problem: he needed his 'chaos' to be 'deeply ordered'. Among the ceaseless modifying and perfecting of these 'abstract' backgrounds, a typical example is the small triptych Three studies of George Dyer (1969, private collection), the grounds of which were yellow in their first state but were altered soon after to dark blue, before Bacon finally rendered them in their present mauve-pink.

Bacon's elimination of superfluous pictorial elements can be observed in the history of a triptych he painted in 1974, its panoramic sweep and high horizon line inspired by Degas's Beach scene (?c. 1876, National Gallery, London). In the first version of the centre panel of the triptych, Bacon incorporated an unsettling, confrontational figure that peered back imperiously at the viewer through schematic binoculars. This image again reversed the role of his attendants or witnesses; each of the three panels represents a back view of the naked George Dyer, Bacon's then recently deceased lover, and the viewer's gaze was implicated in the act of voyeurism. Whether Bacon regarded the figure with binoculars as triggering an unwanted narrative, or as formally extraneous, after pondering the question for three years he recalled the central panel to his studio and painted out the figure, leaving uninterrupted the 'abstract' foreground across all three panels. Completed as Triptych 1974-77, the painting has remained in this simplified form (Figs. 10 and 11).

The figure eventually painted out from Triptych 1974-77 was probably based on Eadweard Muybridge's photographs Man falling prone and aiming rifle; considering Bacon's interest in avifauna, especially birds of prey, an image of a stalking birdwatcher may also have been in play. Manifestly, Bacon's intervention into the Degas painting transcends its sources, but typically, besides the borrowing from Degas, the triptych also referenced images he had kept in his archive--possibly since the 1930s - from Amedee Ozenfant's Foundations of Modern Art and Baron von Schrenck Notzings's Phenomena of Materialization. In Schrenck Notzing's book, the spectral images of seances that fascinated him are comparable with the vaporous effects present in many of Bacon's paintings, and of the traces of figures in movement through space and time. In the photographic darkroom, one can imagine he was intrigued (he would have been familiar with this process, if not at first hand then from its popular appropriation in movies) by the gradual revelation of the latent image in the developing tray. In a sense, he brought about a reversal of this process when he trapped the likeness of a 'sitter', only to deface it by smearing off the paint he had applied. Appearances are established then denied: Bacon the atheist was not about to offer either hope or closure.

One way in which Bacon demonstrated his receptiveness to the operation of chance was by his alertness to the way photographs would emerge from the chaotic piles of studio detritus, like organisms with an independent existence. An habitual gambler, no doubt he appreciated the way in which these suggestively accreted documents would reappear, transformed and reordered like a shuffled pack of playing-cards. In the background of the left-hand panel of Three portraits: Posthumous portrait of George Dyer; Self-portrait; Portrait of Lucian Freud (1973) he painted, as though it were pinned to the wall, a tightly cropped black and white photograph of his own head. The source photograph he used (Fig. 12) was only rediscovered recently, complete with pinholes and random flecks of paint, in colours corresponding exactly to the palette of the 1973 triptych. Fifteen years later, in Study from the human body and portrait (1988) (Fig. 13), Bacon reused this photo-portrait of himself, and on this occasion embraced the accidental marks that he had made on the original source photograph. Thus the studio floor is revealed as his personal genizah, an archive of talismanic images that on the one hand he allowed (or encouraged) to become worn and distressed, while on the other he preserved as bearers of the marks of time.

Bacon's synthesising of 'lens-based' imagery has been public knowledge for more than fifty years. It is important to recognise, however, that throughout the first half of his career (that is, until 1962) the images that suggested ideas for paintings were seldom 'original' photographic prints but almost invariably mechanical reproductions he encountered in books or magazines. Long before photography's acceptance as an art form, and its penetration of Britain's museums and art galleries, Bacon acknowledged that photographs (including photographic reproductions of works of art) had informed some of his decisive paintings. He came to regret this openness, however, believing it had caused his aims to be misapprehended. His cautiousness was not without justification: only six years ago, when the Barbican Arts Centre staged 'Picasso and Photography', the survey was greeted by sensational headlines such as 'Picasso Exposed', (7) as though a fraud had been uncovered.

Like Picasso, Bacon sought neither photorealism nor photographic verisimilitude, nor were his paintings merely the sum of their sources. Latterly, therefore, he ensured that a much tighter control was kept over the identity of the stimuli he was prepared to divulge. Since he also disliked appending fanciful titles to his paintings, most were kept deliberately vague and non-specific; a rare exception was Triptych inspired by T.S. Eliot's poem 'Sweeney Agonistes' (1967, Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC), but despite the fact that the scenes in the outer panels clearly refer to the poem, Bacon insisted that the title was imposed by the Marlborough Gallery and pretended there was no connection with Eliot's text. He effectively censured, too, the iconological study of his paintings, initially by denying their iconographies. Most critics acquiesced in this denial of content, and those who transgressed risked his non-cooperation regarding reproduction rights; their enforced collaboration in this information clamp-down helped to ensure that Bacon's paintings, and his procedures, were investigated and understood largely on the terms he dictated, or of which he approved.

Bacon described his paintings of the human body as a balance of order and chaos, of preconception and chance. Yet his unique path through figuration in the twentieth century failed to resonate with the guru of American Abstract Expressionism, Clement Greenberg, who perceived it as embodying 'an affliction of the English ... the Grand Manner'. (8) Greenberg appears to have wilfully misread the interventions onto works by Michelangelo, Caravaggio or Ingres, as though Bacon had slavishly emulated these masters. On the contrary, Bacon's view of the hopelessness of the human condition precluded the aspiration to anything as uncomplicatedly elevated or ennobling as grandeur. He aimed to subvert as much as to celebrate art-historical traditions, and sought to redefine issues of representation of the human form. Although the specifics of his image sources are ultimately secondary to the syntheses Bacon performed on them, and should not be over-stressed, the essential modernity and rich complexity of his figurative idiom depended to a considerable extent on its mutable dialogue with photography's engagement with transience, mortality and memory.

(1) Jean Clair, 'Pathos and Death', in G.Regnier et al. (ed.), The Body on the Cross, exh. cat., Musee Picasso, Paris, 1992, p. 136.

(2) David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1997, p. 20.

(3) David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 246.

(4) Most of the surviving sketches are in Tate; see: Matthew Gale, Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, London, 1999.

(5) Sylvester, op. cit. in note 3 above, p. 44.

(6) See especially Ernst van Alphen, Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self, London, 1998.

(7) The Sunday Times: Culture, 7 February 1999 (front cover).

(8) Clement Greenberg, 'Autonomies of Art', in The Edmonton Contemporary Artists Society Newsletter, vol. III, issue 2, 1996.

Martin Harrison is the author of In Camera: Francis Bacon, Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, published by Thames and Hudson this month.




Francis Bacon: Studying form


February 9 - April 15, 2005
Catalogue to be published

Faggionato Fine Arts, 49 Albemarle Street, London W1S 3JR 

Opening Hours: Monday - Friday 10.00 am - 6.00 pm Saturday 12-4pm

Tel + 44 20 74 09 79 79  Nearest Tube: Green Park   Buses: 9 14 19 22 38




Faggionato Fine Arts is pleased to announce their forthcoming exhibition Francis Bacon Studying Form. The exhibition focuses on Bacon’s core concern in art – the representation of the human body. Six works, ranging in date from 1959 to 1988, demonstrate his radical and varied approach to the subject.

The exhibition includes three works belonging to a series of paintings and sketches of lying and reclining figures that Bacon completed between 1959 and 1961. Lying Figure 1959 and two works on paper from the Tate collection (Reclining Figure No.1 and Reclining Figure No.2, c.1961) are shown as representative of a period when Bacon undertook a fundamental reassessment of ways of staging the figure in space. These are cited as illustrating a pivotal moment in Bacon’s art in which he investigates new pictorial formats and paint handling techniques. Here for the first time he experiments with articulated limb positions, sexually ambiguous figures, thinned pigments and fluid brushstrokes.

The three remaining works stand as further examples of Bacon’s varied response to painting the human body. Kneeling Figure (c.1982) draws on a theme Bacon investigated between 1979 and 1984: Oedipus and The Sphinx. In these fragmented torsos, painted with a complex blurring of gender distinctions, Bacon incorporated some of his most powerful representations of shifting sexual orientation. In Study for a Portrait of John Edwards (1988) we have a monumental, deceptively simple, yet subtly compelling late work, which demonstrates his ongoing exploration of portraiture. Finally the iconography of Triptych 1987 reveals Bacon’s continuing preoccupation with themes of violence and injury which had been an obsession throughout his career.

The catalogue, published by Faggionato Fine Arts and The
Estate of Francis Bacon, will include David Sylvester’s final contribution to Bacon studies Francis Bacon and The Nude, written shortly before his death and delivered at the Dublin Symposium in 2001. These proved to be his last words on an artist who had been his close friend for more than forty years. Mr Sylvester was too unwell to deliver the lecture in person, but both the transcript and the illustrations are printed here for the first time in full. 

The catalogue also includes an essay by Martin Harrison whose book In Camera – Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practise of Painting will be published on 7 March 2005.

Published by  by Faggionato Fine Art and the Estate of Francis Bacon on the occasion of the exhibition Francis Bacon: Studying Form. Essays by David Sylvester and Martin Harrison. £20+p&p    





Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads
4th June 6th - 4th September, 2005.

 Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road 75, EH4 3DR Edinburgh United Kingdom

Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads
Francis Bacon,  Head VI, 1949 courtesy of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Francis Bacon is celebrated as one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century.

From the 1940s to his death in 1992 he worked consistently as a painter, ignoring other passing, fashionable trends in art. Throughout his career, the human figure was the dominant subject in his work: his paintings of men and women go far beyond a simple likeness and instead are portraits of complex psychological states.

Among his most intense works are his small-format portraits; this will be the first museum exhibition devoted to this fascinating aspect of his work and the first on Francis Bacon in Scotland.

Tel  +44 (0)131 624 6200
Fax  +44 (0)131 623 7126




Three Furies, Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon

The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House; 392 Seats; A$51 ($39) Top
SYDNEY -  A Sydney Festival presentation in association with Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Perth Intl. Arts Festival, Griffin Theater Company and Sydney Opera House of a drama with songs in one act by Stephen Sewell. Directed by Jim Sharman.
The painter - Simon Burke
The Model - Socratis Otto
Tisiphone - Paula Arundell

By Michaela Boland, Variety, January 28, 2005 


Only a few years ago, scribe Stephen Sewell couldn't get a theatre gig in Australia. The mainstage companies were not taking his calls, he'd outgrown the fringe scene and his next step wasn't immediately apparent. He dabbled in screenwriting, most notably with The Boys, and dreamed up the idea of exploring the lives of painters onstage. So followed The Secret Death of Salvador Dali, produced most recently by Griffin Theatre Company in 2004, and now, Three Furies, Scenes From the Life of Francis Bacon a much bigger production backed by three leading Oz arts festivals and harnessing the talents of The Rocky Horror Picture Show helmer Jim Sharman.

Compared with the super-conservative plays finding favour on Australia's mainstages this year, Three Furies occupies another realm, intentionally so. It is a festival piece - bold, explicit and challenging - and as such should enjoy a fruitful life.

It is a terrifically textured work. Sharman visually references Bacon's paintings, with the three-doored set conjuring any number of his triptychs. The drama centres on Bacon and his lover and model from 1964-71, the handsome, uneducated petty criminal George Dyer, the inspiration for much of the painter's work during that period.

Simon Burke and Socratis Otto work well opposite each other. Burke is the short-tempered artist forced to repeatedly quash the whining demands of Otto's rough, dim-witted model, whose ambitions have grown to dwarf his talent.

Dyer begins to become annoyed that Bacon doesn't include him in all aspects of his life, such as inviting him to the glamorous opening nights of his exhibitions. He also comes to believe Bacon's painting of him are him; the artist is forced to argue, in ever plainer terms, that it is his genius on the canvas and Dyer should remember he is but a piece of meat, albeit a pretty one.

Sewell constructs a wonderfully complex Bacon, a man predisposed to haughtiness and exasperated coolness, but not cruel. He is the product of an unstable childhood shuttling between Ireland and England, with a disciplinarian father inclined to horse-whip his offspring. That discipline finds its way into a predilection for sadomasochism in later life.

A chanteuse as Greek chorus, Tisiphone (Paula Arundell) completes the trinity, many of her lines sung in a raspy, Marianne Faithfull-with-less-range style.

The decision to forgo an intermission was wise. The spell of Three Furies, once cast, would suffer from being broken.
Sets, Brian Thompson; costumes, Alice Lau; lighting, Damien Cooper; music, Basil Hogios; production stage manager; Tanya Leach. Opened, reviewed Jan. 19, 2005. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.




Sydney Festival: Bringing down the house





Tim Benzie, Sydney Star Observer, 27 January 2005


A tortured older gay artist, a cranky, pretty muse and a truly ugly break-up.

It’s a familiar tale to those steeped in gay theatre, film and even literature, and it took shape again this week with mixed results in Three Furies: Scenes From The Life Of Francis Bacon by Stephen Sewell.

Sewell’s concerns are not homosexual but aesthetic, and Three Furies takes the form of a Bacon painting: there are three doors forming a “triptych”; a cow’s carcass forms an occasional backdrop and his lover’s suicide visually echoes Bacon’s memento mori of the event, Triptych (May-June 1973).

Yet the work is painfully reminiscent of other excursions into dysfunctionalia such as Prick Up Your Ears. Director Jim Sharman too often steers the play towards dated, nasty hysterics. It’s difficult – they were surely an ugly couple – yet dramatically there is little on which to hang our empathy.

See it for the acting. Simon Burke (The Painter) gives a dazzling, tightrope performance, balancing amoral camp apathy with genuine horror, and Socratis Otto (The Model) and Paula Arundell (Tisiphone) are perfect satellites to his black sun.

 Three Furies plays at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse until Saturday 29 January. Phone 9266 4890 for bookings.



Three Furies

Reviewer Bryce Hallett
The Age
, Australia January 24, 2005


                Paula Arundell swings from a chandelier during <i>Three Furies</i>.

Paula Arundell swings from a chandelier during Three Furies.
Photo: Steven Siewert

By Stephen Sewell, The Playhouse, Opera House, January 19, until January 29


Stephen Sewell's intoxicating cabaret of the great and difficult artist Francis Bacon is exciting, absorbing and stridently performed.

At 90 minutes or so the biographical dissection fuses stark, ancient storytelling forms with the conventions of domestic drama and the biting flavour and force of German cabaret. It is audacious, angry, desperate, brutal, loving and mad - a tragicomedy embracing the spirit by which Picasso and Bacon sought to overturn the rules of appearance to fathom hard truths.

"We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death," said Bacon. It is this shimmering "scream" that Sewell and director Jim Sharman give potent representation to as they probe the artist's cravings, extremities, verbal lacerations and his explosive relationship with his model, "muse" and lover, George Dyer.

Three Furies unleashes the demons as though Bacon's own rough, expressive, butchered, distorted figures and forms have sprung on to the stage, not in any literal sense, but in the repellent force and beauty of the language, and the beat, growl and ironic tenderness of Basil Hogios' compositions.

"The men I painted were all in extreme situations, and the scream is a transcription of their pain," explained Bacon. No truer words were uttered, given the rage that spews forth from Simon Burke in his outstanding turn as the brutally objective painter, drinker and gambler. It is one of Burke's most shining performances to date as he sinks deep into the demanding role by keeping a cool head, projecting the essential vanity and communicating an abiding sense of the detached, intense, lonely core where art is made.

Socratis Otto is excellent as the model: easy on the eye, witless, affectionate and no match for his virtuosic creator. Dyer succumbs to excess and rejection, and pathetically rails against being reduced to a carcass on his vivisector's table. Sewell masterfully tempers sheer nastiness and terror with an underlying sweetness and recognition of human difficulties and flaws. With echoes of Christopher Isherwood's writings of Berlin and wartime bohemia as well as reminders of Joe Orton and his destructive relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell, Three Furies is wildly illuminating, dark and unsentimental. It is, however, strangely moving in places, especially when Dyer, broken and abandoned, commits suicide on the eve of Bacon's 1971 Paris retrospective. He is found dead on the lavatory of their hotel room while the "ageless" Anglo-Irish artist is anointed the greatest figurative painter of the 20th century.

The paradoxes of mortality and fame, the sexual ambiguities, the tortures, the yearning for liberation and love colour the world of Three Furies - a tale amplified by the commentator/chanteuse, the fury Tisiphone, played with raunchy vigour by Paula Arundell. Her singing and passion add wonders to the show, although some of Hogios' musical reprises are overdone and strain for effect. I could have done without the "hoity-toity artist" refrain, but it's an effective score on the whole and the lyrics are deft, biting and suggestive.

Three Furies has many of the showman Sharman's hallmarks for vivid, transformative theatre. Together with designers Brian Thomson (set), Alice Lau (costumes) and Damien Cooper (lighting), he has produced a startlingly inventive, austere vaudeville and drama.

It's one of the brightest and boldest bio-plays I've seen and ultimately a metaphor of life in all its traumatic, monstrous, unknowable, glory.




Brutal beauty of the everyday

  The Australian, January 21, 2005


Three Furies. By Stephen Sewell. Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, January 19. Tickets: $46-$51. Bookings: (02) 9266 4890. Until January 29.

"I'VE never known why my paintings are labelled as horrible. I'm always labelled with horror, but I never think of horror . . . You can't be more horrific than life itself."

The speaker is the painter Francis Bacon, quoted in the program to writer Stephen Sewell's and director Jim Sharman's shocking, sensual and provocative new production. Like Bacon they find a terrible beauty in the brutal everyday reality of the world – an aestheticisation of the sordid, as in Genet, and a vivid theatrical meditation on the power of art to bring together the spiritual and the physical.

Sewell has been working on a new dramaturgy ever since his great, neglected Golgrutha trilogy in the 1990s. Last year, in The Secret Death of Salvador Dali, he let the style of the iconic, self-promoting pop surrealist guide the form of the work, playfully and with a lot of humour.

Here is another play about an artist, but the dramaturgy is as different as Bacon is from Dali.

In this production Simon Burke, Paula Arundell and Socratis Otto are stunning – beautiful bodies and voices playing out the facts of grubby lives transformed by art. The play, with music by Basil Hogios, circles around one central event – the suicide of Bacon's model and muse George Dyer on the night before the opening of a major retrospective exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971.

The story is horrific, and emblematic: Bacon, the artistic darling wanting his moment in the limelight, leaving Dyer, the rough-trade, working-class Apollo who inspired him, to die alone in their flash hotel room as he goes out to be applauded as the greatest figurative artist of the 20th century. And then going on to produce one of his major works – three images of his lover dying in the toilet.

Like Bacon, Sewell, Sharman and Hogios turn the ugliness of the bare facts into a beautiful piece with their words, images and music. The style of the show is a dark but enchanting cabaret, with Burke alternating between dry wit and muscular needy passion as Bacon, Otto full of wide-eyed naivety and eroticism as Dyer, and Arundell, as the ancient Greek muse Tisiphone, seductively beguiling as she sings a savage lyric commentary.

Brian Thomson's terrific set is like a cabaret stage, but with three doors that end up as a Bacon-like triptych. The three performers are caught in framed poses like tormented figures in an existentialist nightmare – three furies.



Three Furies, The Playhouse

By Stephen Sewell 


Reviewed by Bryce Hallett, Sydney Morning Herald, 21st January, 2005


The Playhouse, Opera House
January 19
Until January 29


Stephen Sewell's intoxicating cabaret of the great and difficult artist Francis Bacon is exciting, absorbing and brilliantly performed.

At 90 minutes or so the biographical dissection fuses stark, ancient storytelling forms with the conventions of domestic drama and the biting flavour and force of German cabaret. It is audacious, angry, desperate, brutal, loving and mad - a tragicomedy embracing the spirit by which Picasso and Bacon sought to overturn the rules of appearance to fathom hard truths.

"We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death," said Bacon. It is this shimmering "scream" that Sewell and director Jim Sharman give potent theatrical representation to as they probe the artist's cravings, extremities, verbal lacerations and his explosive relationship with his model, "muse" and lover, George Dyer.

Three Furies unleashes the demons as though Bacon's own rough, expressive, butchered, distorted figures and forms have sprung on to the stage, not in any literal sense, but in the repellent force and beauty of the language, and the beat, growl and ironic tenderness of Basil Hogios's compositions.

"The men I painted were all in extreme situations, and the scream is a transcription of their pain," explained Bacon. No truer words were uttered given the rage that spews forth from Simon Burke in his outstanding turn as the brutally objective painter, drinker and gambler. It is one of Burke's most shining performances to date as he sinks deep into the demanding role by keeping a cool head, projecting the essential vanity and communicating an abiding sense of the detached, intense, lonely core where art is made.

Socratis Otto is excellent as the model - easy on the eye, witless, affectionate and no match for his virtuosic creator. Dyer succumbs to excess and rejection, and pathetically rails against being reduced to a carcass on his vivisector's table. Sewell masterfully tempers sheer nastiness and terror with an underlying sweetness and recognition of human difficulties and flaws. With echoes of Christopher Isherwood's writings of Berlin and wartime bohemia as well as reminders of Joe Orton and his destructive relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell, Three Furies is wildly illuminating, dark and unsentimental. It is, however, strangely moving in places, especially when Dyer, broken and abandoned, commits suicide on the eve of Bacon's 1971 Paris retrospective. He is found dead on the lavatory of their hotel room while the "ageless" Anglo-Irish artist is anointed the greatest figurative painter of the 20th century.

The paradoxes of mortality and fame, the sexual ambiguities, the tortures, the yearning for liberation and love colour the world of Three Furies - a tale amplified by the commentator/chanteuse, the fury Tisiphone, played with raunchy vigour by Paula Arundell. Her singing and passion add wonders to the show, although some of Hogios's musical reprises are overdone and strain for effect. I could have done without the "hoity-toity artist" refrain but it's an effective score on the whole and the lyrics are deft, biting and suggestive.

Three Furies has many of the showman Sharman's hallmarks for vivid, transformative theatre. Together with designers Brian Thomson (set), Alice Lau (costumes) and Damien Cooper (lighting) he has produced a startlingly inventive, austere vaudeville and drama. Like the best theatre it's not the least bit dull and persuades the audience to make discoveries of its own. It's one of the brightest and boldest bio-plays I've seen and ultimately a metaphor of life in all its traumatic, monstrous, unknowable glory.




Lifting the veil on Bacon's dark world


Jim Sharman is driven by the power to transform, writes Angela Bennie.


Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, January 14, 2005


Driving force... Jim Sharman says he is relying more on instinct as he directs work based on Francis Bacon's Triptych of May-June 1973.

Photo: Peter Morris


Take the facts of the matter: it is the eve of the huge 1971 Paris retrospective exhibition of the artist Francis Bacon's work, the big splash that would have him declared the greatest figurative artist of the 20th century. The French president Georges Pompidou himself is to open it. Bacon's muse and lover, George Dyer, alone in their hotel room, dies in his own vomit and excrement sitting on the toilet bowl in his underpants, apparently from an overdose of drugs and feelings of rejection and abandonment.

Bacon goes on to paint a triptych depicting his lover in various stages of his lonely death throes; and the Triptych of May-June 1973 comes to be regarded as one of Bacon's greatest works.

Tragedy? Soap opera? Pathos? Bathos?

Now take up a scalpel knife. No palette knife will do here. Scrape away these facts from the surface of the matter and smear them instead across a word canvas. Let them flow like runnels of paint across the canvas in contrapuntal or syncopated rhythms of vivid feeling and sloughs of contorted flesh. Sideways with the knife push them hard into the prose of ordinary, everyday speech, or let them burst into verse patterns like those in Eliot's The Waste Land or Sweeney Agonistes's lurid descriptions of "Birth, and copulation, and death. That's all the facts when you come to brass tacks".

Now mix in the wrath of the Greek Furies and the raw pain of Bacon's grief - and you might be close to the performing text of Stephen Sewell's new play, which opens on Wednesday night at the Opera House, as part of the Sydney Festival.

The work, Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon, is described as a play with songs, but this is too coy. Its music scheme is operatic and yet vaudevillian; its drama stretches from Euripides to Joe Orton, and across all boundaries into the howling soul of a Francis Bacon painting. It is definitive Sewell, working in top gear.

"I believe he has created a new form," says Jim Sharman, who is directing the new work. From someone who has experimented with just about every form the theatre can offer - and has mastered all of them - this could not be hyperbole. This is a fact, as far as Sharman is concerned. It is clear he is very excited.

Perhaps Sharman's positive response is coloured by his own great interest in Bacon's work.

"Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by him," he admits. "He showed me another way of looking at the world and of seeing the world. Though I don't necessarily share his point of view, he gave me a certain insight into the way things were behind appearance. You draw back the curtain, as he did, and the truth is there. Dark it might have been, but true it was."

This vision was generational, Sharman says. Bacon comes out of a postwar period where half of Europe had been destroyed, the atom bomb dropped, the facts of the Holocaust revealed.

"This is a time that produced such artists as Bacon and Beckett, Giacometti, and Patrick White is in there, too," says Sharman. "Bacon describes himself as an optimist about nothing. I sympathise with this. Behind the veil lies the truth, the real. This is what he was after in his painting, the brutality of the fact."

Sharman first encountered Sewell's work on Bacon when it was sent to him in very early draft form, almost embryonic. Even then, he says, he recognised something about it that made him sit up and take notice.

"I engaged with it straight away," Sharman says. "Apart from the fact that it was about Bacon, it was the quality of the writing that impressed me. It was its musicality. I recognised that this was Stephen aiming at something very ambitious. I responded to that."

Sharman has always responded to the ambitious, you might say, especially to that strain of it in himself. But perhaps he would not call it this. "I am not frightened of the imaginative, no," he says instead, with some irony.

"So we began collaborating together on it, Stephen writing, me in the background helping with the structuring, because some of it was very difficult, finding ways to take the work where he wanted to take it.

"In the early stages of the collaboration, at first we approached each other with mutual caution. But when he realised that I, too, wanted to row the boat out, not bring it back to shore, be safe, that I wanted him to take it into uncharted waters, that the whole collaborative thing took off. I would say, 'Let's go, let's go, let's go out there!" And he would respond with this wonderful writing, this remarkable shifting he is doing between great tragedy and comic vaudeville playing at one and the same time."

Theatre, for both these artists, has never been small happenings in little rooms. It is a great force for change and revelation; and both artists have built careers on finding ways of harnessing that force to push the boundaries as far out from the shore as they dared to go.

"The theatre of the Greeks and the Elizabethans, that is the kind of theatre I like," says Sharman. "And Stephen has written a modern version of an Elizabethan play; it has something of its vitality in its form. The notion that theatre has the power to really transform, through laughter, tears, song, dance, whatever, is at the heart of what I've ever done in the theatre.

"I have felt a sense of wrapping up lately. But this is the first thing for a long time where I have felt this feeling of something happening that is completely new.

"I find I rely very much more on instinct now, than thinking things out, as I have in the past.

"Bacon, too, worked very much on the theory of chance, or what he called ordered chaos."

Between them, Sewell and Sharman have delved deep in the realm of ordered chaos, and found a way to lift the veil once more from our eyes, so that we may see a truth, whether the brutality of fact, or its beauty, in the life of Francis Bacon.

"Between life and death," Bacon once said, "it's always been the same thing. It is what it is. It is the violence of life."

There lies the fact of the matter.

Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon, a play with songs by Stephen Sewell, is at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse, January 19-29.




Confessions of an amoralist

, The Australian, January 14, 2005


LOOSENING their tongues is not always easy, but artists are generally much more interesting on the subject of art than critics. No surprise there.

The 19th century produced a bonanza of artists' writings about art, and books such as Delacroix's journals and the letters of both Cezanne and Van Gogh have long been recognised as literary masterpieces.

They contain more than their matchless insights into the business of making art; their ostensible frames of reference tend to dissolve as you read, so that you find yourself reading not about art but about life itself.

In the 20th century, there were few records of an artist's thinking more influential than Francis Bacon's interviews with the critic David Sylvester. First published in 1975, the book which collected and reprinted these interviews is now in its fifth edition, and has had a huge influence not only on artists, but on novelists, playwrights, poets, musicians and film-makers across the world.

It has also done wonders for Bacon's posthumous reputation, leaving scholars and curators with an almost endless source of ideas. Just last year, a huge exhibition called Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art was organised by the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland; the pairing of Bacon paintings with works by Titian, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh and Picasso were almost all inspired by what Bacon said about those artists in the interviews.

Bacon the man is the subject of one of the Sydney Festival's main attractions - Stephen Sewell's Three Furies: Scenes From the Life of Francis Bacon, a play with songs.

Two films about Bacon are also being screened on Sunday as part of the festival's film program. One of them is the recording of an encounter between Bacon and the poet William Burroughs in Bacon's London studio in 1982. The other is an interview with Bacon conducted by Melvyn Bragg for The South Bank Show in 1985.

It has to be said that by 1985 (he died in 1992) Bacon was almost interviewed out. The Sylvester interviews in the book are published in nine parts. They were taped conversations conducted privately or in studios for radio and television. The last ones, conducted in the mid-'80s, are full of tiresome repetitions, mannered formulations and barely veiled self-regard - a lot like Bacon's late paintings.

But the earlier interviews, like Bacon's best work, are quite unforgettable. They reflect on his own life ("I live in, you may say, a gilded squalor"); his upbringing in Ireland; his love of gambling; his homosexuality (in one extraordinary dialogue he discusses being sexually attracted to his father); his fascination with photography and film; his distaste for abstract art; the success and failure of his own work (he dismisses outright some of his most famous paintings, including those of the human scream and the series after Velazquez's Pope Innocent X: "they're very silly"); and the unique condition of art today.

"You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself ... I think that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it's going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all."

Bacon is especially good on other artists. His comments on Degas's pastels and on Velazquez's sophisticated recording of the Spanish court ("You feel the shadow of life passing all the time") have stayed with me ever since I first read them as a teenager.

Bacon was adamantly amoral, and along with this came a contempt for all forms of artificial security, including government welfare: "I think that being nursed from the cradle to the grave would bring such a boredom to life ... But people seem to expect that and think it is their right. I think that, if people have that attitude to life, it curtails the creative instinct."

Although he was irreligious, one of Bacon's prevailing obsessions was the art historical theme of the Crucifixion. He famously likened the figure of Christ in Cimabue's 13th-century Crucifixion to "a worm crawling down the cross".

After a while you begin to suspect that a lot of what Bacon says is calculated to shock. When he says: "You know in my case, all painting is accident. So I foresee it in my mind and yet I hardly ever carry it out as I foresee it. It transforms itself by the actual paint" - it sounds a brilliant and explosive thing to say.

But examined more closely, it begins to feel jerry-built. To the extent that it is true, isn't it more or less true for all successful forms of creativity? And then, to the extent that it is false, it is self-evidently so: a good painting, as Bacon himself knew, is hard work, and it usually involves making thousands of decisions, both conscious and instinctive.

Look at Bacon's own work and one sees instantly that the best of it is highly calculated and beautifully finished. Chance plays a crucial role. But he exaggerates this role for rhetorical purposes.

No matter. As he said: "As existence in a way is so banal, you may as well try and make a kind of grandeur of it rather than be nursed to oblivion."

David Sylvester's Interviews with Francis Bacon is published by Thames & Hudson

Bacon Meets Burroughs and Portrait of an Artist: Francis Bacon screen at the Dendy Cinema, Opera Quays, Sydney on Sunday.

Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon is at the Sydney Opera House, January 15-29.




A tale of sound and furies


Arts Performance,  Sydney Star Observer, Issue 747, 12.1.2005 


The gayest event of the Sydney Festival, a sensual and hallucinogenic exploration of the life of painter Francis Bacon, can be seen in previews from this week.

The versatile Simon Burke plays the tortured gay artist, who on the eve of a major Paris exhibition is faced with the suicide of his muse and lover George Dyer.

Three Furies: Scenes From The Life Of Francis Bacon features strong language and nudity, is directed by Jim Sharman and co-stars Socratis Otto as The Model and siren Paula Arundell as Tisiphone.

Take the trip at the Sydney Opera House, Playhouse from 15 to 29 January. Phone 9250 7777 for bookings.




By Clare Morgan,  Sydney Morning Herald, January 7, 2005


Things will be quieter but no less intense a few days later for the world premiere of Australian playwright Steven Sewell's latest work, Three Furies: Scenes From the Life of Francis Bacon, directed by Jim Sharman. The play with songs explores the tempestuous relationship between Bacon and his model, muse and lover, George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's great Paris retrospective.

Brett Sheehy says he has seen the work evolve from a text-based two-hander when he first spoke to Sewell about it several years ago, "to a hybrid work that is half musical theatre, half lunar cycle".

"I love that Brian Thomson and Jim Sharman are together again after The Rocky Horror Picture Show all those years ago. Both have, in a kind of theatrical way, created a Bacon tryptich on stage. What this looks at is the role of the model, the muse and beauty in art."

This is Sheehy's final festival. Whatever the verdict, he confesses he might shed a tear once it's over - in private, at least.

"One of the primary roles of a festival is to present something that moves people and touches them and affects them," he says. "The idea that you can deliver a great artistic moment to people for the price of a railway ticket, I kind of love that. To watch people's faces light up, and see that they're moved and touched by something, makes my heart sing."




The party's over



Advice on treating hangovers

Health features, The TimesDecember 13, 2004


THE face of Soho has changed. The paint and ink-stained doyens of yesteryear have slipped away. Their alcohol-fuelled chatter that once resounded in pubs is now only a memory that occasionally disturbs the muted conversation of the elderly survivors of a passing generation.

The ghosts of Augustus John, Francis Bacon, Henrietta Moraes, Elizabeth Smart, Dylan Thomas and Daniel Farson would all be able to surprise the hordes of young people who now throng Soho with accounts of life as it was. Media chatter still rings around the bar of the Toucan pub, or the Coach and Horses (famous for Norman, its landlord, and as the second home of Jeffrey Bernard and Private Eye).

The creativity displayed by the generation that frequented Soho was bought at a cost of heavy drinking. Not all pay the supreme sacrifice like Dylan Thomas, who died young. However, even for those who are more circumspect about drinking, or who are better endowed with the enzymes that metabolise alcohol, there is still the likelihood of a punitive hangover. Many who have had a hard night in Soho are later disturbed by pillow spin, and a sickening feeling each time they need to crawl out of bed and navigate their way to the bathroom.

Some may even remember Francis Bacon’s words: “I have never found any panacea for a hangover. I don’t think one exists apart from suicide.”

Only advancing age, with its concomitant progressively shrinking brain, finally removes the peril of a splitting headache after a night’s heavy drinking.

Compared with the headache of a hangover, the other adverse affects of alcohol, such as an upset gastrointestinal system, nausea, sweating and confused thinking, are as nothing. Even if Bacon is correct in suggesting there is no one panacea for a hangover, there are many ways in which one can be prevented or relieved.

How drunk someone becomes depends entirely on how much alcohol they have imbibed, their sex, their genetic make-up, their size, and how experienced their liver is in dealing with it. It is a myth that mixing drinks makes people more drunk: it merely gives them a worse hangover. Practice at the bar may not make perfect but it can increase the amount drunk without untoward effects by as much as a third. The body’s enzymes which metabolise alcohol can dispose of a unit much more quickly if the drinker is an established one whose liver is not yet beginning to fail. Women metabolise alcohol more slowly and less efficiently than men, so they get drunk faster and sober up more slowly — and may well have a worse hangover. Thin, muscular people can take it better than short, fat, couch potatoes.

The hangover, as opposed to drunkenness, is also dependant on the type of drink consumed. As a rough guide, the darker the drink the greater the hangover. Eating a proper meal — cashew nuts don’t count — while drinking not only reduces the hangover but also boosts the medicinal qualities of alcohol when taken in moderation.

For a century or two those who wined, dined or merely drank in the clubland district of St James, London, have had a refuge that they can attend the following morning: the long-established chemists D. R. Harris and Co of St James Street have been dispensing their pick-me-up made from a secret recipe of tincture of gentian and cardamom, clove oil and a little bit of camphor, diluted and served in a special glass. It clears the head and settles the stomach. Few people believe that a little alcohol the following morning can help, but as iniquitous as the habit may be, it can do so.

The scientific approach to a hangover is to study the effects of the alcohol and counteract each one. Alcohol dehydrates so that every part of the body is shrunken other than the brain, and needs refreshing. The brain swells because of the damage, usually only temporary, that has been done to the nerve cells by the alcohol. Old people don’t develop headaches because their age-shrunken brain has room to swell within the rigid skull without becoming crushed and painful.

Alcohol causes a great tide of insulin to flow out from the pancreas. As a result the blood sugar level is lowered, hypoglycaemia sets in and the drunken person becomes hot, sweaty and shaky, and the mind turns over rather more slowly than usual. Just as dehydration should be treated with a high water intake before and after drinking, so should the hypoglycaemia be treated by asking the hungover person to eat a diet with as much protein and carbohydrate — a classic fry-up will help those with a strong stomach — as they can without being sick.

Finally, alcohol also irritates the gastrointestinal system. Alka-Seltzer, Rennie, or any other popular remedies ease the inflammation and Alka-Seltzer has the advantage of helping the headaches, too. For the headache alone, there are the analgesics, preferably paracetamol — no one wants to make the inflamed gut bleed with too much aspirin.



MoMA reborn—back to front

Expanded $858 million new building complex unveiled

 By Mark Irving, The Art Newspaper, Wednesday 17th November, 2004


On 20 November, the largest, grandest and richest modern art museum in the world reopens after a two and half year closure to allow for an $858m architectural expansion. The project to reshape the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), located between 54th and 53rd Streets in midtown Manhattan, is huge. At the hands of Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, it has become twice its former size. 

The official line is that after the war New York took over from Paris as the centre of contemporary art, but since then suzerainty has shifted between America and Europe, with new centres also opening up in the Far East and Latin America. It is now the type of contemporary art, not where it is being made, that determines critical and commercial success. In this regard, Britain has recently proved to be an important hub. MoMA’s latest acquisition of Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1991), for example, “allows us to look at figure painting in the 1980s in a very different way”, says Mr Lowry.



Art Auctions Continues to the End, as Recent Works Dominate






                               Oedipus and the Sphinx After Ingres, 1983  Francis Bacon 

A dead pope, a giant bear, a bright yellow puppy with its ears standing upright and shelves of jars filled with bovine internal organs preserved in formaldehyde were just a few of the artworks that a loyal and growing group of contemporary-art collectors snapped up on Thursday night at Phillips, de Pury & Company.

Artists of the 1980's and 90's dominated the offerings in the packed Chelsea salesroom on the last night of two solid weeks of the important fall art auctions. Of the 58 lots, only 4 failed to sell. The auction totaled $25.5 million, right in the middle of its estimate of $20.9 million to $29.3 million.

The top lot was a 1979 Francis Bacon "Oedipus,'' which was the cover image on the sale catalog and was inspired by Ingres's "Oedipus and Orestes.'' Two bidders went for the painting, which sold to Lawrence Graff, the jeweler, who was sitting in the front row. Mr. Graff paid $3.5 million, after an estimate of $4 million to $6 million. Bacon's work has not performed well at this week's auctions, so the fact that the painting sold for less than its estimate was not surprising.




$17.4 Million Rothko One of Many Records at Sotheby's

Reuters, New York, 10.11.2004

Among the few casualties were Gerhard Richter's "Drei Geschwister (Three Sisters)" and Francis Bacon's "Pope and Chimpanzee," works estimated from $3 million to $5 million that failed to sell when bids fell off at $3 million or less.




    Contemporary Art, Evening 

       9th November 2004 New York



                           Pope and Chimpanzee 1962  Francis Bacon   Lot 32




Estate of the artist
Faggionato Fine Arts, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above.


New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon, Important Paintings from the Estate, October 1998 - January 1999, p. 55, illustrated in colour, and p. 57, colour illustration of detail.


Pope and Chimpanzee, from 1962, displays a number of Bacon’s celebrated motifs, channeling their concomitant tributaries of thought onto the same canvas. This complex, deeply intelligent canvas continues Francis Bacon’s impassioned and celebrated exploration of the Pope and, specifically, his reaction to reproductions of Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece, Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650, Rome, Galleria Dora Pamphili). For nearly twenty years, Bacon filled his canvases with bold, searching swathes of oil paint in an effort to render, both physically and psychically, the most senior and powerful figure in the Catholic Church. One finds in this ‘series’ of ‘portraits’ brushstrokes that engender an unerring sense of presence, giving the viewer the overriding sensation of the fullness of life sweeping through these paintings. Such drama is born from Bacon’s obsession with the Velazquez painting, placing this Pope into his own cast of isolated, existential figures who all appear to live at the very edge of life. Accompanying this papal figure is another of Bacon’s familiar motifs: that of the monkey. Here, a chimpanzee bursts out of the pictorial space, aggressively confronting both the Pope and the viewer; its active, almost cruciform pose is in stark contrast to the more static, regal pose of the Pope. Like the Pope, the monkey provided Bacon with a subject that allowed him to explore a series of emotions. Bacon famously painted Study of a Baboon (1953, New York, The Museum of Modern Art), focusing on the arched head of the isolated animal, clearly depicting it screaming. Its fanged mouth is found in earlier works such as Head II (1949, Belfast, Ulster Museum), and all relate to another of Bacon’s obsessions: the scream, and, in particular, the filmic rendition one finds in Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin (1925) and the shrieking, wounded character of the nursemaid. A silhouette of a walking figure, delineated in lilac paint, is curiously layered over the chimpanzee figure, as if to further connect these two motifs, as well as linking the veiled spatial device below the two motifs with both the throne and the figure of the Pope.

Francis Bacon famously turned down the opportunity to go and see the Velazquez portrait of Innocent X. He was in Rome in 1954 and had the chance to see the painting, but he turned it down, worrying how he might react to the original. Bacon was enamored with the grand portrayal of the Pope that he saw in reproduction. As the present work clearly exemplifies, Bacon’s task was not one of representing the image, but rather re-presenting the Indices of meaning inherent to the portrait: stature, presence, role, and the very mechanics of being. In essence, Bacon gets under the skin, goes beyond the surface of the representation, and engages us with a series of emotions that lie at the heart of existence. Here, the papal figure is seated in a traditional ‘three-quarter’ pose, set against the bright red background of the throne, configured here as a three-dimensional rectangular block of unadulterated color from which the figure seems to step out and into the composition. The light blue veil below can be seen to represent the Pope’s dress, yet is delineated architectonically, providing a space for the chimpanzee; its cubistic construction in contrast with the more curvilinear marks setting out the neutral amphitheatre of the background. Such an intricate composition reveals Bacon’s interest in stretching the boundaries of painterly tradition as well as the confines of this traditional subject. Here, he reverses the expectation of religious obedience by vexing the figure; setting him (and his viewer) in a state of flux. Paternal serenity is now replaced with an itchy agitation of self and status. Discussing the status of the ‘figure’ in the post-war canon, Bacon’s Popes straddle both the abstract and the figurative, depicting the extreme forms of human experience.

The chimpanzee appears as if it is about to pounce on the papal figure; its action in stark contrast with the more hieratic pose of the Pope. For Bacon, this animal was the embodiment of chaos. Like many of his human subjects, Bacon’s animals are generally shown in tortured states, where they shriek and twist in physical contortions. The chimpanzee is depicted with an almost violent attack of the brush, causing the blurring of the image, reflecting Bacon’s interest in frozen motion and the effects of photography and film, and making it difficult to interpret the pose or expression. In composition and treatment it is close to paintings of simians executed in the fifties by Graham Sutherland, with whom Bacon became friendly in 1946. The faint, schematic framing enables Bacon to unleash the action of the chimpanzee better, while the monochrome red background of the papal throne provides a starkly contrasting field that helps to define its form. The violence of the chimpanzee must be linked to that of Bacon’s own technique. Bacon augmented his firsthand experience of animals by referring to the photographic plates of Marius Maxwell’s Stalking Big Game with a Camera in Equatorial Africa (1924). As Davies and Yard note, “In pursuit of his dangerous subjects, Maxwell had been forced to act quickly, and many of the resultant images have a blurred, dreamlike insubstantiality that must have appealed to Bacon.” (Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York 1986, p. 32). Indeed, the figure of the chimpanzee is so blurred here as to take on a phantasmagorical, rather than a physical presence, presented as a charged sweep of pigment across the Pope. Compositionally, this adds an electric charge to the landscape of the painting. Layered on top of the chimpanzee figure is a plain silhouette of a figure. Like a negative shadow, this simple delineation seems to conjoin the two motifs; man and beast becoming one and the same.

Both motifs sit neatly together on the canvas, in unison becoming the architecture of the painting itself. The closed, claustrophobic interior, often delineated as a cage-like construction within the composition, is crucial to Bacon’s art. They provide theatre spaces in which the existential drama takes place, enacted by his cast of players. Here, that space seems almost fused with the figures. The throne becomes the Pope; his dress becomes a smaller stage for the chimp. The background, sliced with a couple of simple curved lines, is rendered in exactly the same way as the dress. The interior architecture of self now becomes the exterior environment of the theatre of existence. Indeed, the extraordinary compression of the images, blurred to a point where they become meaty passages of pure pigment, together with the scumbled burgundy background heightens the drama of the scene before us. Bacon draws broad sweeps of his paint-filled brush as if trying to mimic the psychological conflict into physical action. Incorporating a rich array of colours, techniques and textures the image brings the paint to life. The alliance of the weave together with the scumbling and meandering areas of thick and thin paint, creates a living, breathing action that is nothing short of mesmerizing.





 Contemporary Art, Evening 

  9th November 2004 New York  Sale 8026 



                    Pope and Chimpanzee 1962 



Art/Auctions, The City Review


Lot 32 is a superb work by Francis Bacon, entitled Pope and Chimpanzee. An oil on canvas, it measures 64 ¾ by 56 inches and was executed in 1962.

In its painterliness, it could be a fine companion to the Rothko, especially for schizophrenic collectors.

The catalogue provides the following very incisive commentary on the Bacon, noting that it "displays a number of Bacon's celebrated motifs, channeling their concomitant tributaries of thought onto the same canvas":

"This complex, deeply intellectual canvas continues Francis Bacon's impassioned and celebrated exploration of the Pope, and, specifically, his reaction to reproductions of Diego Velasquez's masterpiece, Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650, Rome, Galleria Dora Pamphili). For nearly twenty years, Bacon filled his canvases with bold, searching swathes of oil paint in an effort to render, both physically and psychically, the most senior and powerful figure in the Catholic Church….Accompanying this papal figure is another of Bacon's familiar motifs: that of the monkey. Here, a chimpanzee bursts out of the pictorial space, aggressively confronting both the Pope and the viewer; its active, almost cruciform pose is in stark contrast to the more static, regal pose of the Pope...A silhouette of a walking figure, delineated in lilac paint, is curiously layered over the chimpanzee….Francis Bacon famously turned down the opportunity to go and see the Velasquez portrait…,worrying how he might react to the original…..Bacon's task was not one of representing the image, but rather re-presenting the Indices of meaning inherent to the portrait: stature, presence, role, and the very mechanics of being. In essence, Bacon gets under the skin, goes beyond the surface of the representation, and engages us with a series of emotions that lie at the heart of existence….The chimpanzee appears as if it is about to pounce on the papal figure; its action in stark contrast with the more hieratic pose of the Pope. For Bacon, this animal was the embodiment of chaos. Like many of his human subjects, Bacon's animals are generally shown in tortured states, where they shriek and twist in physical contortions. The chimpanzee is depicted with an almost violent attack of the brush, causing the blurring of the image, reflecting Bacon's interest in frozen motion and the effects of photography and film, and making it difficult to interpret the pose or expression….The closed, claustrophobic interior, often delineated as a cage-like construction within the composition, is crucial to Bacon's art. They provide theater spaces in which the existential drama takes place, enacted by his cast of players…."

The lot has a modest estimate of $3,000,000 to $4,000,000. It failed to sell.




Sheehy sees off Sydney Festival


by Raymond Gill, The Age, Australia, Nov 4, 2004 


Sydney Festival director Brett Sheehy launched his fourth and final festival program yesterday before he moves on to direct the 2006 Adelaide Festival. And true to form, it's another festival perfectly pitched for a Sydney summer, with a broad sweep of crowd-pleasing high and popular arts featuring well known artists. Playwright of the moment Stephen Sewell turns his attention to artist Francis Bacon in his new work Three Furies - Scenes From the Life of Francis Bacon. Billed as "a play with songs", it stars Simon Burke as Bacon, is directed by Jim Sharman and features songs and music by Basil Hogios.




Bacon estate: partner’s will published


The Arts Newspaper, Friday, 24 September 2004


John Edwards, heir to the Bacon fortune, left a surprisingly modest estate, valued at £787,000, following his death in Bangkok last year. Mr Edwards, a former barman and companion of the artist, was the sole beneficiary of Bacon’s £11 million legacy in 1992. The Edwards will was published a month ago. It had been assumed that Mr Edwards would have left considerably more, benefitting his close friend, Philip Mordue, who has been involved with the Thai nightclub scene. Mr Edwards’ assets, however, were reduced by heavy spending and gifts. Most of the money went to the John Edwards Charitable Foundation, set up last year to promote Bacon’s work. One of the first beneficiaries of the Edwards (and Bacon) estate is the National Portrait Gallery in London, which was given a contribution towards the purchase of Larry Rivers’ “Mr Art”, a portrait of art critic David Sylvester.



TATE Britain 

Saturday 2nd October 2004

Reconsidering Francis Bacon

Led by Ben Jones

Francis Bacon occupies a central position in the history of modern art. He reinvigorated figurative art and his celebrated Triptychs, of single figures in action, are both visually powerful and psychologically disturbing. They frequently deal with the horror of the human condition in the mid and late twentieth century - as the critic David Sylvester has said, ‘not at the literal level of observation, but by imaginatively crystallizing the conflicts into mythical figures.’

The highlight of Tate Britain's new FrancisBbacon display is the triptych of 1968, on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, and never before shown in the UK. This study day uses slide lectures and gallery discussion to review the principal themes and continuing influence of Bacon's work in the context of this painting.

Tate Britain Studio 1
£15 (£10 concessions), booking required
Price includes refreshments




The lover who blew Bacon's millions


Francis Bacon left his barman boyfriend £11m: last week there was almost nothing left.

Andrew Sinclair, who knew them both, on a spectacular spending spree


The Times, September 05, 2004

Francis Bacon was the most famous British painter of his age. His horrific pictures changed the face of art and sold for millions of pounds. But one day in 1988, instead of going to Moscow for a show of his paintings he joined me at the Groucho club in London’s Soho.

Four hours and four bottles of champagne later, I was legless. His last words to me were: “Andrew, unless I leave to see a lawyer, £3m will go to my sister in South Africa. Have you got a bad cause?” “What about yourself, Francis?” I said.

He laughed and left. He was looking, at about 80 years old, like a pantomime Prince Charming, jaunty in high boots, teeth washed in Persil and short slick hair rubbed down with brown boot polish.

I do not know if he got to his lawyer that day. But eventually he did — and left his entire £11m fortune to his final lover, a docker’s son named John Edwards, when he died in 1992.

Edwards died last year and last week his will was published. In 12 years he had managed to squander virtually the whole of his famous friend’s wealth. After tax and other deductions, Edwards’s estate was worth just £786,702.

He was Francis’s last great love. Not least due to their age difference — Bacon was nearly 40 years older than Edwards — the painter and his companion have been described as the art world’s odd couple. Publicly they denied being lovers — homosexuals in that era often did — but I have no doubt they were. What is indisputable is that the two were together for the last 15 years of the painter’s life, and Edwards featured in 30 of Bacon’s works.

They met in the mid-1980s. Edwards, a dark and handsome East Ender with a square jaw and a brooding presence, was working in a pub when Francis first saw him. Living in the seedy area of Cable Street with his five brothers, Edwards wanted to get away from the East End — and the patronage of his new friend was just the ticket.

Bacon set up the Edwards family in the antiques business, bought houses for them and enabled them to enjoy lives that bore no resemblance to their former existence.

Francis and Edwards would meet after breakfast at Bacon’s jammed and cluttered studio at Reece Mews in South Kensington. The artist would often paint Edwards, but his lover recalled that he always made painting into a drama, “as if he was fighting with the canvas”. When Francis slashed up his pictures with a Stanley knife, sometimes John saved the bits and pieces. But he was a minder in real life, not just in art.

The painter needed protection from the swarms of raffish young men around him, looking for a free lunch and more. All rich gays need a warning system in Soho and elsewhere. Bacon realised this. It was for this reason he left his cash and the contents of his studio to Edwards.

So where did the money go? After Bacon’s death, Edwards lived on the Florida Keys and later Thailand.

A sizable portion of the Bacon estate was lost in an extremely foolish legal battle with Marlborough Fine Arts, the gallery, headed by the Duke of Beaufort, through which Bacon had sold his works. A £100m lawsuit claimed the Marlborough had exercised “undue influence” over Bacon, charged too much commission and failed to account for 33 paintings. The gallery rightly denied any wrongdoing — indeed I was lined up as an expert witness in its support.

Then, suddenly, Edwards dropped the case after years of legal wrangling, leaving him lumbered with a bill that ran into millions.

The Bacon money also went to finance Edwards’s life in Thailand with his lover, Philip Mordue — better known in the London underworld as Thailand Phil or Phil the Till — where it was invested in bars and brothels in the über-seedy resort of Pattaya. Does it matter that the money was frittered away? Such things did not matter to Francis Bacon, who never cared about money or whether he was poor or rich.

The Marlborough Gallery used to give him £10,000 every Monday in a roll of £50 notes. Some of these he used to pay for our champagne at the Groucho club. Otherwise he would gamble what he still had at the weekend, playing roulette at the Soho casino of Charlie Chester. The rest he gave to his companions.

Francis moved the Edwards brothers to the Suffolk village of Long Melford. Pamela Firth Matthews, his first cousin, lived there at Cavendish Hall and was the lady of the manor. Long ago at a local dance, the young Francis had shocked everybody by dressing in women’s clothes as a 1920s flapper and declaring his preferences.

Francis bought a gamekeeper’s cottage and then the headmaster’s house at the rear of the village school. The aged Edwards parents would end up living there in green retirement far from Wapping. Later, a pub was bought and two large houses.

Fortunes and the fortunate climb the ladder of success, as Mae West said, wrong by wrong. The Edwards family became the largest landowners in the village and were richer than the Firths. With the help of Bacon, whose family had come from the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, the cockney lads would do better than landed aristocrats from Kildare. This was pure Bacon. His disasters and his pleasures lay in trying to bring opposites together.

In the words of Caroline Blackwood, once married to Bacon’s friend, the painter Lucian Freud: “Francis had an anarchic fearlessness which was unique. I can think of no one else who would have dared to boo a member of the royal family in a private house.”

That was the late Princess Margaret, who had made the mistake of trying to sing in front of him.

He never booed John Edwards in the 15 years they were together. Edwards, like nobody else, always treated him like a good mate from the pub.

Andrew Sinclair has written a biography of Francis Bacon. His recent book is An Anatomy of Terror (Pan-Macmillan)



Bacon's fortune 'was not wasted'


By A Correspondent, The Times, September 4, 2004

THE companion of Francis Bacon, accused of squandering the artist’s £11 million legacy, had disposed of his fortune carefully, knowing he was dying, his brother said yesterday.

John Edwards, to whom Bacon left his entire estate, had ensured that no one took advantage of the artist’s generosity, David Edwards, an antiques dealer from Long Melford, Suffolk, said.

John Edwards, the illiterate son of an East End docker, appeared in 30 of Bacon’s paintings. He died last year, aged 53. Recent probate showed that Mr Edwards’s estate was worth less than £1 million after tax and debts.

David Edwards claimed that £50 million would be a closer estimate of his brother’s wealth. “He was already a multimillionaire when he inherited the £11 million. My brother knew he was going to die for 18 months. Like any businessman he planned what he was going to do with his money. He also set up the John Edwards Charitable Trust, which promotes the work of Bacon and supports up and coming artists.”

Much of Bacon’s work has remained unaccounted for, but David Edwards said his family knew the whereabouts of many of the paintings.




My brother didn't squander £11m fortune


A BUSINESSMAN has defended the reputation of his brother after he was accused of squandering a celebrated artist's multi-million-pound fortune.

John Edwards has been accused of frittering away an £11m legacy left to him by his long-time companion, the artist Francis Bacon, on a Champagne lifestyle.

Bacon shocked the art world on his deathbed when he left his entire fortune to John Edwards - the illiterate son of a London docker.

He was Bacon's favourite model, appearing in 30 of his paintings, including Three studies For A Portrait of John Edwards that sold for more than £3m in 2001.

John Edwards died last year at the age of 53, but his reputation is still dogged with national newspapers claiming he engineered his friendship with the artist and used the bond purely for financial gain.

Recent probate revelations, which showed John Edwards' estate was worth just over £3m, reduced to less than £1m after tax and debts, have added fuel to the fire.

Now his younger brother David, an antiques dealer from Long Melford, has decided to speak out in defence of his sibling.

He insisted the pair had a true friendship, adding his brother had cared deeply for Bacon and looked after him during his life, ensuring no-one was able to take advantage of the artist's generosity.

“My brother never used Francis for personal gain, they were the greatest of friends. Francis didn't suffer fools lightly, but my brother was a great judge of character and he made sure nobody took advantage of what he had,” said David Edwards.

“They were never lovers, just the closest of friends. Francis had hundreds of lovers, but he never left them anything, that tells its own story.”

David Edwards also refuted suggestions his family's substantial financial successes had been funded by Bacon's “missing millions”.

He said: “John did look after his family, but our family has not been successful off the back of Francis' fortune, we all made money independently.

“A lot has been said about John and our family in the newspapers, but that doesn't bother us.

“People have often assumed John was stupid because he wasn't formally educated, but anyone who knew him knows the truth and that is all he cared about.”

John Edwards, who owned homes in Long Melford and Hartest, near Sudbury, has been accused of squandering Bacon's £11m fortune in less then a decade.

But his brother, who is a multi-millionaire in his own right, insisted the money had been well invested and claimed £50m would be a closer estimate of his sibling's wealth.

“You have to remember he was already a multi-millionaire when he inherited the £11m. Then later more of Francis's paintings were uncovered, which John also owned and received royalties for. His fortune was in excess of £50m,” said David Edwards.

“What people do not realise is that my brother knew he was going to die for 18 months. Like any true businessman he planned what he was going to do with his money long before he died and disposed of most of it before his death.

“He was a very shrewd and clever man and I can assure you he never squandered any of Francis' money, in fact he used it very wisely.

“John was a multi-millionaire in his own right through his property dealing before Francis died. John didn't need to use Francis for any reason, he knew lots of talented and famous people and they all loved him dearly.”

He added: “John was a fantastic and clever businessman. He may not have been able to read or write, but he could certainly add up.

“John didn't squander any of the money. We as a family know exactly what has happened to all the money, but John's wish was that everything was kept confidential and we will not breach his trust and neither will anybody else.

“He also put a huge amount of money into setting up the John Edwards Charitable Trust, which promotes the work of Francis Bacon and supports up and coming artists.”

Since his death much of Bacon's work has remained unaccounted for, but David Edwards said his family knew the whereabouts of many of the paintings.

“It is fair to say some of Francis' work is still in the family hands, but I will not say more than that,” he added.

National newspapers have also suggested that John Edwards' partner for more that 20 years, Phil Mordue, had inherited the Bacon fortune.

The pair had a homosexual relationship and had homes in Hartest, Long Melford, New York, London and Florida. They were together at their penthouse department in Thailand when John Edwards died of cancer.

David Edwards said Mr Mordue had received some of the estate, but stressed money had also been shared between other friends, family members and charitable causes.

“My brother was an extremely generous person who looked after those he loved. He loved Philip dearly and he has been looked after, and so he should be,” he added.

John Edwards was one of six children born to his East End parents. The family was initially involved in the pub trade and property dealing in London and all the children have become financially successful..

David Edwards moved to Suffolk several years ago and is a successful business property owner and antique dealer, owning antique shops in Long Melford and Cavendish.


How barman spent Bacon's £10m booty


, The Times, August 31, 2004


THE Cockney barman who inherited Francis Bacon’s £10.9 million fortune in 1992 was down to his last £800,000 when he died last year, it was disclosed yesterday.

John Edwards, 53, drank a large portion of the legacy and gave much of it away to friends and relatives before his death from lung cancer in Thailand.

The art world was mortified when Bacon bequeathed his entire estate of artworks to the man who, though 41 years his junior, he described as his “only true friend”.

But the painter, one of the towering figures of 20th-century art, liked the fact that, from the outset of their 16-year friendship, Edwards refused to put him on a pedestal or to think of him as any more than a “good mate”.

Although both were homosexual, Mr Edwards, the son of an East End docker, insisted that he and Bacon, who died from a heart attack aged 82, were never lovers.

The uneducated, dyslexic Mr Edwards would visit Bacon’s South Kensington mews house every morning to make the artist breakfast and sit with him while he painted.

Probate records reveal that Mr Edwards left a gross estate of £3,125,704, reduced after liabilities to a net figure of £786,702.


It is believed that he had earlier bought properties in Suffolk for his parents and other family members. It is also thought that he sold some of Bacon’s paintings through galleries in London and New York.

Mr Edwards, who featured in 30 of the paintings, set up the John Edwards Charitable Foundation a year before his death to promote Bacon’s work.

His will stated that the bulk of his estate should be left in trust — his trustees having the power to distribute it to any charity or individual.


Mr Edwards’s lawyer John Eastman, the brother of the late Linda McCartney, was left a silver plate and framed certificate given to Edwards by the Lord Mayor of Dublin in 2001 after he presented Bacon’s studio to the city.

Bacon’s messy studio in South Kensington, which included around a hundred canvases that he had cut up because he was not satisfied with them, has been faithfully recreated at a gallery in the Irish capital, the artist’s home city.


But, true to form, Mr Edwards also stated that he wanted £50,000 spent on a party at the Harrington Club in London, for his family and friends to celebrate his life. He ordered that Krug champagne should be served.

In his will he also stated that he wanted his ashes scattered at Dales Farm in Hartest, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, which he bought after Bacon’s death.


Mr Edwards initially moved to the Florida Keys, but spent the last nine years of his life in a luxury penthouse in the sex resort of Pattaya, Thailand.

He lived with his boyfriend Philip Mordue — a fellow East Londoner nicknamed “Phil the Till” — who survived a bullet through the neck on Pattaya’s sex-bar strip in 1997.

Mr Edwards said in an interview in 2002: “I think (Bacon) felt very free with me because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn’t asking him about his painting. He liked the way I didn’t care about who he was supposed to be.”

After Mr Edwards’s death there were claims that the money Bacon had left him was used to prop up bars and brothels in Thailand — thus helping to explain the plummeting value of his inheritance despite the burgeoning value of the painter’s work.




Bacon left his best friend an £11m fortune. 

So where has it all gone?


By Charles Arthur, The Independent, 31 August 2004


Even for an arts world where the unusual is quotidian, the decision by the painter Francis Bacon was remarkable. After his death in 1992 at the age of 82, his will left most of his £11m fortune to a former Cockney barman and gay model, John Edwards, then aged just 41.

Bacon called Edwards his "only true friend"; but some in the business wondered how good a friend Mr Edwards would be to the artist's works.

But the story has acquired a remarkable twist - with the revelation that Mr Edwards, who died in a Bangkok hospital in March 2003 of lung cancer, left an estate with a gross value of £3.12m; after liabilities, it is worth just £786,702.

Now the question everyone is asking is: where did the rest go? As the price of works by dead artists only ever rises, Bacon's estate should have been worth between £30m to £50m. Yet the will suggests it has been dissipated.

Early suggestions are that Mr Edwards spent the money on properties in Suffolk for his parents and other family members. A year before his death, he also set up the John Edwards Charitable Foundation, intended to promote Bacon's work. He willed the bulk of his estate to trustees who could distribute it to "any charity or individual".

But there are some indications he may have given away many of the paintings that made up the collection before his death, perhaps to avoid death duties. Mr Edwards's mother, Beattie, has a triptych by Bacon, valued at about £3m, hanging on the wall of her Hackney home. David Edwards, his brother, said in July: "The fact is John has been very, very generous to all of his family and all those he loved."

Many speculated that John Edwards's estate, with the cash and paintings he had been bequeathed, would go to his long-time boyfriend Philip Mordue, a fellow East Ender. But the paucity of the estate suggests he sold off or gave away many of the paintings, and used the proceeds to fund a lavish Bangkok lifestyle.

But some of the cash remains for going out in style. He willed £50,000 should be spent on a funeral party for his family and friends at the exclusive Harrington Club in Chelsea, London. For Mr Edwards, such a send-off will be a fitting end to a life which began anonymously but soon encompassed worldwide fame through his contact with Bacon.

The painter's reputation continues to grow after his death, with his paintings selling for millions. In January, the Tate gallery announced it had been given 1,200 items that were no more or less than the sweepings from his studio floor.

Yet art world rumour says that after Bacon's death the Tate turned down Mr Edwards's offer to donate it the studio itself. Thus it is now on show - painstakingly recreated - in Dublin at the Hugh Lane Gallery.

Mr Edwards, the dyslexic son of an East End docker, used to visit Bacon's south Kensington mews house - which also housed his ramshackle studio - every morning. He was the only person ever allowed into Bacon's studio while he worked, and was Bacon's confidant and muse. Mr Edwards featured in 30 of Bacon's paintings and was his closest companion for 18 years. Yet although both men were gay, Mr Edwards always denied they were lovers.

After Bacon's death, Mr Edwards moved to Thailand with his boyfriend Philip Mordue (nicknamed Phil the Till), ostensibly to escape the attentions of the press. But there may have been other pressures: Mr Mordue, now 54, was reportedly shot in a bar in Pattaya in 1997, and spent four days in hospital from a bullet wound in the neck.

Friends described Edwards as "a typical East End diamond geezer".




Boyfriend of artist Bacon spent £10m in 10 years


By David Sapsted, The Daily Telegraph, 31 August 2004


Most of the £11 million fortune left by Francis Bacon, one of the 20th century's most acclaimed artists, was frittered away by his male companion in little more than a decade.

Bacon died of a heart attack in 1992 at the age of 82 and, in a shock to the art world, left his entire estate to John Edwards, the uneducated son of a London docker, who was half the artist's age.

Mr Edwards died of cancer in Thailand last year and there was speculation that the Bacon fortune had grown to £30 million. But details of the will show that Mr Edwards, a former barman, spent most of the money on high living and on gifts for friends and relatives, leaving him with a net estate worth less than £800,000.

Mr Edwards, 53, was Bacon's companion for 16 years and featured in 30 of his paintings. Although both were homosexual, Mr Edwards denied in an interview a year before his death that they had been lovers.

After Bacon's death, he moved first to the Florida Keys before spending the last nine years of his life living with Philip Mordue, his boyfriend of 27 years and a fellow Cockney nicknamed "Phil the Till", in a penthouse apartment in the seaside town of Pattaya south of the Thai capital, Bangkok.

There were reports at the time of Mr Edwards's death in March last year that he had made Mr Mordue the main beneficiary in his will.

But probate records show that the estate - worth £3,125,704 gross but reduced to £786,702 after liabilities - was left mainly to the John Edwards Charitable Foundation, a trust set up by Mr Edwards a year before his death to promote Bacon's work.

Mr Edwards also stipulated that £50,000 was to be spent on a party for his family and friends at the Harrington Club in Kensington, west London. The principal drink was to be Krug champagne.

After inheriting the Bacon estate, Mr Edwards is believed to have bought properties for his parents and other members of his family in Suffolk.

He is also believed to have sold some of the paintings left to him by Bacon, primarily later works which were less well regarded by critics, through galleries in London and New York.

The will stated that Mr Edwards wanted his ashes scattered at a farm near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, which he bought after Bacon's death.

His bequests included Bacon's 1962 Sketch for Seated Figure, which he left to Tony Shafrazi, the owner of a New York art gallery.

John Eastman, Mr Edwards's lawyer and the brother of the late Linda McCartney, was left a silver plate and certificate presented to Mr Edwards by the lord mayor of Dublin in 2001 after he presented Bacon's studio to the city.


 Rich pickings

  Friend who inherited Bacon's £11m fortune went on 11-year spending spree

    Sam Jones, The Guardian
Tuesday August 31, 2004



Despite a reputation for being difficult, Francis Bacon did - in death at least - live up to his celebrated toast of "Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends".

So it's hard to know what the artist would have made of the behaviour of John Edwards, the man to whom he left his £11m fortune when he died in 1992.

It appears that Edwards, a former cockney barman once described by Bacon as his "only true friend", spent most of his inheritance before he died last year - mostly on homes in Suffolk for his family.

Records show that Edwards, who died of lung cancer in a Bangkok hospital, left an estate with a gross value of £3,125,704. After liabilities, that figure comes down to £786,702.

Although Edwards was Bacon's closest friend for 16 years, the art world raised its collective eyebrow when the artist bequeathed his entire estate - including his shabby studio in South Kensington and several of his paintings - to a man summed up by his friends as "a typical East End diamond geezer".

Their suspicions may have been confirmed when rumours circulated that he had sold some of Bacon's paintings in London and New York. However, the art he inherited was mainly made up of late Bacon works which were less well regarded by critics.

There is also speculation that his legacy, which could have risen to £30m by the time he died, may have been left to Philip Mordue, his boyfriend of 27 years.

He and Mordue - a fellow east Londoner nicknamed Phil the Till - lived together in a luxury penthouse in Pattaya, Thailand, for the last nine years of Edwards' life.

His will stated that the bulk of his estate should be left in trust, with his trustees having the power to distribute it to any charity or individual.

But Edwards also specified that £50,000 should be spent on a funeral party for his family and friends at the exclusive Harrington Club in London.nd, in a final flourish worthy of his old friend, he decreed that Krug champagne should be served to those gathered.




National Gallery gets U.K. expressionist's marked-up memorabilia



TORONTO - A friend and neighbour of the late English painter Francis Bacon has donated a number of items from the studio of the expressionist artist to the National Gallery of Canada.

Gallery officials announced Wednesday the donation by Barry Joule, a Canadian who lived next to and was friends with Bacon during the last 14 years of his life.

This fall, the Ottawa gallery will mount an exhibit featuring Study for Portrait No. 1, which it already owns, alongside two of the donated items related to the work. The exhibit will also include a film and photographic display inspired by Bacon.

Before his death in April 1992, the self-taught, surrealist-inspired artist – perhaps best known for his series of pope portraits – left several bundles of material from his famously chaotic studio to Joule. The material included an album of sketches, annotated books and more than 900 worked-over photographic images.

Joule exhibited this collection at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and at London's Barbican Centre before donating most of it to London's Tate Gallery. He also donated some items related to cubist painter Pablo Picasso – one of Bacon's early influences – to the Musée Picasso in Paris.

Joule's gift to the National Gallery was made in memory of former Queen's University Professor Charles Pullen, who was a great admirer of Bacon's work.

Among the items bequeathed to the gallery is a reproduction of 17th century Spanish painter Diego Velasquez's Portrait of Innocent X that Bacon marked up heavily. Velasquez's painting inspired Bacon's eventual pope portraits.

"The reproduction of Velasquez's painting is fascinating," said Diana Nemiroff, the gallery's curator of modern art and organizer of the upcoming exhibit.

"The lines scratched into the paper recall Bacon's use of a sort of linear cage around the figure of the pope in his own paintings. Bacon only knew Velasquez's painting from a reproduction, and this gives us an idea of how he imposed his own vision on it."

The exhibit will be displayed in the gallery's European wing from Aug. 30 through Oct. 24, after which the donated material will be added to the gallery's Library and Archives collection, available for study by art scholars.




Francis Bacon: The Sacred and The Profane


Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, 61, rue de Grenelle – 75007, Paris (AR)


Seen and Heard Art Review  July 2004

Alex Russell


In the catalogue, exhibition curator and Francis Bacon biographer, Michael Peppiatt, states: "This exhibition sets out to explore the varieties of the sacred and the profane in Bacon’s art. It focuses on some of the enigmas that persist at the heart of his profoundly searching and subversive imagery…An exhibition of this kind will not necessarily take us to the mysterious core of Bacon’s paintings – they are infinitely elusive and, like the sphinx that became one of Bacon’s emblems, they raise questions to which we have at best a faltering reply. But the exhibition will bring us face to face with unexpected and discomfiting reflections."

The title of this exhibition of 41 of Bacon’s paintings - ‘The Sacred and The Profane’ - became lost once one was immediately confronted by the brutality of paint, for the paint speaks louder than any narrative thread. It is seeing – I would say – sensationing - Bacon’s paintings ‘in the flesh’, in the paint, that negates the kind of ‘story-telling’ that Bacon himself so despised. Curiously, the paintings that did not work anymore were the famous images of paranoid Popes which seemed over time to have taken on a mixture of nostalgic naivety and melodramatic campness. This amateurish naivety can be seen in Study for Portrait (Pope) 1957 where Bacon’s handling of the raised arms is clumsy and crude.



In the catalogue the reproduction of Pope II, 1951 is richer and darker and oddly more powerful than the original which appeared muddy and sloppy; indeed, the reproductions in the catalogue tended to be darker than the paintings themselves and also to homogenise the textures of the paint. For instance, in the flesh, Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950, has a nerve-wracking quality, with what seem to be white puffs of wool on the back of the headless beast which hangs over the top of the cross. These furry textures with grainy paint are what bring Bacon’s images to life and no reproduction can ever faithfully capture the violent graininess of the paint. This is evident in Reclining Figure III, 1959 where the flesh-paint takes on sinuous swirls of rainbow hues with Bacon’s brush making musical imprints in the figure’s muscular rhythmic vitality.




By far the finest painting on display was Man in Blue V, 1954 where the head seems to smoulder between being and non-being, with the fragile face being woven together by thin slivers of white silvery paint leaking into darkness. The right eye is painted without being painted-in, evoked without being filled in; it is an eye without being a literal eye. Being made out of arbitrary, non-rational marks, this is anti-illustrational painting at its most poignant and powerful.

This is also sensationed in Study for a Self Portrait, 1963 where again the arbitrary paint smudges fuse facial features through non-illustrational marks. It was indeed between 1954 and 1963 that Bacon was at his inventive painterly best. In stark contrast, by far the worst was Self Portrait, 1978 where Bacon looks like a bloated botox baby; the older he became the younger he made himself look, like a parody in reverse of the Picture of Dorian Gray - and here the image is inanely illustrational, the paint smooth and etiolated – as was also the case in Triptych, 1983 - directly opposite - with its dead orange ground and flat figures: here was a bored Bacon as a ghost of his former self.




Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1963 is hardly ever reproduced yet it is one of Bacon’s finest studies of his tragic loser lover. With its curls and flourishes it is strikingly baroque while having the spiritual aura and mystical mood of Jawlensky’s Meditations.




I have seen Paralytic Child on All Fours (after Muybridge) 1961 only in reproduction and never realised what a sensitive and refined image it is in reality. The reptilian half-moon face has a Vermeeresque luminous serenity; the body’s gestures are balletic; here Bacon brings out the animal in man with a suave graceful elegance.




A similar reptilian alien creature is sprawled out in Reclining Figure in a Mirror, 1971 which seems caught in a state of shape-shifting between animal and human. Both these animalesque images dispel the myth that Bacon’s figures are distorted. Indeed, the images at this exhibition all displayed a tranquil radiance devoid of the usual clichés associated with the Bacon canon: ‘horror’ and ‘pain’ were absent.

Shown on the lower ground floor was a 1964 TV documentary with Bacon speaking fluent French in the only interview I’ve ever seen conducted in movement: a euphoric Bacon twirls around with camera crew and interviewer and hangers-on trying to keep up with him. Edgar Varese’s Integrales was an apt sound track to go with Bacon’s primitive-modernism.

Michael Peppiatt has curated a beautifully balanced show; every image seemed to be at the right place at the right time and all images were bathed in perfect light. Bacon would have been delighted by such a finely pitched exhibition. Originally scheduled to close on June 30th it has been extended to August 15th due to popular demand.



BBC News    Wednesday, 28 July, 2004

Bacon painting could go overseas
Bacon's Study after Velasquez, 1950
The painting was twice withdrawn from exhibition
A painting by Francis Bacon valued at £9.5m could be sold overseas after a UK export ban ran out on Tuesday.

A temporary banning licence for Bacon's Study After Velasquez was granted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in May.

The DCMS hoped the ban would ensure a buyer could be found in the UK for the 1950 artwork.

Bacon believed it had been destroyed and it was only rediscovered after his death in 1992.

Withdrawn from exhibition twice, Bacon sent the work to his art material supplier and later expressed regret at its loss.

The piece was based on the work of Spanish renaissance painter Velasquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, painted in 1650.

The DCMS's reviewing committee on the export of works of art said Bacon's painting had been recommended for the temporary export ban because of its "outstanding aesthetic quality".

The government recently placed an export ban on The Burgomaster of Delft, by artist Jan Steen, which dates from around 1655 and is owned by a family in Wales.




All the world desires a Brit


Colin Gleadell on the latest movements in the contemporary art market


Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 28 June 2004


British artists with worldwide appeal were among the stars of the select evening sales of contemporary art at Sotheby's and Christie's last week when more than £28 million changed hands - more than ever before in London.

But it wasn't the radical, conceptual art of the YBAs that dominated. For its sale on Wednesday, Sotheby's had assembled a strong group of figurative paintings by the post-war "School of London" artists - Frank Auerbach,  Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff - and the results showed how global their market has become. As auctioneer Tobias Meyer said:

"There needed to be a big jump for British art - and it happened tonight."

The most spectacular results were for Bacon and Auerbach. A small self-portrait, just over 12in square, made the highest price to date for a Bacon painting of that size, selling to private dealer Ivor Braka for £1.6 million - twice the estimate. The self-portrait last sold in 1991 for £363,000.

Braka also tried to buy an exceptional painting by Frank Auerbach, but without success. Auerbach's market has revived recently after more than a decade in which his solid, painterly values have appeared out of fashion. Yet not even Sotheby's was prepared for the interest shown in Head of J.Y.M.11 (1984-5), a painting that the artist considered one of his best.

Until Wednesday, no portrait by Auerbach had made more than £170,000 at auction. But for this one, estimated at £60,000 to £80,000, 11 telephone bidders from as far as Asia and America lined up against the British art trade, driving the price to £352,500 - paid by a European collector.




Christie's Sells $25.7 Million of Artworks by Bacon, Kapoor


Bloomberg  24th/25th June 2004


June 25 (Bloomberg) - Christie's International sold 90 percent of its offered works by artists such as Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko, taking in 14.1 million pounds ($25.7 million) and breaking records for Anish Kapoor, Emilio Vedova and Eduardo Chillida at a London auction of contemporary art last night.

The top-priced lot was Bacon's 'Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne,' a 1966 triptych portrait valued as high as 2 million pounds that brought 2.4 million pounds after adding Christie's commission. The auction competed with the England-Portugal Euro 2004 soccer game and people started leaking out of London-based Christie's King Street rooms halfway through the event.

Sotheby's Sells Auerbach, Rego Works for $26 Million

June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Sotheby's Holdings Inc. sold Frank Auerbach's 1983 portrait, 'Head of J.Y.M. II,' for 352,800 pounds, including the auctioneer's commission, nearly four times its estimated value at a London auction of contemporary art last night.

Bacon's 1973 'Study for Self-Portrait,' valued at as much as 800,000 pounds, was bid up last night to 1.6 million pounds.




Bacon triptych saved from ayatollahs

Lost masterpiece surfaces in Teheran vault, writes Nigel Reynolds


Nigel Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2004


Few modern paintings have a history quite like it.

Tate Britain put on show yesterday a virtually unknown homo-erotic triptych painted by the late Francis Bacon in 1968.

Improbably, the piece is owned by the Iranian state and, for obvious reasons, it has never been displayed.

Experts in the West had lost track of the work, titled Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants, and regarded it as a lost masterpiece.

It is thought that it would fetch at least £5 million on the open market.


For 30 years, the risque triptych was squirrelled away in the vaults of Teheran's Museum of Contemporary Art, out of sight and out of mind, made safe from the disapproving eyes of the regime of Ayatollah Khomeni.

Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain, stumbled on it on a family holiday to Iran in 2001.

Making a courtesy call on Dr Sami Azar, the director of the Teheran museum, he was led to the storerooms and the treasure was unwrapped before him.

Dr Deuchar said yesterday: "I didn't even know of its existence. I was astonished to see it and was exhilarated by its quality.

"Quite rapidly, I decided that I might broach the idea of it coming on loan to Tate Britain.


"I don't think that it is surprising that it hasn't been seen in Teheran but in the context of Bacon's work as a whole it's not remarkable for its homo-eroticism so much as its quality."

Bacon, a Soho high-lifer and promiscuous homosexual, was probably not, it is safe to assume, one of the favourite Western artists of Iran's Islamic revolution.

Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants was, in fact, bought for the country in 1975 in the dying days of the Peacock Throne, by the ruling Pahlavi dynasty, whose pro-Western policies - and rigorous secret services - fanned the revolution in 1979.


Through a foundation that she controlled, Farah Pahlavi, the widow of the last Shah of Iran, quietly built up a small but significant collection of Western art for the museum.

When the Shah was deposed, works by Henry Moore, Renoir, Picasso, Warhol and Dali joined the Bacon in the museum's strongrooms.

Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants was last seen in Europe in 1972 at an exhibition in Dusseldorf. In the catalogue for a big Bacon retrospective at the Tate a decade ago, its whereabouts were listed as unknown.

It is on loan to this country for six months, joining nearly a dozen other pictures by the artist owned by Tate Britain.

Dr Azar, who must still walk a the tightrope as reformers and traditionalists struggle for ascendancy in Iran, finally plans to show it in Teheran on its return, Dr Deuchar said yesterday.




Bacon triptych emerges from Tehran storeroom

 Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

 The Guardian
Friday June 18, 2004

  Francis Bacon's Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants, with two Tate Britain attendants

Bedside manner: Francis Bacon's Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants, 

with two Tate Britain attendants. Photo: Graham Turner

A major triptych by Francis Bacon is about to see the light after languishing for more than 30 years in the store of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

Two Figures Lying on a Bed With Attendants (1968) was bought, having been shown in Europe in 1972, by the wife of the last shah of Iran. It became part of the collection of the Tehran museum, but it is thought to have been on display there only once in 30 years.

Then, in 2001, Tate Britain's director, Stephen Deuchar, holidayed in Iran. He stopped off at the Tehran museum, asked to meet the director, Ali Reza Sami Azar, and was shown the gallery's reserve collection.

"Even under the fluorescent lighting of the store we could see it was a strong work," Dr Deuchar said yesterday. "An idea of exchanging works emerged - we recently lent them a Bill Woodrow sculpture for a British Council exhibition in the Tehran museum."

The triptych is on loan to Tate Britain for six months, where it forms the centrepiece of a new Bacon room.

The work did not remain in store merely because of its overtly sexual content, though that may have been a factor. "Dr Sami Azar did acknowledge the need for caution over one or two female nudes in the collection," Dr Deuchar said, "but he would say that it was as difficult finding a proper context for the Bacon's display - the revolution brought to an end collecting of contemporary art."

The work is one of a number of vast triptychs that Bacon produced. The left and right panels mirror each other, with a seated figure nude on the left and clothed on the right. It is possible that this represents George Dyer, Bacon's lover who died alone of drink and drugs on their hotel lavatory in Paris in 1971.

The central panel shows two male figures, with simian facial features, in bed. The bed is identifiably that which Bacon used in Morocco and on which he received many beatings by lovers.







June 24, 2004  King Street, London



Lot Number  26

Sale Number  6923

Creator  Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Lot Tile  Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne

Estimate  1,500,000 - 2,000,000 British pounds

Hammer Price including Buyer's Premium  £ 2,357,250 


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Pre-Lot Text


Lot Description

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne
oil on canvas, triptych
each: 14 x 12in. (35.5 x 30.5cm.)
Painted in 1966


Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1971.


M. Leiris, Francis Bacon, Full Face and in Profile, Barcelona 1983, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). 

Lot Notes

Throughout the 1960s and '70s Bacon painted his close friend Isabel Rawsthorne repeatedly. One of the most frequent subjects of his art, Bacon's portraits of Rawsthorne are today widely regarded as among his finest works. Bacon's art, which was strongly reliant on the human figure as the vehicle by which his unique and disturbing vision of life was expressed, was greatly dependent on portraiture and Bacon is well known to have chosen to paint only a select group of people whom he knew well. Peter Lacy, George Dyer, John Edwards, Henrietta Moraes Lucian Freud, Muriel Belcher along with Isabel Rawsthorne, were all close friends and lovers mainly drawn from the Soho bohemia of Bacon's 'gilded gutter life'. They were the gritty 'real-life' characters whose strong individuality and unique humanity Bacon drew on to fill the empty void of his often stark and alienating canvases.

Like character actors in modern dress taking part in some epic ancient Greek tragedy each of these unique and memorable individuals fulfils a vital role in Bacon's art. Their raw individuality, so powerfully captured and conveyed by Bacon's distortions and visceral use of paint, is also transformed into a physical prison. Each figure in Bacon's art is isolated and alone, trapped within their body in the midst of an alienating and empty abstract space. A raw and pulsating piece of meat animated solely by the electric pulse of their nervous system, they are unique animals yet also ultimately, in Bacon's hands, part of an ugly and generic humanity.

It was largely because of the intense and specific nature of Bacon's powerful and disturbing art that the artist only felt comfortable painting those individuals he knew well. What these friends and lovers had in common for Bacon and what made him able to paint them so successfully was that he knew them. He had lived alongside them. They were people and faces he had not only seen, but observed and scrutinized in everyday life, taking in their variety of expression and the way they moved or how they responded to a whole range of differing circumstances recording each in a series of photographic-like flashes that stuck in his memory like mental snap-shots which captured the uniqueness of their innate individuality. In the studio, Bacon would paint from a photograph which would help to prompt this visual memory and, as he once explained to David Sylvester, enable him to 'drift' from the outward appearance more freely. "Even in the case of friends who will come and pose,' he recalled, 'I've had photographs taken for portraits because I very much prefer working from the photographs than from them, It's true to say I couldn't attempt to do a portrait from photographs of somebody I don't know. But, if I both know them and have photographs of them, I find it easier to work than actually having their presence in the room. I think that, if I have the presence of the image in there, I am not able to drift so freely as I am through the photographic image. This may be just my own neurotic sense but I find it less inhibiting to work from them through memory and their photographs than actually having them seated there before me.' (David Sylvester (ed.), The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 40)

Bacon's portraits of Isabel Rawsthorne are among the most powerful and successful of his works because of all of the friends he painted, Isabel Rawsthorne was one of the closest and, perhaps with the exception of Muriel Belcher, the woman with whom he felt most comfortable. With her strength of character and her illustrious history as a model and mistress of several great twentieth century artists she was also, in direct contrast to Bacon's former lovers Peter Lacy and George Dyer for example, a powerfully independent character whom Bacon not only respected but also to some extent looked up to. When Bacon bragged to Paris Match , 'You know I also made love to Isabel Rawsthorne, a very beautiful woman who was Derain's model and Georges Bataille's girlfriend', he, perhaps unwittingly, revealed this aspect of his relationship with her. Other than one other youthful attempt at heterosexuality - with a prostitute who reportedly ate chips while Bacon attempted intercourse - Rawsthorne, as Bacon's friend and biographer Michael Peppiatt tells us, appears to have been the only woman with whom Bacon ever even attempted to have sex. (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 1996 p. 17)

Rawsthorne, was born Isabel Nichols in the East End of London in 1912 the daughter of a master mariner. She grew up in Liverpool and attended Liverpool School of Art and later studied at the Royal Academy Schools. A model and mistress of Sir Jacob Epstein, by whom she had a child, she moved to Paris when she was 22 where she worked in Derain's studio, often modeling for him as well. "I adored Derain' she once recalled, "he was the most French person you could ever meet. That's how I learned the language.' Through Derain, Isabel Delmer, as she then was, met Giacometti, who also took her as his model and mistress. According to Giacometti's biographer James Lord, Giacometti recalled Isabel standing at midnight on the Boulevard Saint-Michel - remote and imperious - and it was this image that gave rise to his many sculptures of extraordinarily thin, unreachable women. In addition to this, Giacometti's painting Isabel dans l'atelier, and two sculptures Isabel I of 1936 and Isabel 2 from 1938-9 are direct portraits of her.

It was through Giacometti that Isabel also came to be painted by Picasso. 'Alberto worked all night,' she told Bacon biographer Daniel Farson, 'but at five every evening we drank at the Lipp. Picasso used to sit at the table opposite and one day, after staring at me particularly hard, he jumped up and said to Alberto: 'Now I know how to do it.' He dashed back to his studio to paint my portrait - with little red eyes, wild hair and a vertical mouth - one of five he painted from memory." (Daniel Farson The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 165)

Isabel was separated from Giacometti by the outbreak of war in 1939 but she joined him again briefly in 1945 before marrying the composer Constant Lambert. When Lambert died in 1951 she married his friend and fellow composer Alan Rawsthorne. She met Bacon in the early 1960s and soon became one of his closest friends as well as a frequent figure in his portraiture. Strong-willed, fiercely independent and greedy for life Isabel Rawsthorne had a warm, and distinguished face that evidently fascinated Bacon. It wore, what Daniel Farson once described as a 'surprised expression of someone who has just heard a marvelous joke and wishes to share it.' (op. cit. p. 166) In addition to her burgeoning friendship with the artist Rawsthorne was also particularly instrumental in strengthening Bacon's ties with the city of Paris during the 1960s. Like Bacon she was a friend of the poet and writer Michel Leiris and it was through her that Bacon, a great admirer of Giacometti, whom he once declared to be 'the greatest living influence on my work', came to meet the Swiss sculptor, on two occasions in London in 1965.

Painted in 1966 Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne is a return to the subject that Bacon had first developed in two triptychs the year before; one on a dark and one on a light background. Split into three separate sections, this 1966 triptych is a composite work that develops like a series of film stills with each portrait operating like a snap shot of Rawsthorne caught in motion. Each portrait depicts a radically different facial expression that Bacon has enhanced by the use of dramatic and seemingly chance-driven splashes of white paint to articulate a sense of nervous movement and frozen animation. These deliberate, so-called 'distortions' are used by Bacon to emphasize the living nature of Rawsthorne's flesh and to animate the portrait. Sweeping marks that link her recognisable but illustrative features to her essentially abstract surroundings, they reinforce the notion that collectively the three frames of the portrait bracket something of the essence of the raw reality of life that animates all humanity. As Bacon himself expressed it, "Whether the distortions which I think sometimes bring the image over more violently are damage is a very questionable idea. I don't think it is damage. You may say it's damaging if you take it on the level if illustration. But not if you take it on the level of what I think of as art. One brings the sensation and feeling of life over the only way one can. I don't say it's a good way, but one brings it over at the most acute point one can.' (op. cit. Sylvester, p. 43)

Through the seeming 'damage' or 'violence' of these 'distortions' and the 3-D-like fragmentation of the portrait into three constantly shifting parts, a composite but recognisable and animated image of Rawsthorne asserts itself in our minds. It is an image that Rawsthorne herself described as "fabulously accurate'. (op. cit. Peppiatt, p. 208.) Bacon, somewhat more cautiously described this successful painterly process as being able to 'clear away one or two (of reality's) screens'.




  Bacon's rare portraits of a female lover go to auction


    John Ezard, arts correspondent, The Guardian, Tuesday June 8, 2004 



      Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, which are expected to fetch £1.5m to £2m when they go under the hammer at Christie's this month.


Paintings by Francis Bacon of one of his two known female lovers were forecast yesterday to fetch £1.5m to £2m at auction in London this month.

They are of the friend about whom the famously homosexual painter bragged to the magazine Paris Match: "You know, I also made love to Isabel Rawsthorne, a very beautiful woman who was Derain's model and George Bataille's girlfriend."

Isabel Rawsthorne was one of the strikingly independent, good-looking people of her time, with a warm and distinguished face. Yet her fate - as model and mistress to several great 20th-century artists - was to be shown in strange ways by her lovers and admirers.

Picasso gave her wild hair and a vertical mouth. The sculptor Alberto Giacometti based some of his stick people on her. And Bacon's canvases, titled Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, make her look lion-faced, with a nose and cheeks which appear to have had skin flayed from them.

Raised in east London and herself a painter, Rawsthorne was one of Bacon's closest friends and more frequent models in the Soho milieu they moved in, centred round the Colony club. In his book about the artist, Michael Peppiatt says Bacon respected and to some extent looked up to her.

She had the "surprised expression of someone who has just heard a marvellous joke and wishes to share it", according to the journalist Daniel Farson, another club regular.

When she met Bacon in the early 1960s, Rawsthorne was 48 and most of her artists were behind her. By the age of 22 she had had a child by the sculptor Jacob Epstein. Living with the painter André Derain in Paris introduced her to Giacometti, who drank at the same brasserie as Picasso.

"Picasso used to sit at the table opposite and one day, after staring at me particularly hard, he jumped up and said to Alberto: 'Now I know how to do it,'" she told Farson. "He dashed back to his studio to paint my portrait - with little red eyes, wild hair and a vertical mouth - one of five he painted from memory."

She married the composer Constant Lambert and, after his death, the conductor and composer Alan Rawsthorne. She died in 1992.

Bacon's only other known excursion into heterosexuality came while he was a young man, according to Peppiatt.

This was with a prostitute who, Bacon said, ate chips while he attempted intercourse.



Bacon lover's portrait in auction

BBC News   Monday, 7 June, 2004

A painting by artist Francis Bacon of the woman he said was his only female lover is expected to fetch up to £2m at auction on Monday.

Bacon's Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne, painted in 1966, is part of Christie's post-war and contemporary art sale in London.

An artist herself, Rawsthorne was one of Bacon's lifelong friends.

Bacon told French magazine Paris Match the pair were lovers, and she was the only woman he had a relationship with.

Rawsthorne was born in 1912 in the east end of London and studied at Liverpool School of Art and the Royal Academy.

She became known as an artist's model and had relationships with several artists, including Sir Jacob Epstein, with whom she had a child.

She also lived for a time in Paris and had a relationship with the artist Derain.

During her time there, she was also painted by Pablo Picasso.




Prophet of a pitiless world


John Berger used to think Francis Bacon painted only to shock and his appeal would soon wear thin. But at a new show in Paris, he realised the painter's personal preoccupations have become terrifyingly relevant

John Berger, The Guardian,
Saturday May 29, 2004

Visit the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Maillol Museum in Paris. Read Susan Sontag's latest book, Regarding the Pain of Others. The exhibition, despite the stupid subtitle of Sacred and Profane, represents succinctly a long life's work. The book is a remarkably probing meditation about war, physical mutilation and the effect of war photographs. Somewhere in my mind the book and exhibition refer to one another. I'm not yet sure how.

As a figurative painter, Bacon had the cunning of a Fragonard. (The comparison would have amused him, and both were accomplished painters of physical sensation - one of pleasure and the other of pain.) Bacon's cunning has understandably intrigued and challenged at least two generations of painters.

If, during 50 years, I have been critical of Bacon's work, it is because I was convinced he painted in order to shock, both himself and others. And such a motive, I believed, would wear thin with time. Last week, as I walked backwards and forwards before the paintings in the Rue des Grenelles, I perceived something I'd not understood before, and I felt a sudden gratitude to a painter whose work I'd questioned for such a long while.

Bacon's vision from the late 1930s to his death in 1992 was of a pitiless world. He repeatedly painted the human body or parts of the body in discomfort or want or agony. Sometimes the pain involved looks as if it has been inflicted; more often it seems to originate from within, from the guts of the body itself, from the misfortune of being physical. Bacon consciously played with his name to create a myth, and he succeeded in this. He claimed descent from his namesake, the 16th-century English empiricist philosopher, and he painted human flesh as if it were a rasher of bacon (tranche du lard fumé).

Yet it is not this that makes his world more pitiless than any painted before. European art is full of assassinations, executions and martyrs. In Goya, the first artist of the 20th century (20th, yes), one listens to the artist's own outrage. What is different in Bacon's vision is that there are no witnesses and there is no grief. Nobody painted by him notices what is happening to somebody else painted by him. Such ubiquitous indifference is crueller than any mutilation.

In addition, there is the muteness of the settings in which he places his figures. This muteness is like the coldness of a freezer which remains constant whatever is deposited in it. Bacon's theatre, unlike Artaud's, has little to do with ritual, because no space around his figures receives their gestures. Every enacted calamity is presented as a mere collateral accident.

During his lifetime, such a vision was nourished and haunted by the melodramas of a very provincial bohemian circle, within which nobody gave a fuck about what was happening elsewhere. And yet ... and yet the pitiless world Bacon conjured up and tried to exorcise has turned out to be prophetic. It can happen that the personal drama of an artist reflects within half a century the crisis of an entire civilisation. How? Mysteriously.

Has not the world always been pitiless? Today's pitilessness is perhaps more unremitting, pervasive and continuous. It spares neither the planet itself, nor anyone living on it anywhere. Abstract because, deriving from the sole logic of the pursuit of profit (as cold as the freezer), it threatens to make obsolete all other sets of belief, along with their traditions of facing the cruelty of life with dignity and some flashes of hope.

Return to Bacon and what his work reveals. He obsessively used the pictorial language and thematic references of some earlier painters - such as Velásquez, Michelangelo, Ingres or Van Gogh. This "continuity" makes the devastation of his vision more complete.

The Renaissance idealisation of the naked human body, the church's promise of redemption, the Classical notion of heroism, or Van Gogh's ardent 19th-century belief in democracy - these are revealed within his vision to be in tatters, powerless before the pitilessness. Bacon picks up the shreds and uses them as swabs. This is what I had not taken in before. Here was the revelation.

A revelation that confirms an insight: to engage today with the traditional vocabulary, as employed by the powerful and their media, only adds to the surrounding murkiness and devastation. There are a number of words and cliches, filched from the past, whose currency has now to be categorically refused. Liberty, terrorism, security, democratic, fanatic, anti-semitic, etc are terms that have been reduced to rags in order to camouflage the new ruling pitilessness.

This does not necessarily mean silence. It means choosing the voices one wishes to join. The present period of history is one of the Wall. When the Berlin one fell, the prepared plans to build walls everywhere were unrolled. Concrete, bureaucratic, surveillance, security, racist, zone walls. Everywhere the walls separate the desperate poor from those who hope against hope to stay relatively rich. The walls cross every sphere from crop cultivation to healthcare. They exist, too, in the richest metropolises of the world. The Wall is the front line of what, long ago, was called the class war.

On the one side: every armament conceivable, the dream of no-body-bag wars, the media, plenty, hygiene, many passwords to glamour. On the other: stones, short supplies, feuds, the violence of revenge, rampant illness, an acceptance of death and an on-going preoccupation with surviving one more night - or perhaps one more week - together.

The choice of meaning in the world today is here between the two sides of the wall. The wall is also inside each one of us. Whatever our circumstances, we can choose within ourselves which side of the wall we are attuned to. It is not a wall between good and evil. Both exist on both sides. The choice is between self-respect and self-chaos.

On the side of the powerful there is a conformism of fear - they never forget the wall - and the mouthing of words that no longer mean anything. Such muteness is what Bacon painted.

On the other side there are multitudinous, disparate, sometimes disappearing, languages with whose vocabularies a sense can be made of life even if, particularly if, that sense is tragic.

   "When my words were wheat
   I was earth. When my words were anger
   I was storm.
    When my words were rock
   I was river.
   When my words turned honey
   Flies covered my lips".
   - Mahmoud Darweesh

Bacon painted the muteness fearlessly, and in this was he not closer to those on the other side, for whom the walls are one more obstacle to get around, even if it involves risking their lives for those following? It could be ...

· Francis Bacon: Sacred and Profane is at the Maillol Museum, Paris, until June 30. Details: 00 33 1 42 22 59 58.



Bacon Study After Velasquez Deferred From Export


Art Daily, Monday, May 31, 2004


LONDON, ENGLAND.- Arts Minister Estelle Morris has placed a temporary export bar on a stunning   rediscovered masterpiece by Francis Bacon, entitled Study after Velasquez, 1950. The work is from Bacon’s “Pope Series” of over forty-five paintings resulting from the his fascination with Velasquez’ Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650, which Bacon used as a springboard for his own intense exploration of the human condition.

The painting has an interesting history. Withdrawn from exhibition twice, Bacon eventually sent it to his art materials supplier with instructions for it to be removed from its stretcher, presumably so he could begin another work. Later thinking the painting had been destroyed the artist allegedly often expressed regret at its fate. The work remained undiscovered until after Bacon’s death in 1992.  This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the United Kingdom.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art that the export decision be deferred.  This reflects the painting’s outstanding aesthetic quality and its significance for study as Bacon’s first completed full-length Pope portrait, reflecting his ambition to develop the grand manner portrait.

The deferral will enable purchase offers to be made at the following agreed fair market price:

A painting by Francis Bacon, Study after Velasquez, 1950, deferred at the recommended price of £9,500,000, until after 27 July 2004, with the possibility of an extension until after 27 November 2004, if there is a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact the owner’s agent through:


The Secretary

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

2-4 Cockspur Street





Government tries to bar export of Bacon painting


By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph, 28  May 2004

The Government stepped in yesterday to try to prevent an important long-lost painting by Francis Bacon, thought to have been destroyed years ago, from being sold to America for almost £10 million.

The picture, Study After Velasquez, was rediscovered after Bacon died in 1992, though its current ownership is unknown.

Bacon, Britain's foremost post-war artist, left a tangled web on his death with some of his works owned by his gallery and others left to his homosexual long-term companion, John Edwards.

Estelle Morris, the minister for the arts, yesterday called the painting, one of a series of 45 in Bacon's Screaming Pope Series, "a stunning rediscovered masterpiece".

She issued a temporary export bar giving public collections in Britain six months to keep the 1950 painting in this country by matching the £9.5 million private sale price to America.

The artist's Screaming Pope Series was inspired by his fascination with Velasquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and the insight it showed into the human condition.

This painting shows a snarling Pope, snared inside a curtain of rods, apparently screaming into oblivion.

Bacon agreed to show the work first at the Hanover Gallery in London in 1950 and then at the Festival of Britain in 1951, but on both occasions he mysteriously withdrew it.

He eventually sent the piece to his art materials supplier with instructions for it to be removed from its stretcher but later, thinking that it had been destroyed, he is said to have expressed profound regret at its loss.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was unable to shed any light on when and where it was rediscovered, who the seller is or the American buyer's identity.

Bacon astonished the art world by leaving his £11 million estate, including a number of pictures, to Edwards, the illiterate son of an East End docker who was 40 years the artist's junior.

Edwards, described as "a typical East End diamond geezer", said he never had a sexual relationship with Bacon, but he was his closest friend for 16 years. They frequented Soho together and Edwards visited Bacon's South Kensington mews house every morning to make him breakfast and sit with him while he painted.

Edwards died from lung cancer last year in Thailand where he had gone to live after Bacon's death with Philip "Phil the Till" Mordue, another East Ender.




£9.5m Bacon out of Tate's reach


Funding crisis makes export bar unlikely to succeed

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent,
The Guardian,
 Friday May 28th, 2004

A major work by Francis Bacon seems fated to leave the country after the Tate reluctantly decided yesterday that it could not afford even to contemplate the £9.5m price tag.

"We have sadly decided that it is simply beyond our means, though it is an important and wonderful work," a spokeswoman said of the Study after Velásquez 1950, a painting which Bacon, who died in 1992, believed to be destroyed.

The arts minister, Estelle Morris, granted an export bar yesterday, which will keep it in Britain at least until July, and can be extended to November.

This is intended to give a British institution a chance to match the £9.5m price. With the Tate admitting defeat, it is unlikely that any other museum will try to raise the money.

David Barrie, director of the Art Fund, the charity which helped the National Gallery acquire Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks for more than £20m, said: "It is certainly true that there is a massive weakness in the system, which undertakes to compensate vendors at the current market price without providing any means for museums and galleries to afford that price.

"It is particularly serious at the moment, with the Heritage Lottery Fund unable to move quickly in a rapidly moving art market and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which can move very fast, having seriously depleted its resources."

The vendor is believed to be Bacon's estate. No public announcement was made, but most major disposals from the estate in the past decade have been made discreetly.

The painting is from Bacon's most famous series, The Screaming Popes, based on Velásquez's great portrait of Pope Innocent X.

Bacon never saw the 17th century painting, though he obsessively bought prints of it; he once said that he would have been afraid to confront the original, after manipulating it "so atrociously".

He twice withdrew this painting from exhibitions, and in the 60s sent it to his materials supplier with instructions to take it off its stretcher and replaced it with a new blank canvas. He believed it had been destroyed, and is said to have regretted it. It was rediscovered after his death.

His estate was valued at £11m when it was left to his friend John Edwards, who died last year in Thailand.

Bacon was regarded as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, and in 1989 became the world's most expensive living artist when a triptych sold for £3.8m in New York. Since his death his reputation and prices have continued to soar: the previous record is just over £6m for another triptych.

The Tate's decision points to the hole at the heart of the export bar system. Experts such as Sir Nicholas Goodison, who recently completed a review for the Treasury, have warned that the gap can only be filled by a serious injection of government money for acquisitions.

Last year the Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota, said his galleries were losing major works every week because they could not afford to bid for them.

Although the Tate owns 50 works definitively by Bacon, the pope painting would be a major addition. Last year it got the most eccentric Bacon collection: thousands of sheets and torn scraps of paper from the legendary knee-deep litter on his studio floor.





  Contemporary Art, Evening

   New Bond Street, London

    Session 1: 23rd June 2004  7:00pm




                                                             Self Portrait  Francis Bacon 1973



Lot 4: Estimate: £600,000-800,000 GBP

Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium £1,573,600.



Alfred Hecht, London
Sotheby's, London, Post War and Contemporary Art, 27 June 1991, Lot 40
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner.



London, Tate Gallery; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie; Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Francis Bacon, 1985, no. 83, illustrated in colour
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909-1992 Small Portrait Studies, 1993
New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art; Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Francis Bacon: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1999, p. 160, no. 52, illustrated in colour.


Lorenza Trucchi, Francis Bacon, London 1976, no. 169, illustrated in colour
John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1979, p. 157, no. 81, illustrated
Dawn Ades and Andrew Forge, Francis Bacon, London 1980, p. 83, illustrated in colour.



“People have been dying around me like flies and I’ve had nobody else to paint but myself … I loathe my own face, and I’ve done self-portraits because I’ve had nothing else to do” (Francis Bacon in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975, ps. 129-133).

The love of Francis Bacon’s life to date, George Dyer, died in 1971. It was two nights before the grand opening of his retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris and Dyer had committed suicide by overdose in their hotel room. A handsome ex-petty criminal, Dyer offered Bacon a different take on life and their relationship from 1963 onwards inspired arguably one of his most fertile periods of creation. Filled with bold, confident swathes of joyous colour and distinguished by brushstroke upon brushstroke of self-assured representational genius, the over-riding sense of the fullness of life swept through the paintings, like never before. However, Bacon’s art had always been aware of the direct opposition between life and death, and the period immediately following Dyer’s suicide was characterised by a deep sense of mourning. Infused with grief and self-accusation, the depth of despair in the works between 1971 and 1973 show the reverse of Bacon’s painterly coin.

On the one hand this period confronted Bacon’s desolate sense of loss, but on the other it also represented a period of intense loneliness for the artist. With the loss of his right hand man, Bacon withdrew from society in a kind of self-imposed exile. As such, apart from his outstanding triptych epitaphs to George, most of the paintings of this period were self- portraits. Bacon had always been an incredibly gregarious bon-viveur, but with nobody else around him, he was forced to confront himself, and this he did with his usual unerring sense of painterly presence.

Painted during this period of intense drama, turmoil and self-reflection,
Study for Self Portrait of 1973, represents one of the most powerful smaller single panel works in Bacon’s oeuvre. The larger full-body studies of the same period show his body in a state of extreme reluctance. Slumped back into a chair with his head held in his hands or holding his legs towards his head in a kind of adult foetal position, all of these works show him dressed in black, with his head cast in various tones of grey. This is Bacon plumbing the depths. The extraordinary Study for Self-Portrait closes right in on a profile of his head. Fidgetting nervously, his right hand and arm are drawing across his face, seemingly surprised at the attention he is receiving. The extraordinary compression of the image, together with the scumbled pale blue background heightens the drama and magnifies the prominence of his wristwatch. The wristwatch was present in a few of the works of this period and would appear to remind the viewer of the transitory nature of existence. As Bacon reflected “Time does not heal. There isn’t an hour of the day that I don’t think about him [George Dyer]” (Francis Bacon in Exhibition Catalogue, Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Lugano, Francis Bacon, 1993, p. 44)

As with all of his self-portraits, this image would have been painted from memory and, up close and personal, Bacon covers the canvas with his immediate presence. Dressed once again in black, the contemplative profile is picked out in delicate detail right down to the flick of hair which appears to disappear into the background sea of pale blue. Equally, as the face merges with the appearance of the movement of the arm across it, Bacon draws broad sweeps of his paint-filled brush as if trying to mimic the action. Incorporating a rich array of colours, techniques and textures the image brings the paint to life. Bacon has primed the back of the canvas to allow the pigment to seep into the weave, this alliance of the weave together with the scumbling and meandering areas of think and thin paint creates a living, breathing action. Bacon here appears to have achieved his aim: “What I want to do is to distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance” (Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, Exhibition Catalogue, London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, 1967, p. 37)

If Bacon’s art sought the height of painterly expression as a reflection of life, then his self-portraits represented the heart of that exploration. Bacon’s life itself was filled with extremes and, from his very first self portrait in 1956 to the last in 1986, one can sense a man who responded directly to the ups and downs of life. If the late 1960s provided some of his happiest moments, the early 1970s provided undeniably his most introspective moment. The counterpoint of the two, as in Study for Self-Portrait, contrived to provide some of the most complex depictions of emotional presence in the history of art.




Art Isn't Easy: 7 Reece Mews 

About an Artist's Search for Painter Francis Bacon 

By Kenneth Jones

Plays NYC May 20-June 5

 Serving Theatre Since 1984  20 May 2004


7 Reece Mews, David Brendan Hopes' play about a young artist's interest in painter Francis Bacon, makes its New York City debut May 20 at the Westbeth Arts Center in Greenwich Village.

The performance space is inside the courtyard at 155 Bank Street between Washington and West Streets, across from the Bank Street Theatre.

Jamie McGonnigal directs the new Off-Off-Broadway work, about "Mark, a young American artist who goes to Dublin to be near painter Francis Bacon, the man he has taken as his master and teacher.  Bacon, being dead, could only communicate through his jumbled possessions, and perhaps through John, a mysterious man who may or may not have been Bacon's last lover. The play is about the mystery and the unfairness of art, which may be taken as a prime type of the mystery and unfairness — and yet the extreme beauty — of life."

Some call Irishman Francis Bacon as "the finest painter of the second half of the 20th century, certainly the best on Britain," according to production notes. "He painted most of his productive life at 7 Reece Mews in London, in a room of almost incredible disarray, which, nevertheless, may have possessed a mystical order which was preserved intact when the studio was moved bodily to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, as a gift from John Edwards, Bacon's last and luckiest life partner."

The play features Tate Ellington as Mark, Paul Finbow as John, Amanda Jones as Nora and Mick Bleyer as Naill.

Playwright Hopes is professor of literature and language at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, founder and editor of Urthona Press, founder and director of the Black Swan Theater Company.  He is the author of the Juniper Prize and Saxifrage Prize-winning book, "The Glacier's Daughters," and of "Blood Rose" (Urthona Press, 1997), the Pulitzer-and-National-Book Award-nominated "A Childhood in the Milky Way" (Akron University Press), and "A Sense of the Morning" (Milkweed Editions, 1999).  His new book of nature writing, "Bird Songs of the Mesozoic," is due from Milkweed in 2005.  His works have appeared in periodicals such as The New Yorker, Audubon, Christopher Street and The Sun.

Director McGonnigal has been represented in New York City most notably for directing and producing the New York City premiere of Stephen Schwartz's Children of Eden, which benefited The York Theatre Company and The National AIDS Fund.  He also directed productions of The Ritz (Lincoln Center's Clark Studio), Love! Valour! Compassion! (to benefit for the Twin Towers Fund).  Other recent credits include Miracle on 47th Street at The King Kong Room, a benefit for God's Love We Deliver (director/producer), Embrace!, a concert benefiting The Matthew Shepard Foundation (director/producer), Snoopy! The Musical in concert with Tony Award winner Sutton Foster and more.

The producer, Monday Morning Productions, is a production company in its third year.  Other theatre productions have included A Month of Sundays by Jason Cicci at Theatre Row Theatre, and him & her and Closet Chronicles (starring Marilyn Sokol) at Ground Floor Theatre.

Performances of 7 Reece Mews play Thursdays Sundays May 20-June 5.  On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays doors open at 7 PM for a pre-show wine reception, with performances at 8 PM. On Sundays, May 23 and 30, the wine reception begins at 6:30 with performances at 7 PM.

Tickets are $20 for performances and refreshments. Tickets can be purchased through Smarttix at (212) 868 4444.




Francis Bacon’s Sacred And Profane In Paris





Fragment for a the Crucifixion, 1950


PARIS.- Fondation Dina Vierny - Musée Maillol began yesterday the exhibition “The Sacred and the Profane” featuring the oeuvre of painter Francis Bacon.  The exhibition including 42 paintings that shed new light on his profoundly disturbing masterpieces will end on June 30, 2004. 

Francis Bacon was, to an extreme, living proof of William Butler Yeats’ saying that: "No mind can create until it is divided in two". In his life as well as in his art, he was able to maintain a precarious yet lasting balance between totally conflicting points of view. This ambivalence, which appears clearly in his works, reaches extraordinary proportions in his interpretation of Christian symbols.  

Bringing together 37 paintings and 5 triptyches provenating from museums and private collections, a certain number of which have rarely been exhibited, this show serves as an inventory of the Sacred and Profane within Francis Bacon’s art. Crucifixions, popes or irreverent images of couples entwined on the grass, isolated men screaming in cages and women nailed to their bed by a syringe in a lather of paint. Bacon inverts all traditional concepts of the Sacred and the Profane, replacing them with his own ,both unsettling and unpredictable visions. A crucifixion may appear in the guise a cut of meat or a threatening animal, whereas the lustful embrace of two bodies assumes all the tender suffering of a Pieta.  

This show addresses some of the underlying enigmas which the intensely disturbing iconography of this great English painter embodies. It is remarkable that someone as fiercely atheist as he was relentessly kept on painting, in an obsessive manner, the motif of the Crucifixion or variations on a specific theme. A case in point is the portrait of the pope Innocent X by Velasquez., of which there are at least forty-five variations. At the same time, his uncanny powers of transformation enabled him to lend an almost mythic dimension to the most commonplace everyday scenes: a man alone in a room becomes a kind of crucifixion of modern life. 

The event is being curated by Michael Peppiatt.










Francis Bacon, the crown jewel of British painting, lived through most of the twentieth century, from 1909 to 1991, earning in a good fifty years of activity a reputation as an existentialist on account of his often horrifying diagnoses of reality. Though the artist feared his work would one day end up in storage, it recently appeared in the hallowed halls of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. One might think this pairing rather surprising for this superrefined museal shrine, where artworks tend to carry an expiration date of around 1800. But with the privatization of the formerly state-run Austrian national museum, the wealthy guardians of its imperial collections now find themselves in a position to outshine poor relations such as the Museum Moderner Kunst.

Inspired by Bacon's obsessions with various old masters, Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, curated by Barbara Steifen, fitted in startlingly well with the canonized collection of the KHM, into which the artist was nearly seamlessly integrated. The exhibition began with a measured introduction of his howling popes, most notably his Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. In conversations with art critic David Sylvester that are reprinted in part in the exhibition catalogue, Bacon said of Pope Innocent X, "I think it is one of the greatest portraits that have ever been made, and I became obsessed by it. I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velazquez Pope, because it haunts me." It was, indeed, the reproduction rather than the original that haunted Bacon and sufficed as a trigger for his countless adaptations of this theme. In the spirit of aura, however, the exhibition made every effort to present originals, particularly the specialties of the house. Regarding international loans, though, it had to endure some painful rejections: The Velazquez remained in Rome's Galleria Doria Pamphilij and was substituted with a copy from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara, Bergamo.

Organized according to motif (cage, veil, howl, mirror, shadow) was a series of comparative pairs exhibiting literal analogies: Titian's Portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto, ca. 1551-62., for example, which shows the bearded prince of the church behind a curtain, is reminiscent of the "veils and striations," as one catalogue essay puts it, that run vertically through Bacon's paintings. Bacon's appropriations avant la lettre were the main theme of the show. His productive possession of old (from Rembrandt to Ingres), more recent (van Gogh to Degas), and nearly contemporary masters such as Picasso and Chaim Soutine allows the viewer to discover correspondences and departures and the development of motifs-in short, to get wise to the celebrated painter. The idea was to move around iconographie units, to build typological chains, to analyze isolated pictorial components, but rarely to explain the artwork on the basis of its historical, social, or psychological connections. (This approach has been happily undertaken by generations of art-history students who have completed the workshop "Based on the Original" at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.)

In this vein, feedback from Ingres's Oedipus and the Sphinx of 1826 emerged from Bacon's painting of the same name; a self-portrait by Rembrandt was greeted by a portrait from Bacon; the body studies based on Michelangelo, Gericault, and Cezanne were displayed; and Bacon's homages to a destroyed painting by van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888, were trotted out. Screams by Munch, Picasso, and Eisenstein (the famous scene on the Odessa steps from Battleship Potemkin ran as a continuous video loop in the exhibition) can be traced to Bacon without a problem. Analogies were made between Bacon's metamorphoses of human body parts and the Surrealism of Picasso and Bunuel; family resemblances were seen in Maerten van Cleves's The Slaughtered Ox, 1566, and Soutine's Carcass of Beef, 192.5. all of this certainly goes to illustrate the pictorial tradition evoked in the exhibition's title. On the other hand, anyone seeking the wide world of the soul, the interpersonal drama of sex and death rather than the function of shadows, will be more interested in Triptych May-June 1973, in which Bacon deals with the suicide of his lover George Dyer.

The most intriguing part of the exhibition was to be found not in the works hung on the velvet-draped walls of the museum but rather in those items that once lay in piles on the floor of Bacon's London studio. After his death, the accumulation of 7,500 pieces of refuse and working materials was pored through and reconstructed by archaeologists(l) when Bacon's executor donated the contents of the studio to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. A selection here of those drawings, photographs, books, illustrations, scrap papers, catalogues, and magazines gave "traditional painting" a run for its money. Sometimes painted, folded, or pinned up, the contents of the "archive" document Bacon's artistic practice. After all, he never based his works on the originals, only reproductions. he never wanted to see that certain Velazquez, for photography was his witness; long live the artwork in the age of its mechanical reproduction. Here is where Bacon's dead flesh lives, in the tattered newspaper clippings of the Kennedy assassination; medical texts showing horrid, peeledaway skin; the occult photographs of the Baron von Schrenck-Notzing; the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge; film stills; and family snapshots: an encyclopaedi' for a man obsessed with images, fragments of a passion. Andy Warhol threw his things into "Time Capsules," boxes he taped up and put in storage. Bacon tossed his into the great "box" of his studio without any intention of memorializing it. With his feet he trod upon the very precondition of his works' existence. "The work of art," says Gilles Deleuze in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981), "is a block of sensations." Nowhere were these more compressed than in the chaos of Bacon's studio.

Brigitte Huck is a Vienna-based critic




Joule jibes

Art Review

March 2004: Letters


I was astonished that the Tate Gallery has acquired the Barry Joule Archive of alleged Francis Bacon sketches and doodlings donated by Barry Joule. Even an 'O' Level art student could tell that these are very bad fakes: everything in Joule's Archive is over scratched and scribbled as well as being too naive for Bacon's sophistication - for even Bacon's own sketches had a suave line.
Even if Mr Joule acquired some of the photos from Bacon's Reece Mews studio, the mannered markings are certainly not from the hand of Bacon. I suggest Joule acquired some photographs and reproductions from the studio and that they were subsequently doctored. The Francis Bacon Estate was correct and insightful in not authenticating this rubbish, which is only fit to be put out with the garbage.

Alexander Russell

School of Francis Bacon,

London WC1




Tate acquires Bacon trove

Art in America

Stephanie Cash March 2004


The Tate Britain has acquired an archive of controversial material from Francis Bacon's London studio at 7 Reece Mews. It was donated to the museum by Barry Joule, the artist's friend, chauffeur and handyman. Called the Barry Joule Collection, the trove contains more than 1,200 items from the artist's studio, including source material, sketches and photographs of the painter with friends. The material will be catalogued and studied over the next three years before being displayed or made available for loans. Joule kept some items, which he has promised to bequeath to the Tate.

According to press reports, Joule claimed that Bacon had given him a group of some 700 works just before his death, though some accounts state that Bacon had asked Joule to discard sackloads of rubbish from his studio, saying "You know what to do with them." Joule was often asked to destroy works that Bacon wasn't satisfied with, but Joule maintains that, in this case as in several earlier instances, the artist meant to keep the works.

When the artist died in 1992, the Tate was reportedly offered the studio and its contents (less the items in Joule's possession) by Bacon's companion and heir, John Edwards, who died last year. The Tate declined the offer and, in 1998, the studio and the bulk of its contents were given to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin--Bacon's birth city--where it is meticulously preserved in its famously chaotic state [see "Front Page," Feb. '00]. Much of the controversy about the Joule collection arises from a number of works on paper that would seem to counter Bacon's assertions that he never made preparatory studies for his paintings, but worked directly on the canvas. Several scholars, including the late David Sylvester, expressed doubts as to the drawings' authenticity.

In 2000, Dublin's Irish Museum of Modern Art worked out an agreement with the estate to display some 100 of the disputed items as "work attributed to Francis Bacon," in a show that inaugurated new galleries devoted to the artist. The following year, the Barbican Gallery in London also showed selections from the Joule archive with the same disclaimer. The Bacon estate stressed that the Tate's acceptance of the gift does not constitute an authentication of the contents, and that it will take years for experts to sort through the material.




Digging for sources of inspiration

Exhibit shines light on painter Francis Bacon

CNN.Com Friday, February 27, 2004 


BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- Archaeologists had to retrieve the more than 7,000 objects cluttering the late artist's London studio.


They collected countless brushes, empty tubes, rags and tin cans encrusted with paint. They also picked up many crumpled and torn pages of magazines and books. And they catalogued close to 1,500 photos, often in poor condition.

Chaos seems an understatement in describing the place where Francis Bacon lived and worked for his last three decades until his death in 1992 at the age of 82. But the studio, since reconstructed to its original, messy state at The Hugh Lane gallery in his native Dublin, was a treasure trove for art historians seeking a deeper insight into the enigmatic painter's disturbing and distorted imagery.

Showcases with some 65 newspaper clippings, photos, book leafs and other samples from this "studio material" are for the first time part of a unique exhibition on the artist. Titled "Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art," it focuses on his main sources of inspiration by confronting some 40 of his paintings with an equal number by old masters and other artists. They are on loan from museums and private collectors in the United States and Europe. The show runs through June 20.

For Barbara Steffen, curator of the show at the Beyeler Foundation museum in suburban Riehen, Switzerland, the studio material presents the missing link between the "the sublime horror of Bacon's own imagery and the often complex, ambiguous beauty of the artists he accepted as his idols."

Among the paintings, special prominence is given to Bacon's interpretations of an austere 17th-century portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez, which fascinated him for many years. Some of Bacon's images, which are up to 78 inches high, suggest the papal throne, supposedly a symbol of power, holding an anguished, isolated figure.

They include versions of his "screaming pope" shown together with the still of a terrified victim taken from film director Sergey Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin," the 1925 silent film about the Russian revolution. Confronting them are sketches of a weeping woman by Picasso. The close-up still, his source for the pope's stunned features, was found in Bacon's studio as were numerous colour and black-and-white reproductions of the Velazquez original, which he never saw.

Distance from subjects

Also on view are other examples of how Bacon merged several sources from his studio collection in his paintings, sometimes with absurd results. In two versions for "Study for Bullfight," shown along with Goyaesque prints on the same theme, Bacon has introduced a section of a Nazi party rally, presumably inspired by a newspaper photo.

"The arena doubles as a place for mass rallies where violence on a broader scale can be fomented," comments Margarita Cappock, co-author of the 400-page exhibition catalogue.

Bacon became interested in bullfights during visits to Spain and southern France. Cappock notes he once told an interviewer that "bullfighting is like boxing  - a marvelous aperitif to sex."

Bacon was a flamboyant gay whose lurid sex life began long before 1967 when homosexuality ceased to be a criminal offense in Britain. In 1953, a painting suggestively showing two men on a bed caused a scandal when it was exhibited at London's Hanover Gallery. The painting was based on photographs of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge, the 19th-century American pioneer of photographic art.

Bacon kept several copies of Muybridge's book "The Human Figure in Motion" in his studio. Several leaves from the book allow visitors to see how Bacon used them in depicting overtly homosexual themes through most of his artistic career.

A deeply shocking Bacon triptych displayed at the Beyeler Foundation museum recounts the 1971 suicide of George Dyer, an almost illiterate one-time petty thief and Bacon's lover for eight years, who became addicted to drugs and drinking. On the eve of a large Bacon retrospective in Paris' Grand Palais, Dyer was found dead on the toilet in a Paris hotel where they had shared a room.

Bacon almost never painted from life. Even portraits of his closest friends were based on photos he had ordered for the purpose; sometimes they were based on pictures of other people. He repeatedly said he felt inhibited by the presence of models and that he needed a distance from what he was painting. His many self-portraits, shown with some of the Rembrandts he admired, also were done from photos, including some taken in automatic photo booths.

No palette was found in his studio. Walls, doors and abandoned canvases served Bacon as substitutes. Sometimes, he left brushes aside and used his hand or rags to apply the paint.

Bacon died of a heart attack on April 28, 1992, during a visit to Madrid. Long before his death, he had amassed a fortune but never changed his lifestyle, continuing to live in his tiny apartment and studio above a garage in Kensington. His sole heir was his last lover, John Edwards, who died of lung cancer last year at age 53. He once said in an interview that despite his seeming flamboyance, Bacon was actually "a lonely and shy man."

Three years before Bacon's death, the disturbing Dyer suicide triptych was sold at a New York auction for $6.27 million, believed to be an all-time record for a Bacon work. And there still seems to be a good market for his papal portraits although he did more than 45 of them in a span of 20 years. One, dated 1963, fetched $5.43 million at a recent London sale.




The charm of the alien

Bill Brandt always thought of his nudes as his most important work. But, Paul Delany argues, he has a particular place among great British photographers for bringing an outsider's eye to his adopted country and capturing a strangeness that has come to seem familiar and true.

The Guardian, Saturday February 21, 2004


Cyril Connolly described Brandt's portrait of Francis Bacon as "a symbol of the despair of his generation". It is certainly a quintessential Brandt portrait, with Bacon's haunted look matched by what he does not see behind him: the ominous trees on the skyline, the path in an impossible perspective, the leaning lamp-post seemingly transported from a German expressionist film. Does it matter that Bacon himself hated the picture?





Contemporary Art Evening


Session 1:  7 pm  5th February, 2004 

London, New Bond Street




                               Study for Pope VI 1961  Francis Bacon



LOT 16

Executed in 1961.

Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London & New York
Lord Weidenfeld, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

ESTIMATE  2,800,000 to 3,200,000 GBP

SOLD FOR   £2,805,600

London, Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1962, n.p., no. 84f, illustrated
Mannheim, Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon, 1962, n.p., no. 72f, illustrated
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1962, p. 21, no. 77f, illustrated
Zürich, Kunsthaus, Francis Bacon, 1962, pl. 11, no. 71f, illustrated
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Francis Bacon, 1963, n.p., no. 63f, illustrated
Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, Grosse Orangerie, Zeichen des Glaubens, Geist der Avantgarde: Religiöse Tendenzen in der Kunst des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1980
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, p. 63, pp. 64-65 (colour) and p. 146, no. 29, illustrated
New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art; Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; San Francisco, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Forth Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Francis Bacon: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1999, p. 127, no. 38, illustrated in colour

In: Kunstwerk, XVII, August-September 1963, p. 21, illustrated
John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, pl. 186, illustrated
Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, 1996, p. 259, illustrated as part of installation at Tate Gallery, 1962

Beginning in 1949, Francis Bacon’s obsession with arguably his most renowned and iconic subject, the Pope, lasted almost two decades. In much the same way as Andy Warhol’s profound fascination with the legend of Marilyn Monroe spanned a 20 year love affair, so Bacon continuously returned to his famously harrowing depiction of the most senior and powerful figure in the church. The history of art is peppered with examples of the subject of the enthroned Pope. From Raphael to Titian, many others had attempted his portrait, but it was the Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velásquez of 1650 (Fig. 2) which clearly had a huge impact on Francis Bacon. “Haunted and obsessed by the image, … by its perfection”, Bacon adopted Velazquez’s Pope into his cast of isolated and tortured figures who all appeared to be living at the edge of existence.

Working from reproductions, Bacon famously turned down the opportunity to go to see his beloved Velazquez during a trip to Rome in 1954 because he was worried about his reaction to the real painting. Obsessed by the magnificent colour and grand portrayal of the many reproductions that he saw, Bacon did not want to make a representation of this image, rather he wanted to get beneath the surface, to get behind the façade of the representation and depict the feeling which lies at the heart of existence. Bacon’s paintings gained their historical momentum not only from the time honoured composition and the painterly richness of the realisation, but from the opportunity to defy and scandalise tradition, and to reverse the expectation of religious obedience by vexing and victimising this paternal serenity. Many of the older masters had worked in the tradition of great religious painting, but by 1949 the artistic faith in religion had been replaced by the harsh realities of two bloody wars in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Immediate Post-War art either sought to remove itself completely from painted reality in its reverse form, abstraction, or sought to depict the extreme forms of human existence.

In 1650 the Pope was just about the most powerful man in the world and everything in Velazquez’s portrait points to it: the throne, the robes, the ring, the state paper held in the left hand and the note of perfectly balanced and incorruptible authority which is set by the relaxed way in which the Pope’s arms rest lightly on the throne. Everything is sumptuously re-created. Bacon could have chosen many different subjects for this kind of portrayal but in choosing the Pope he seemed to be purposefully alighting on one of the grandest examples of humanity and one who showed very little public emotion. Beginning with the relatively ambiguously titled painting, Head IV of 1949, Bacon executed roughly twenty-five completed variations on the theme of the Pope. During this time, Bacon took this image, stripped it of all pretension to perfection and luxury and turned the cool, calculated Pope of Velazquez’s portraits into a fragile specimen of human life. One of raw emotion, just like any of his other subjects.

The six Studies for a Pope (FIg. 4), executed in April-May 1961 represent the last consecutive treatment of the theme, although Bacon was to complete further, separate studies from Velazquez’s Portraits of Pope Innocent X later in the decade. Study for a Pope VI, the last of the series, shows the Pope engulfed by his throne. Massive in proportion, this formerly luxurious and ornamental seat of power, has now become a simplistically utilitarian object whose construction is made up merely of flat plains. Cast against a jet-black background and slumped deep into his chair, he is not seen here as an all powerful spiritual leader, but as a shrunken, rather impotent and lonely figure. Wilting in a gesture of complete regression, Bacon here appears to be exploring the private anguish of a very public figure, who despite the outward trappings of power, seems powerless to control events.

Across the breadth of the six studies, one can trace the movement of the figure, much like a series of film-stills. Relatively calm, yet seemingly agitated, the pope fidgets through the series, before raising his arms in panel five in a moment of surprise or joy. The irreverence has turned to a moment of excitement, before the Pope settles back into his own introspection in the sixth panel, the present work. The viewer somehow feels like they are watching a caged animal in a zoo, not the most powerful figure in the religious world. In each canvas the background and clothes are sketched out with a quick fluidity as the canvas seeps up the pigment in readiness for the main event, the face. Set against the imperious scarlet, green and black background, the main expressive tool in Bacon’s armoury is a densely textured face, it is a picture of brooding and pent-up emotion. Sweeping the fully loaded brush in a series of brilliant, swift gestures, Bacon carves out the three quarter profile of a head, blurred as if in movement. With its accentuated curves, somehow a combination of menace and calm seems to animate his face.





Tate acquires contents of a legendary atelier

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent

The Guardian, Tuesday January 20, 2004


The Tate announced yesterday it had acquired what looks less like a national treasure than the sweepings of a studio floor - which is exactly what it is, but from the studio floor of a genius.

The 1,200 items were once part of the legendary chaos of Francis Bacon's studio at Reece Mews in south Kensington, where the artist was known to work knee-deep in a litter of scraps of paper, paint rags, old envelopes and newspaper clippings.

The Tate said the acquisition was "the generous gift of Barry Joule, a friend of the artist", neatly sidestepping a decade of controversy.

The Francis Bacon estate stressed yesterday that the Tate's acceptance of the archive did not constitute an authentication, and said much work remained to be done on the contents.

It will take experts years to work through the hoard to see exactly what they have been given by Mr Joule, the artist's friend, chauffeur and handyman.

Art world legend insists that when Bacon died in 1992 the Tate was offered the studio by his heir and last companion, John Edwards, who died in Thailand last year.

The gallery is said to have rejected the offer and the room, with every scrap of paper and cigarette stub forensically recorded, went to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where it is a popular exhibit.

The history of the material donated to the Tate is as eccentric as the artist.

Mr Joule, a Canadian living in London, met Bacon in 1978 when he saw a head sticking out of an upstairs window of the neighbouring house. It turned out to be the artist, worrying his television aerial had blown off in a storm. Mr Joule offered to replace it, and the men became friends.

He says Bacon asked him to take away sackloads of rubbish from his studio before he died. The circumstances of the removal have been disputed ever since. The donation to the Tate ends bitter controversy over the archive.

Some of the scraps of paper are drawn over, many with images recognisable from Bacon's work. One sheet is a map showing the shortest route between Reece Mews and the Colony Club, Bacon's favourite drinking place in Soho.

There have two very successful exhibitions of part of the Joule archive: one in 2001 at the Barbican Gallery in London and the other in Dublin.

Mr Joule, who has homes in England and France, has kept some items, but has promised to bequeath them to the Tate.

The gallery said yesterday it could be three years before the material was displayed.



Bacon Collection Donated to Tate Gallery


By Sherna Noah, Arts Correspondent, The Scotsman, 19th January, 2004


Francis Bacon’s former friend and handyman has donated more than 1,000 items relating to the late painter to the Tate Gallery, the museum said today.

Canadian Barry Joule, 49, was Bacon’s friend for 14 years after he put up a television aerial at his neighbour’s home in South Kensington in 1978.

The donation, which includes drawn-over newspaper cuttings, photographs of the painter with friends, and some preliminary sketches, is one of the most generous to date to the Tate’s archives.

Much of the photographic material and documents have not yet been studied, but the most treasured pieces in the collection have been valued at £5 million.

A Tate spokeswoman said that the collection would help understand the way Dublin-born Bacon, who died in 1992, worked.

She said: “We can’t authenticate everything in this collection as belonging to Francis Bacon, but this collection comes from the studio of Francis Bacon and is definitely related to his work.

“We can look at these and try to assess how Bacon was working.

“Tate hopes the acquisition and further study of this material will enable scholars to resolve remaining issues about Bacon’s working practice.”

The collection will be studied, photographed and catalogued over the next three years before the items are displayed.

Although Bacon had no formal art training, he began to paint in around 1930, two years after settling in London, when he was inspired by a Picasso exhibition.

Initially he had little success and the painter destroyed most of his early work in 1941.

But Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944 established his reputation, and Bacon is now recognised as one of the major 20th Century painters of the figure.

The collection includes over 900 pieces of source material from newspapers, magazines and books, with many items painted or scratched on the surface.

There are over 50 pages, collaged or over-painted, from the X-Album, believed to have begun life as Bacon’s nanny’s photographic album.

The collection also includes over 100 photographs of the artist and friends, and a map marking the route between the Colony Club – Bacon’s favourite Soho drinking hole – and his home.

Joule has kept a small number of items, which he will bequeath to Tate at a later date.



Tate brings home a £20m Bacon collection


Art lovers will be the main benefactors of a selfless act that ends a 12-year legal dispute


January 19, 2004


A FRIEND of Francis Bacon has given the Tate Gallery more than 1,200 sketches by the Irish-born 20th-century master.

Estimated to be worth £20 million, it is one of the most generous donations in the Tate’s 107-year history.

Barry Joule, 49, a Canadian who became Bacon’s chauffeur, handyman and friend for 14 years after he had repaired the artist’s television aerial, told The Times yesterday that this was his way of giving something back to London, his home since 1978. The two men lived next door to one another in South Kensington.

Seeing the sketches piled up in boxes at the Tate yesterday, Mr Joule said: “It’s painful to part with, in a way. But I love London. It’s been good to me. Francis was a London painter, not an Irish painter, and he liked coming to the Tate.”

The collection offers a unique insight into a self-taught painter who captured the pain of human existence. It includes paint-splattered photographs and sketch-covered clippings from magazines, and the images range from oil studies for known compositions to the briefest of rehearsed outlines for figures. Bacon repeatedly worked over photographs to capture an action or movement, or the expression on a face — “ things that caught his eye”, Mr Joule said.

The pieces offer crucial evidence of how Bacon drew and prepared his compositions, despite his repeated insistence that he never did so. Most of the sketches have never been seen publicly before. Mr Joule, who is now writing a book about life with the artist, has kept them in a bank vault since Bacon’s death in 1992.

The Tate’s acceptance of his gift marks the end of a bitter 12-year legal battle with Bacon’s estate. Until now, the estate had repeatedly refused to authenticate the works, let alone accept Mr Joule’s ownership of the collection. “At one point they said I’d stolen it,” he said yesterday.

The estate also prevented the Barbican Centre in London from showing reproductions of Bacon’s paintings in 2001, disputing Mr Joule’s ownership.

Days before he died, Bacon handed the works to Mr Joule with the words: “You know what to do with them.”

One of Mr Joule’s duties had been to destroy works with which Bacon was not satisfied, slashing a picture to shreds with a Stanley knife and burning it. The artist could not simply throw them away because members of the public used to search through his dustbins for valuable “souvenirs”.

But in the case of this collection, Mr Joule does not believe that Bacon wanted it destroyed. “Definitely not. He meant to keep it,” he said.

In earlier years Bacon had given Mr Joule works which he later wanted returned, and others as gifts to keep. But without the blessing of Bacon’s estate, the collection remained in limbo, dividing the art world over the works’ authenticity. Some even suggested that the sketches could be fakes.

Although the collection includes images that relate to known paintings, such as his study for the death mask of William Blake in the Tate, along with the seminal Pope series and his portrait of George Dyer, his early lover, the doubters were concerned because it contradicted Bacon’s claim that he never drew. In interviews, both with Bacon scholars and in a series of taped conversations with Mr Joule himself, he repeated the denial, saying that his imagination was sparked by literature, poetry, films and life events.

The climate changed after the death last year of John Edwards, Bacon’s former boyfriend, who headed the estate. Mr Joule said: “John Edwards was like a son to Francis. He wanted 100 per cent of Francis and there was little room for someone else.”

Yesterday, in a statement, the estate of Francis Bacon said: “It is right that these items should be studied and we are happy Tate and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin (which has other material from Bacon’s studio) will be able to join their scholarly forces in this endeavour.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate, said: “Barry Joule’s generous gift will provide a fascinating insight into Bacon’s working practices.”

Such is the scale of the material that the gallery estimates that it will take as long as three years to study it properly. Only then will it go on display to the public





Tate Goes after the Bacon


by Joe La Placa, Artnet, January 19, 2004

Iran's hard line Ayatollahs were not amused when they came across a Francis Bacon triptych bought by Farah Pahlavi, the widow of the last Shah of Iran. Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendants, its central panel featuring two spooning male nudes, was one of dozens seized and banished to storage when the fundamentalists came to power after the 1979 revolution. Bacon's masterpiece languished for nearly a quarter of a century, a victim of the sensitivity of depicting the flesh. Even today, it's still regarded indecent by Iran's conservatives.

But negotiations are now underway for the painting to be lent to the Tate Britain. With Bacon triptychs now commanding as much as £6,000,000 on the market, the painting would form the centerpiece of a small exhibition planed for this spring.

The current discussions began two years ago. Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain, was on holiday in Tehran. He visited the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and was made warmly welcome by its director, Ali Reza Semiazar. He showed Deuchar a Bacon in storage. "I thought it would be rather great to see it in Britain - in the context of other Bacons," said Deuchar. "I hadn't seen this one reproduced before. It hasn't been exhibited in this country." The work was sold to Iran by Marlborough Gallery in New York shortly after it was made in 1968.

The Tehran contemporary museum was founded by the last Shah's widow, Farah Pahlavi, in 1977, and became a big player on the contemporary art market, thanks to Iran's immense oil revenues. The museum houses Iranian art alongside works by Picasso, Monet, Dalí and Warhol. The collection includes important British work - works by Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, and two Bacons.

And Iran isn't completely uninterested in art from the West. In return for the loan of the Bacon, the British Council is sending the Tehran museum a show titled "British Sculpture in the 20th Century," which opens there in February.

JOE LA PLACA is Artnet's representative in London.




Melvyn Bragg: You ask the questions


The Independent, 15 January 2004


Which South Bank Show interview do you consider the most revealing?
Charlotte Smith, Peterborough

Francis Bacon. I'd known him for over 20 years and when he eventually agreed to do the interview, he was prepared to give everything. Both of us got what can only be described as rather drunk, and he revealed himself in a way that was wonderful. I, emphatically, don't mean that he revealed his homosexual life - which was totally beside the point and taken for granted - but rather that he revealed himself as an "optimist about nothing", as he put it. He was a nihilist who despised almost every work of art in the world and who had a totally unyielding tunnel-vision about his painting.


How useful is alcohol as an aid to the interviewer?
Jemima Green, Manchester

Very useful in the case of Francis Bacon, but basically I'm an alcohol-free interviewer. You need all your wits about you.



  A Loan From Tehran


     By CAROL VOGEL, The New York Times,  January 9, 2004



For the first time since arriving in Iran 36 years ago, Two Figures Lying on a Bed With Attendants, a 1968 triptych by Francis Bacon, is to be exhibited publicly. But not in Iran: it will be the centerpiece of a small exhibition of Bacon's work at Tate Britain in London in April.

"Obviously it's very exciting," said Stephen Deuchar, director of Tate Britain. "The chance to bring a work by Bacon completely new to the British public animates our existing collection." While the Tate has important holdings of Bacon, it doesn't have a 1960's triptych, which makes the loan particularly interesting.

The Marlborough Gallery in New York sold the painting to the Shah of Iran the year it was made. Since then it has mostly been in storage at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, along with works by other masters like Picasso, de Kooning and Warhol that have not been considered suitable for display for political and cultural reasons.

Although so much of the collection has gone unseen, museums and collectors worldwide have known about it and have coveted some of what it has in storage. Last fall the museum turned down a staggering $105-million offer from an unidentified collector for a single painting: a rare and exceptional 1950 de Kooning drip painting from its collection.

Even though none of its holdings are for sale, the museum will readily lend works. Three paintings — a Picasso, an Ernst and a de Kooning — just came come off the walls of Le Scuderie Papali al Quirinale in Rome, where they were part of a show called "Metafisica," which ended on Tuesday and centered around de Chirico and his followers.

"We are going to send the Bacon in two or three months," said Ali Reza Semiazar, director of the museum in Iran. "They asked for it unofficially a year and a half ago."

In exchange the British Council has organized "British Sculpture in the 20th Century," scheduled to open next month at the Tehran museum. The show is to include works by Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Damien Hirst and Bill Woodrow. Tate Britain is among the show's lenders. Still, Mr. Semiazar stressed, the sculpture show isn't the reason for the loan. "The Tate Gallery has one of the best collections of Bacon," he said.

Asked if officials at the Tate were concerned about the safety of artworks being sent to Iran, Sir Nicholas Serota, director of all the Tate galleries, said, "As the British Council is the cultural arm of the Foreign Office, we are happy to be advised by them concerning security and safety issues."




Too risqué for Iran, Bacon's nudes could be shown in London


By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent, The Independent, 08 January 2004


With its startling central nudes, a Francis Bacon triptych bought by the last Shah of Iran and displayed in his wife's dazzling museum of modern art was never going to amuse the country's hard-line ayatollahs.

So when the fundamentalists seized power in the 1979 revolution, the work, Two figures lying on a bed with attendants, was one of dozens seized and sent to storage.

It has languished unseen for nearly a quarter of a century since, a victim of the sensitivities surrounding depictions of flesh, which are still regarded as indecent by today's conservatives.

But now negotiations are under way for the work, painted in 1968, to be lent to Tate Britain for display in the UK for the first time. It would form the centrepiece of a small Bacon exhibition for six months from this summer.

With Bacon triptychs now commanding as much as £6m, the show would give British art-lovers a chance to see a valuable work most will never even have heard of.

But if the loan application to Iran's Ministry of Culture succeeds, it would also be the next step in a gradual but intriguing cultural détente between Britain and a country many would regard as hostile.

Just as the American hospital erected in Bam in the wake of its catastrophic earthquake suggested hopes of a thaw in the enmity between those two countries, the potential loan of the Bacon is part of a developing relationship between Iran and the UK.

In 2001, the Barbican led the way with a season of Iranian film and an exhibition of art including works lent by the Tehran museum which it had never dared display. Last year, as part of a British Council initiative, Dundee Repertory became the first British theatre company to perform in Iran since Derek Jacobi starred in Hamlet in 1977.

Next month the British Council will open an exhibition of British sculpture at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, founded by the late Shah's wife. And next year the British Museum hopes to stage the first major UK show of treasures from ancient Persia, including some of the greatest relics in Iran.

Relations can still be tricky. The Dundee actors found their performance thoroughly vetted by both the hard-liners and the liberals, with strict restrictions on men and women touching.

The sculpture exhibition was originally due to take place last year but fell foul of political sensitivities when Argentina lodged extradition proceedings against a former Iranian ambassador in Britain accused of terrorism.

But Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain who visited Tehran last month for talks, said it was clear the political climate was "conducive" to greater contact.

The groundwork for the current discussions was laid two years ago when Dr Deuchar visited the modern art museum while on a family holiday and was made warmly welcome by its director, Dr Sami Azar.

"They have got a core collection of Western art which includes some important British work - Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and two Bacons," Dr Deuchar said. "[Dr Azar] kindly showed me this Bacon in the store and I thought it would be rather great to see it in this country in the context of some other Bacons. I hadn't even seen this one reproduced before.

"It hasn't been exhibited in this country and I don't believe it was exhibited in America apart from when it was in the Marlborough Gallery [in New York] for sale." It was in "very good condition", he added.

The work was sold shortly after it was painted in 1968 and is understood to have been in Iran by the early 1970s. Tony Shafrazi, a well-known New York art dealer, was buying works for the Shah at that time and is likely to be asked for details of how it came into the Shah's collection and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

The museum was founded with money from the country's immense oil revenues by Farah Pahlavi, the widow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Housing Iranian art alongside works by Picasso, Monet, Dali and Warhol, it opened in 1977 with great fanfare and a guest list including Henry Kissinger and Nelson Rockefeller.

But when the royal family was deposed, the collection was seized and the more controversial works were consigned to a vault, known since then as "The Treasure".

However, some relaxation of attitudes is emerging. An exhibition of Impressionist paintings at the museum three years ago included a Renoir previously regarded as too risqué for public viewing.

Graham Sheffield, the Barbican's artistic director, who has visited Iran, said the artistic scene was thriving and artists could get "the odd erotic moment" past the censors if they were subtle enough. But Bacon's nudes were "probably a bit challenging", he said.



Up the garden path

Harrison Birtwistle will be 70 next year - but has he settled down? On the contrary, he tells Stuart Jeffries, he is winding his way ever deeper into a maze of myths, shared memories and ancient legends

The Guardian, Friday November 28, 2003

Harrison Birtwistle
I like the idea that there's a bit of dirt in it': Harrison Birtwistle. Photo: Eamonn McCabe

What is he writing? He looks bleakly through the conservatory windows and says: "What aren't I writing?" He has a way, this soft-pawed composer with his beard-softened face and gentle Accrington accent, of flintily re even contradictory roles."

How did Theseus Game, for instance, come about? He answers with a question. "Have you ever been to Lucca? If you go into a walled town, like Lucca, you find what you do is retrace your steps and approach piazzas from different angles. The nature of the place is concealed - like a ball of string."

So does this have something to do with Theseus in the labyrinth, having slain the Minotaur, retracing his steps with Ariadne's thread? Birtwistle shakes his head sadly. "It's not about the story," he says. "Francis Bacon talked about 'the boredom of the story' and that's why I use myths. They've been told endlessly before; you don't have to do the boring work of creating them." But I thought you reckoned popular culture had messed so much with our collective psyche that we don't know those mythic narratives any more. "That's a problem," he concedes.

"I used to read a lot of pulp fiction, but I kept finding that they have an idea about the subject but they don't know how to end the story, and that's boring. That's what's brilliant about Psycho. It starts off as what would be a pretty good pulp story even if it didn't have the Bates Motel. I know I don't have the invention to write Psycho, but I do have the talent to work through a musical idea."

So what is the musical idea in Theseus Game if it isn't the McGuffin of Theseus in the labyrinth?

"It's about making a context and then breaking it. It's how you break it that becomes interesting." To illustrate what he means, Birtwistle shows me an etching by Picasso called Minotauromachia. A young girl holding a candle and a bouquet is confronted by a sexually predatory Minotaur; a wounded female bullfighter is straddled across a snarling horse; a bearded man, possibly Christ, climbs up a ladder on the left. The etching sets up an incredibly dense labyrinth of symbolic associations. Picasso has torn up all but the barest context and created something more engaging; Birtwistle aspires to do the same.

"I deal in a lot of my pieces with what you might call a labyrinth. I'm concerned with time which is circular. Time is not linear, though it expresses itself in that way." That must be a problem for you since music is traditionally seen as developing in a linear manner through time.




Contemporary Art Strong for a Second Night




S. I. Newhouse Jr., the publishing magnate, was selling Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud. The 1965 triptych was estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million; six bidders leaped at the chance to take it home, and it sold to an unidentified telephone bidder for $3.8 million ($3,816,ooo).




Can't take it with you

TV Review by Mary Novakovich

The Guardian, Wednesday November 12, 2003

All of this nonsense prompted me to think, after Wordsworth, "Bacon! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:/England hath need of thee: she is a fen/Of stagnant waters." And there, on BBC2, was the very antithesis of all trash television culture, Francis Bacon, subject of Can't Take It With You. With glorious contempt for posterity, Bacon left everything to his muse and surrogate son John Edwards, who, in his turn, left everything to his boyfriend Phil Mordue, who is probably now living very comfortably in Thailand.

This was not the usual tale of greedy heirs sullying their benefactors' legacy; this was the grand gesture of a man whose last act was to throw a ruddy great spanner in the workings of the art world. The ever-regal Brian Sewell seemed to know more than he let on, and delivered himself in resounding, sibylline phrases ("Francis was totally amoral"). Edwards's mother, Beattie, seemed to remember having a Bacon or two under the bed; when the camera pulled back, she was living in baronial splendour, which suggests she didn't do too badly out of the whole business herself.

Nobody actually said this, but the hideous mess in which the Bacon estate now stands could be regarded as an artwork in itself, smudged and dirty and disturbing in the Master's signature style. And, as Francis once bought me a drink in an after-hours Soho den in the 80s, I'm thinking of filing a claim to any spare millions that are knocking around.




Can't Take It With You

BBC Two:  Tue 11 Nov, 2003, 10:00 pm - 10:30 pm  30mins


This series about celebrity wills reveals how Francis Bacon, Britain's highest ever selling artist, left a multi-million estate which sent shockwaves through the art establishment. Bacon enjoyed a wild, bohemian life in Soho and never cared about money, but now speculation is rife about who will finally inherit his fortune.



October 15, 2003 until January 18, 2004

Kunsthistorisches Museum
1010 Vienna, Maria Theresien-Platz

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna will host the first solo exhibition in Austria, dedicated to the artist Francis Bacon, who was born in Dublin in 1909 and lived in London until his death in 1992. This exhibition is not a retrospective, but rather locates for the first time the network of relationships and influences spanning from the Old Masters to artists of the 20th century, which were crucial to Bacon’s artistic development.

The idea of this exhibition is by Prof. Dr. Wilfried Seipel, Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The show's scholarly concept in connection with the tradition of art and Bacon's oeuvre as well as its execution are organised by Mag. Barbara Steffen, an independent curator who has lived in Los Angeles and New York and has worked for many years for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Ms. Steffen is the curator of the exhibition for the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and for the Fondation Beyeler near Basel.

The exhibition will include some 40 works by Francis Bacon, as well as about 40 works by other artists such as Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Ingres, Degas, Schiele, Giacometti and Picasso, as well as films directed by Eisenstein and Buñuel. In addition, rarely exhibited preparatory photographs and sketches by Bacon, which he kept in his studio and used as inspiration for his oil paintings, will be shown. Since 1998, this material has been in the collection of the Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery in Dublin, where Bacon's studio was re-erected inside the museum after his death. From Bacon's collected studio material – among which are, for example, illustrations from art-books and magazines, photographs and early drawings – the curator of the exhibition has selected 71 items that document the interrelation between Bacon and earlier artists he admired.

The exhibition consists of the following sections: the tradition of papal portraits, Bacon's papal portraits, the motif of the scream, the motif of the cage, Bacon and Surrealism, Bacon and van Gogh, Bacon's use of the triptych, portrait and self-portrait, the representation of the body in relation to Ingres and Velázquez, the motif of the mirror, and several other subjects.

Studies for a Crucifixion
from 1962, from the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is one of the highlights in this exhibition. This tripytch has not been seen outside the US for several years. In addition, the exhibition will include works lent by American private collectors, some of which have never been exhibited before in Europe. There will be six versions of the screaming pope and two variations on a destroyed self-portrait by Van Gogh.

Among the works by other artists are Titian's Portrait of Cardinal Philipp Archinto (c. 1560) from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his Pope Paul III (1546) from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Jean-Dominique Ingres' Oedipus and the Sphinx (1826-27) from the National Gallery in London, which was a direct model for Bacon's version of Oedipus and the Sphinx. A pastel by Edgar Degas will illustrate why Bacon was so much impressed by the artist’s technique. The exhibition will offer to Bacon scholars and visitors the comparison of drawings by Picasso of the theme of the bathers from the late 1920's with Bacon's Surrealist drawings from the early 1930's, the onset of his artistic career. Picasso's Seated Woman (1939) from the Berggruen Collection in Berlin is another important work included in the exhibition. The films Battleship Potemkin by Sergej Eisenstein, and the Andalusian Dog by Luis Buñuel/Salvador Dali will also be presented in the exhibition. Bacon was inspired by these films and used individual scenes and film stills for thematic development of his motifs in his paintings.

A series of lectures by internationally-renowned experts on Francis Bacon will be organised. A catalogue edited by Wilfried Seipel and Barbara Steffen will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition will be on view at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen near Basel, between February 7 and June 20, 2004.




 Contemporary Art

   Sale 7938   7PM, November 12, 2003


  Art/Auctions, The City Review



        Lot 13: Three Studies for Portrait of Lucien Freud

             oil on canvas in three parts each 14 by 12 inches, 1965


Francis Bacon (1909-1992), the Hieronymous Bosch of 20th Century portraiture, is represented by Lot 13, Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud. The lot consists of three 14-by-12-inch studies, oil on canvas, and was executed in 1965. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It sold for $3,816,000. The artist, the catalogue notes, "first met Lucian Freud in 1945 when both artists were invited to stay for the weekend with fellow artist, Graham Sutherland." "They quickly became close friends and a provocative and stimulating social and artistic synergy between the two ensured....From the 1950's until the 1970's Freud was a common subject in Bacon's oeuvre, a member of a private community that included other artists, friends and lovers; familiar arenas in which Bacon experimented physically, with paint, and psychologically, with emotion, creating a stunning series of fragile selves that fully arrests our sensibilities through its extraordinary artistry, yet still clearly describes what the sitter looks like, thinks of and feels." The catalogue estimates that Bacon did about 15 portraits of Freud.





  Contemporary Art:  Evening


   12th  November 2003 at   7:00 PM 
   Session One: New York: Lot No. 13 



              Three Studies for Portrait of Lucien Freud   Francis Bacon

                                               SIGNED AND DATED (MAKER'S MARKS)
                                titled and dated 1965 on the reverse of one canvas




$2,500,000—3,500,000 (USD) 

The Artist
Alfred Hecht, London
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London
Acquired by the present owner from the above


London, Marlborough New London Gallery, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, July - August 1965, cat. no. 7, illustrated
Paris, Centre National d'art Contemporain; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon, October 1971 - May 1972, cat. no. 59, p. 125, illustrated
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art; Santa Barbara Museum, Eight Figurative Painters, October 1981 - March 1982, cat. no. 20, illustrated
London, Tate Gallery; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie; Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Francis Bacon, 1985 - 1986, cat. no. 47, np., illustrated in color
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Inc., Francis Bacon Paintings, May - June 1990, cat. no. 4, pp. 10-11, illustrated in color
Madrid, Galleria Marlborough,
Francis Bacon, 1992
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, cat. no. 34, p. 17, illustrated in color
London, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909 - 1992, Small Portrait Studies (Loan Exhibition), October - December 1993, cat. no. 7, p. 17, illustrated in color
St.-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Bacon-Freud: Expressions, July - October 1995
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centres George Pompidou; Munich, Haus der Kunst, Francis Bacon, June 1996 - January 1997, cat. no. 46, p. 147



John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1971, cat. no. 66
David Sylvester, Francis Bacon. L'art de l'impossible. Entretiens avec David Sylvester, London, 1976
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and In Profile, London, 1983, pl. no. 31, illustrated in color
Bernard Heitz, "Bacon et Freud à Saint-Paul-de-Vence. La Vision double et décapante du corps humain par deux peintres à la recherche de la vérite", Télérama, No. 2378, August 9, 1995, pp. 26-27, illustrated in color
Philippe Dagen, Francis Bacon, Paris, 1996, pl. no. 30, p. 54, illustrated
Christophe Domino, Bacon, Monstre de peinture, Paris, 1996, p. 95, illustrated
Francis Bacon, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1997, p. 80, illustrated in color
Exh. cat., Ostfildern-Ruit, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Lucian Freud Naked Portraits: Works from the 1940s to the 1990s, 2001, p. 61, illustrated



Francis Bacon first met Lucian Freud in 1945 when both artists were invited to stay for the weekend with fellow artist, Graham Sutherland. They quickly became close friends and a provocative and stimulating social and artistic synergy between the two ensued. The connection between these two artists was immediate, and the mutual influence they had on each other cannot be overestimated. Jean-Louis Prat remarks that Bacon and Freud seemed to share both the ability and the burden of displaying the vagaries of contemporary life, of translating, with surprising assurance and the utmost sincerity, its most intense moments in oil paint, just like van Gogh and Giacometti before them (see Exh. Cat., St.-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Bacon – Freud: Expressions, 1995, p. 20). Bacon had painted Freud’s portrait as early as 1951 (Alley no. 33), working, typically, from a photograph not of the artist but of the writer, Franz Kafka, whose writing Freud admires. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s Freud was a common subject in Bacon’s oeuvre: a member of a private community that included other artists, friends and lovers, familiar arenas in which Bacon experimented physically, with paint, and psychologically, with emotion, creating a stunning series of fragile selves that fully arrests our sensibilities through its extraordinary artistry, yet still clearly describes what the sitter looks like, thinks of and feels. Images of these select few began to take precedence over earlier re-workings of Velázquez or van Gogh. The existentialist scream of the artist’s Pope was now re-voiced by this intimate circle of friends.

It is Bacon’s portraits of the 1960’s that most powerfully display what Michael Peppiatt called the artist’s "snarl of rage", and the rare series of small triptychs, his ‘studies’ of these sitters, sees the vanguard artist at his most experimental and anguished. These heads not only confront the viewer as subject, but almost seem to confront the very media with which they were created, their angst being inextricably linked to the powdery pigment and viscous paint employed by Bacon. Among his favorite sitters were Freud, George Dyer, Isabelle Rawthorne and Henrietta Moraes: a fellow artist, a lover and two friends who drank with Bacon in Soho – all individuals somehow allowed into the extremely private orbit of Bacon’s world. The artist made somewhere in the region of fifteen works of Freud, from his early 1951 portrait to the right panel of his outstanding Three Portraits: Posthumous Portrait of George Dyer; Self-Portrait; Portrait of Lucian Freud, from 1973.

Formerly in the collection of Alfred Hecht, Francis Bacon's framer who owned a magnificent collection of works by Bacon, the present work is a sublime example and ranks as one of the greatest portraits Bacon ever made of his fellow painter. Here, energetic strokes of paint swoosh across the canvases, at first transparent and then opaque. They work in concert with loose passages of pure pigment, coalescing to evoke, with uncanny verisimilitude, the appearance of Freud. Set against a vibrant scarlet ground, the fleshy pinks and lilacs of the faces are thrust to the front of the picture plane; each isolated abstract mark commingling to evoke the thoughtful mien and intense spirit of the sitter. Working in the triptych format allows Bacon to present three different visages, and thus three different moods, that come together, as the total object and, by extension, reveals the complexity of the sitter’s personality. In the left-hand canvas, Freud’s eye is closed beneath a heavy eyelid, and his hand touches his forehead. His features seem to slide down the canvas, and literally off his face, under the pressure of his hand. A visual stress on descending lines thus lends the sitter an overwhelmed appearance. Bacon, however, still anchors the basic properties of Freud’s likeness to the painting. Freud’s forehead and his hair are instantly recognizable as is, ironically, Freud’s own style of painting. Bacon’s seems to mimic Freud’s own plastic treatment of flesh, particularly in the forehead here.

The right-hand canvas appears removed from the first two canvases. Very clear, concrete lines between the face and the crimson background give this floating head an almost phantasmagoric quality. Interestingly, the artist has delineated, very faintly, a small cap on Freud’s head, firmly connecting this portrait to his papal images. Furthermore, by having this portrait float in a miasma of pure color, and not allow it to be easily readable as a head, Bacon connects this canvas to his earlier series of William Blake Death Masks, where the disconnected head seems to emerge from the shadows of the canvas, illuminated by a ghostly incandescence.

The central canvas clearly the focus of the triptych. Both the right-hand and left-hand canvases gaze toward this central head. It is frontal and extremely confrontational. One eye looks sideways, with the apparently bleeding nose becoming the axis of a wide movement that sweeps across the top left part of the portrait. This is the liveliest of the three canvases, and the most readable as a portrait. The head is complete, and sits atop shoulders. The brushwork is extremely lively, and the spontaneity inherent to Bacon’s portraiture appears most acute here. The background is not a blocked red, but a tapestry of differing hues, each serving to project the sitter out of the pictorial space.

Antonin Artaud wrote in 1947 that the "… human face carries a kind of perpetual death … which it is for the painter to save by giving it back its own features." (Antonin Artaud, Portraits et Dessins, Paris 1947, n.p.). Bacon’s eschewing of realism serves to heighten his engagement with the Real, striking a greater likeness by restricting imitation. In achieving this psychological verisimilitude, Bacon foregrounds certain movements with his brush, privileges certain colours. Certainly, he invests his portraits with a unique animation, one that touches as closely as possible the heart of the sitter’s personality, to the point that he nearly damages it. It is this risk of violence, always hovering over Bacon’s portraits, that elevates his work and redirects the tenor of his likenesses. Francis Bacon does what Artaud hoped. He does, indeed, save his sitter from disappearing. But only just.




The Most Wanted Works of Art

Art News Online November 2003

By Kelly Devine Thomas


Making wishes come true doesn’t come cheap or easy. The Modern recently sold Francis Bacon’s painting Dog (1952) in order to acquire a triptych by the artist. (Dog went to London dealer Gerard Faggionato for more than $8 million, according to sources.)


Bangkok Stories: Teens, trains and too-tight tops


By Jan McGirk, The Independent, 05 October 2003


There is a last wheeze of geezer chic in Jomtien Beach, an hour's drive south of Bangkok. A popular girly bar at the resort has been incongruously renamed the Blind Beggar, in homage to the Whitechapel pub once patronised by Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

According to owner Big Bill this is not just posturing. Even in the tropics, some of the regulars who hoist pints there hanker for the East End. The transformation has not changed the clientele: British men of a certain age and background and Thai bar girls who while away slow afternoons watching Man United games on the box.

Philip Mordue, who once took a bullet through his bullish neck without any major damage, occasionally deejays at the Blind Beggar. When his flatmate, John Edwards, died last spring in Bangkok, there was wild speculation about the size of the fortune left to Mordue.

The money came from the painter Francis Bacon, who met Edwards, a former gay model, in his family's East End pub, and left him at least £11m when he died. You can't help thinking the artist would have relished the detail with which his favourite London demi-monde is being recreated in sunny Thailand.



Permanent Waves

What's on view at the Modern now is significant, but could be more ... fun.

By Anthony Mariani, Fort Worth Weekly, 13th August, 2003.


Downstairs, there's one hell of an entrance, albeit a conservative one. To your right, Robert Motherwell's huge, black-on-white "Stephen's Iron Crown" greets you -- it's a calligraphic masterstroke in an ambiguous language. Once you step past it, you're in front of Francis Bacon's "Self-Portrait." A tower of an artist, Bacon made a mountain of a career travelling in darkness. "Self-Portrait" is gloomy, monotonous, and baffling. The man he renders here in oil appears to be sitting on the edge of a couch or bed. His face is grotesque, his soiled suit tattered. There's absolutely nothing remotely decorative about this strong, haunting piece. What you'll likely take away from "Self-Portrait" is a fresh outlook on your own self-loathing - nobody's as ugly as Francis Bacon. 

Selections from the Permanent Collection

Thru Aug 31 at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. 817-738-9215.




  Francis Bacon: The Last Interview




     The Independent Magazine, June 14th 2003


In the final months of his life, Francis Bacon was involved in the creation of a haunting set of pictures - not as a painter but as a subject. They were the work of the photographer Francis Giacobetti, with whom the artist shared some of his last thoughts on art, sex, life and death...


IN AUTUMN 1991 the Corsican photographer Francis Giacobetti began an extraordinary series of portraits of Francis B He was introduced to Bacon, a famously reluctant photographic subject, by the artist's close friend, Michael Archimbaud. The two got along famously. "Why didn't you introduce me before?" said Bacon. They met 11 times over the next few months, for lunch or dinner, or for the extensive portrait sessions which took place in suites in two London hotels - 11 Cadogan Gardens and Browns - and a rented studio.

 Bacon seems to have warmed to Giacobetti's fluid, low-tech approach.  "I had no lights. In the studio I found a strip of neon and I shot a lot of portraits using just that". 

Giacobetti was inspired by Bacon's paintings, and many of the the portraits echo familiar motifs - meat on a hook, a single lightbulb - and colours from the artist's palette. There are triptychs and diptychs, and a fascinating sequence of Bacon painting. And while Giacobetti worked, they talked.  In the end they decided to capture their interview on video; some of which is reproduced here. 

According to Giacobetti, "Bacon enjoyed the process very much. Usually he hated to pose. He told me, 'I'm very shy. I hate myself. I'm like an owl.' And he was so sharp. I've photographed everyone - Picasso, the Dalai Lama, Yehudi Menuhin, Einstein...But I never saw anyone so clever." 

The two met for the last time in early 1992. Bacon dies that April in Madrid. It was 11 years before Giacobetti was finally able to realise the work and produce the prints, which are currently being shown for the first time at the Marlborough gallery in London. Time has done nothing to dilute their impact, or the stark honesty of the artist's words.

Francis Giacobetti: Tell me about your childhood.

Francis Bacon: I remember my shyness above all. I didn't  feel good about myself. People frightened me. I felt like I wasn't normal. The fact that I was asthmatic prevented me from going to school. I spent all my time with family and the priest who gave me my schooling. So I didn't have any friends, I was very alone. I remember crying a lot. When I think of my childhood, I see something very heavy, very cold, like a block of ice. I think I was unhappy as a child. I only ever had one view: that of emerging from it. Added to this was my was like an illness. It was unbearable.  Later on, I thought that a shy old man was ridiculous, so i tried to change. But it didn't work.

Even though financially we didn't really have any problems (we had a few but not a great deal), I still have the memory of a miserable childhood, as my parents were bourgeois. I am inclined to say that I got the wrong family. I don't think it suited me.

My father didn't love me, that's for sure. I think he hated me. He didn't want to spend money on me. He was always looking for an excuse to get his servants to beat me. He was a difficult man, very vindictive.  He lost his temper with everyone, he didn't have any friends. He was old bastard. When I was about 15 years old, I got laid by the grooms that worked for him. He was a racehorse trainer, a failed trainer. that's definitely the reason why I have never painted horses. I think it's a very beautiful animal but my childhood memories are quite negative and the horse brings back a distant anguish. And besides, I don't like the smell of horse dung, but I find it sexually arousing, like urine. It's very real, it's very virile. But it's also the reminder of my father, who was an emotionally disturbed person. he didn't love me and I didn't love him either. It was a very ambiguous though, because I was sexually attracted to him. At the time, I didn't know how to explain my feelings. I only understood afterwards, by sleeping with is servants.

FG: What role did photography play in your work?

FB: I have always been very interested in photography. I've looked at photos much more than paintings. Because they are more real than reality itself. When we witness an event, we are often unable to explain the details. In police inquiries, every witness  has a different view of the event. When you look at an image that symbolises the event, you can browse through the snap shot of it and experience it in  a much stronger way, and embrace it with more intensity. 

Photography, in my case, reflects the event in a clearer, more direct way. Contemplation allows me to imagine my version of the truth and the image that I have of this truth leads me to discover other ideas, and so on...My work becomes a chain of ideas created by various images that I look at  and that I have often registered with contradictory subjects. I look for the suggestion of an image in comparison to another.

 I enjoy looking at images since my obsession is painting in a representational manner, so I need to see forms and representational spaces. That gives me momentum but I don't copy photographs apart from a few [Eadweard] Muybridge characters that I have integrated into paintings such as L'Enfant paralytique or Les Lutteurs. It's like cooking. (I was once a chef in a restaurant.) You mix the vegetables, you know the taste of each thing individually, but the blending with the herbs and meat, the mixture of different molecules, produces another completely different taste.  Every art needs to use images, except for, I think music.

There are reproductions of my paintings all around my kitchen but I no longer see them. Those that are in the studio help me to imagine details of other images. There are also heaps of illustrated books, magazines, photos. I call it my imagination material. I need to visualise things that lead me to other forms, that lead me to visualise forms that lead me to other forms or subjects, details, images that influence my nervous system and transform the basic idea. It's the same with books or films that I see. I think it's often like that for artists. Picasso was a sponge, he made use of everything. Me, I'm like an albatross: I take in thousands of images like fish, then I spit them out on the canvas. 

My principle source of visual information in Muybridge, the photographer of the last [19th] century who photographed human and animal movement. it's a work of unbelievable precision. He created a visual dictionary on movement, an animated dictionary. Everything is there, recorded, untalented, without staging, like a sequenced encyclopedia on the possibilities of  human and animal movement. For me, who doesn't have any  models, it's an unbelievable source of inspiration. The images help me just as much to find ideas as to create them. I look at a lot of very different images, very contradictory and I take in details a bit like those people who eat of other people's plates. When I paint, I have the desire to paint an image that I am imagining, and this image transforms itself. I have also asked a photographer friend to do men fighting but that didn't work. People have always believed that I painted movement directly from photos, but this is completely wrong. I invent what I paint. Besides, it's very often the opposite of natural movement. I have also painted men making love according to Muybridge's images of man fighting. And I have used pornographic images as well. At the time, it interested me. There weren't porno magazines and films like there are now. But I have always been interested in pornography. A painter is alone in front of his canvas; it's his imagination that creates, and sexuality needs to feed on images that you see or invent. By imagining, you transgress all taboos, anything is possible. And pornography helps. I have seen books of [Robert] Mapplethorpe. It's interesting but too graphic, too plastic. You lose the excitement that only comes from a crude image. Beauty is the enemy of sex.

FG: Picasso once admitted to me that nothing aroused him more than drawing female genitals. When you paint men's bodies, is there a physical arousal?

FB:  When I paint two men buggering, it's not by chance, it's because I feel some kind of need to do it. A physical need. It's more primitive than crucifixions. Painting is very physical as it is, painting scenes of men in action gives me a great pleasure. It's one of the aspects of human behaviour that most interests me. It's instinct, and it's my instinct to paint it. Men's bodies sexually arouse me so I paint men's bodies very often, it makes up almost all of my work. I have also painted women's bodies, but I have destroyed a lot of the canvases. I've kept very few of them, if any. Henrietta Moraes is perhaps the most successful, the one that has the best market I think.

Hence I've also done very crude canvases, very pornographic, but I destroyed them. I found it too easy. For a painter, moments of sexual fantasy can lead to paintings that are often very banal, and when the arousal fads, you realise that it hasn't done anything. It's like drugs. When you are on a high, the result of your work is rarely something of quality: too many thinks are exterior. And too many exterior things have disrupted your nervous system, and the result is often disappointing.

FG: What do you believe in?

FB:  I believe in being selfish. I have only myself to think of. I have hardly any family left and very few friends that are still alive. And a painter works with his human material, not with colours and paintbrushes. It's his thoughts that enter the painting. But I don't expect any certainty in life, I don't believe in anything, not in God, not in morality, not in social success...I just believe in the present moment if it has genius - in spinning the roulette ball or in the emotions that I experience when what I transmit on to the canvas works. I am completely amoral and atheist, and if I hadn't painted, I would have been a thief or a criminal. My paintings are a lot less violent than me. Perhaps if my childhood had been happier, I would have painted bouquets of flowers.

FG:  Many think that you stand with Picasso as the most important painter of this century.

FB:  Celebrity bullshit! We die famous instead of being the unknown soldier. And we always talk rubbish in the small world of art. Perhaps what we have in common is the fact that we like life above all. But Picasso invented everything. After him, we can no longer paint without thinking of him. Fame is of no importance but it is important because one needs to live and sell one's paintings. And there is always, in every one of us, the concept of being the best. Hence, it's vanity and also egoism, because your work is you. It's you who sells yourself: your talent, your instinct, your techniques. There are thousands of painters, but very few are the chosen ones. Even if one defends oneself, one still always wants to leave something that will enter the history of art. That is vanity, the driving force of artists. Artists are very vain. We always think we are making the painting that will revolutionise all painting, and that's why we keep going. You never retire from being vain.

FG:   You hate conventions?

FB:   I have never made concessions.  Not to fashion, not to constraints, not to anything. I've been lucky enough not to have to, but it's in my character to refuse social life, obligations, and to prefer simple people to sophisticated people. And luck has had it that I Haven't needed to compromise myself in any way. Perhaps, since I haven't been to school like other people, I have invented my own rules which please me and which above all are more suited to me.

I also think that I have a difficult character. I'm a pain. I say the truth even if it hurts. I have the excuse of liking wine, and when I'm drunk, I talk a lot of nonsense; but as I have an excuse, I make the most of it. We are all prisoners, we are all prisoners of love, one's family, one's childhood, profession. Man's universe is the opposite of freedom, and the older we get, the more this becomes true. I am a desperate optimist. Optimist, because I live from day to day as if  I am never going to die. Desperate because I don't have a very high opinion of the human being and of me in particular.

FG:  What is your vision of the world?

FB:   Since the beginning of time, we have had countless examples of human violence even in our very civilised century. We have even created bombs capable of blowing up the planet a thousand times over. An artist instinctively  takes all this into account. He can't do otherwise. I am a painter of the 20th century: during my childhood I lived through the revolutionary Irish movement, Sinn Fein, and the wars, Hiroshima, Hitler, the death camps, and daily violence that I've experienced all my life. And after all that they want me to paint bunches of pink flowers...But that's not my thing. The only things that interest me are people, their folly, their ways, their anguish, this unbelievable, purely accidental intelligence which has shattered the planet, and which maybe, one day, will destroy it. I am not a pessimist. My temperament is strangely optimistic. But I am lucid.

FG:  Is death an obsession?

FB:  Yes, terribly so. One day, when I was 15 or 16 years old, I saw a dog having a shit and I realised at that moment that I was going to die. I think there is a difficult moment in the life of a man. the moment when he discovers that youth is not eternal. On this day I realised this. I thought about death and since then, I think about death everyday. But that doesn't stop me from looking at men even of my age, as if everything is still to play for, as if life could have a fresh start and often when I go out in the evenings, I flirt as if I was 50. You should be able to change the motor. That is the privilege of artists, they don't have an age. Passion lasts and passion and freedom is seductive. When I paint, I no longer have an age, just the pleasure or difficulty of painting.

FG: How would you like to die?

FB: Quickly.  



Exclusive interview with Francis Bacon:

 “I painted to be loved”


The last summing up, two months before he died, by the greatest Irish painter of the 20th century in an interview with the photographer, Francis Giacobetti


The Art Newspaper, June 2003


Francis Bacon died in 1992. All his life he had been fascinated by photographic images, and he himself was photographed again and again—by Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Richard Avedon, John Deakin, to name only the most famous—so it is not surprising or inappropriate that the last months of his life, from autumn 1991 to early 1992, were spent allowing the French photographer Francis Giacobetti, 64, to take experimental photos of him.

Giacobetti learnt his craft as a photo reporter with Paris Match and has become an established portrait photographer (among his sitters, the writer Gabriel García Márquez and the Dalai Lama). The more conventional, posed portrait of Bacon was taken just a week before he died. In the other images, Giacobetti is playing variations on Bacon paintings, with the the head of the pope, the carcass, the blurring; he offers a merging of his artistic personality with that of the great painter.

In June, these photographs, as well as a number of previously unexhibited paintings by Bacon, go on display at Marlborough, the London gallery that represented him. Here we publish extracts of one of the last interviews conducted with Bacon.

Francis Giacobetti: Were you born an artist?

Francis Bacon: I don’t think people are born artists; I think it comes from a mixture of your surroundings, the people you meet, and luck. It is not hereditary, thank goodness. But “artist” is a big word; there are very few painters who are real artists, but, on the other hand, there are craftsmen working with wood or glass who are genuine artists. The creative instinct certainly exists. That is what makes me get up every morning and forces me to paint, otherwise I should be a tramp. Picasso discussed this very tellingly in Clouzot’s film…

FG: Why do you paint? For whom?

FB: I paint for myself. I don’t know how to do anything else, anyway. Also I have to earn my living, and occupy myself. I think that all human actions are designed to seduce, to please. I don’t give a toss about that any more. But maybe at the beginning, I painted to be loved…yes, that’s certainly right. It’s so nice being loved. Now I don’t give a toss, I’m old. At the same time it gives you such pleasure if people like what you do. Today I paint very little, although I do paint in the morning because I’m unable to stop; or I paint when I’m in love, perhaps, but it’s too late now, I’m too old.

These days I look like an old bird. I’m nearly 82, I’m losing my memory, I’ve been seriously ill for two years, I have suffered from asthma attacks since I was a child and it gets no better in old age. Asthma is a terrible complaint; when night falls you are never sure if you will wake up the next morning. It attacks the very foundations of life—your breathing. You always feel as if you are in remission, always ready to die.

I should really live in the mountains, but it’s impossible to paint in the mountains, at any rate for me. I need the city; I need to know there are people around me strolling, arguing, fucking—living, and yet I go out very rarely; I stay here in my cage. But I know there are people around me and that is enough.

I often think I am very stupid, I’m often surprised by my optimism. Very often, in fact; it’s my nature; and with a nature like this I should never have painted. I should have been, I don’t know, a con-man, a robber or a prostitute. But it was vanity that made me choose painting, vanity and chance.

All artists are vain, they long to be recognised and to leave something to posterity. They want to be loved, and at the same time they want to be free. But nobody is free. Some artists leave remarkable things which, a 100 years later, don’t work at all. I have left my mark; my work is hung in museums, but maybe one day the Tate Gallery or the other museums will banish me to the cellar…you never know. Although for me personally it is not important, my vanity still tells me that it is. Painting gave meaning to my life which without it it would not have had.

FG: What about the influence of Picasso?

FB: Picasso is the reason why I paint. He is the father figure, who gave me the wish to paint. In 1929 I saw some completely revolutionary pieces, Le baiser and Les baigneuses. The figures are organic. They were my inspiration in The Crucifixion. Picasso was the first person to produce figurative paintings which overturned the rules of appearance; he suggested appearance without using the usual codes, without respecting the representational truth of form, but using a breath of irrationality instead, to make representation stronger and more direct; so that form could pass directly from the eye to the stomach without going through the brain.

Picasso opened the door to all these systems. I have tried to stick my foot in the door so that it does not close. Picasso was one of that genius caste which includes Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and above all Velázquez. Velázquez found the perfect balance between the ideal illustration which he was required to produce, and the overwhelming emotion he aroused in the spectator. He was not only the photographer of the Spanish court, he was also the psychoanalyst of the human soul of the Spanish court. In each of his portraits you find the life and the death of his characters. Like a line stretching from the beginning to the end. But it was Picasso who overturned the whole thing!

FG: What part does photography play in your work?

FB: I have always been very interested in photography. I have looked at far more photographs than I have paintings. Because their reality is stronger than reality itself. When you witness an event you are often incapable of explaining it in detail. And also, in police enquiries, all the witnesses have different views of the event. Whereas when you look at an image symbolising the event, you can pause over the event as it happened and feel it more strongly, partake of it more intensely.

Photography, for me, brings us back to the actual event more clearly, more directly. Contemplation allows me to imagine my own truth, and the idea that I get of this truth helps me to discover other ideas, and so on…My work becomes a chain of ideas created by the many images that I look at and which I have registered, often on contrasting subjects. I look for the suggestion of one image as it relates to another.

My principal source of visual information is Muybridge, the 19th-century photographer who photographed human and animal movement. His work is unbelievably precise. He created a visual dictionary of movement, a living dictionary. Everything is stated there, without talent or scenery, like an encyclopaedia of sequences on the movement of humans and animals. Because I work without models, it is an incredibly useful source of inspiration.

Images also help me find and realise ideas. I look at hundreds of very different, contrasting images and I pinch details from them, rather like people who eat from other people’s plates. When I paint, I want to paint an image from my imagination, and this image is subsequently transformed. I even asked a photographer friend to photograph some men wrestling, but it did not work. People have always thought that I took my movement from photographs, but it is completely untrue. I invent what I paint. Anyway, often enough it is the opposite of natural movement.

FG: When you paint, what state are you in?

FB: Before I start painting I have a slightly ambiguous feeling: happiness is a special excitement because unhappiness is always possible a moment later. That’s like life: it is so precious because death is always beckoning. At that moment I have only the vaguest notion of what I would like to do. You could say that I have no inspiration, that I only need to paint. I am in an excited state. I begin by applying the paint manually. In this way, something happens or fails to happen.

The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love. It can be as violent as fucking, like an orgasm or an ejaculation. The result is often disappointing, but the process is highly exciting.

FG: Your painting is often described as violent…

FB: My painting is not violent; it’s life that is violent. I have endured physical violence, I have even had my teeth broken. Sexuality, human emotion, everyday life, personal humiliation (you only have to watch television)—violence is part of human nature. Even within the most beautiful landscape, in the trees, under the leaves the insects are eating each other; violence is a part of life. You are born, you fuck, you die. What could be more violent than that? You come into this world with a shout. Fucking, particularly between men, is a very violent act, and don’t let’s even mention death. In between we fight to protect ourselves, to earn money; we are humiliated daily by stupid idiots for even more stupid reasons. Amidst it all we love or we don’t love. It’s all the same anyway; it passes the time.

My painting is a representation of life, my own life above all, which has been very difficult. So perhaps my painting is very violent, but this is natural to me. I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success. I have no moral lesson to preach, nor any advice to give. Nietzsche said, “Everything is so absurd that we might as well be extraordinary”. I am content with just being ordinary.

FG: What does flesh represent to you?

FB: Flesh and meat are life! If I paint red meat as I paint bodies it is just because I find it very beautiful. I don’t think anyone has ever really understood that. Ham, pigs, tongues, sides of beef seen in the butcher’s window, all that death, I find it very beautiful. And it’s all for sale—how unbelievably surrealistic!

I often imagine that the accident that made man into the animal he has become also happened to other animals—lions or hyenas for example—while man remained a primate. What would have happened? It’s bizarre, I have never read anything about it, by Darwin or anyone else. Perhaps it’s science fiction, but it’s very interesting. I imagine men hanging in butcher’s shops for hyenas, who would be dressed in fur coats. The men would be hung by their feet, or cut up for stew or kebabs.
We are all meat. All the inhabitants of this planet are made of meat. And most of them are carnivores. And when you fuck, it’s a piece of meat penetrating another piece of meat. There is no difference between our meat and the meat of an ox or an elephant.

FG: The scream?

FB: We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death. That was one of my real obsessions. The men I painted were all in extreme situations, and the scream is a transcription of their pain.

Animals scream when they are frightened or in pain, so do children. But men are more discreet and more inhibited. They do not cry or scream except in situations of extreme pain. We come into the world with a scream and we often also die with a scream. Perhaps the scream is the most direct symbol of the human condition.

FG: And David Sylvester, [the art critic, since deceased, who interviewed and wrote about Bacon]?

FB: I think David Sylvester is a very intelligent man, but I don’t think he has a genuine feel for painting because in the book he wrote with me he mentioned all sorts of frightful people, all these painters whom he loved and admired. I think he has no critical sense.

FG: Is death an obsession with you?

FB: Yes, terrible. Once when I was 15 or 16 years old I saw a dog shiting and I realised at that moment that I was going to die. I think there is an equally important difficulty in man’s life. The moment when you discover that youth does not last for ever. I understood it that day. I thought about death and since then I have thought about it every day.

Even as old as I am, it doesn’t stop me from looking at if anything might happen, as if life were about to start again; often when I go out in the evening I flirt as if I were only 50. We ought to be able to change our engines.
This is the artist’s privilege—to be ageless. Passion keeps you young, and passion and liberty are so seductive. When I paint I am ageless, I just have the pleasure or the difficulty of painting.

FG: How would you like to die?

FB: Fast.

A longer version of this interview appears in the livre d’artiste, with an introduction by Philippe Garner, 484 pp, 250 photographs by Francis Giacobetti, 150 images of Bacon’s paintings, that will be published in a limited edition of 3,000 by Turner & Turner in June 2004. 
An exhibition (11 June-5 July) of Francis Giacobetti’s photographs and Francis Bacon paintings is at Marlborough Gallery, London. This exhibition will go on tour.



Marlborough Fine Art
Francis Giacobetti - Portraits of Francis Bacon
10 June 2003 - 5 July 2003

This exhibition is the fruit of a unique adventure, The History of Art written in the present, springing from the remarkable meeting between two crazy men - one a painter, the other a photographer. It is the result of a never before seen telescoping of two worlds, two lives, two techniques and two generations, which at first glance appear to be poles apart. One of them having a love of men, the other a love of women; one a painter, the other a photographer; a profoundly anglo-saxon culture for one, a resolutely Mediterranean one for the other. In principle everything should separate them, yet everything, let us say in the basic sense, brings them together.

Their wildness, to begin with. From the day they were born, both of them stood out from the crowd, smashing self-righteous boundaries, spitting with deep and brutal sincerity on the dogmas and preconceived ideas of schools, criticisms, trends and fashions, daring to shout their mouths off about things of which others only thought and kept silent…

These two men, both of them called Francis, also unquestionably have other points in common. Both of them are islanders – one an Englishman, the other a Corsican. Insularity, as we know, is the mother of singularity, bringing with it a different manner of seeing, thinking and creating. Insularity has another consequence - it leads one to view space differently, restricting and enclosing it and in fact leading one to draw it as a finished form.

These two men are also sons of light. For the man from the north who spent his youth in Ireland, it is a light that is scarce, unsettled and with a sudden intensity. For the other man from the Mediterranean shores in the South, the light is overabundant, so direct that it needs to be filtered and protected against. For both of them, the sun is a friend and an enemy, and though its light is difficult to tame, it must be mastered at all costs.

Lastly, both of them fed avidly on images, their unique school being that of the image. They lived on photography, television, architecture, illustrated albums, catalogues, as well as on paintings that they saw in books or those upon which they reflected in museums. They learned everything by carefully observing the world around them. Their eye is a scalpel, a device with which to learn and create. Both of them were self-taught and for whom life was, and is, directed by their instincts - it could not have been otherwise.

And this encounter, improbable as it may seem, was meant to take place. It is eleven years since Francis Bacon died, and here today is a conclusion to that event.

During the end of 1991 and the start of 1992, Francis Giacobetti took hundreds of photographs of the master and his world. Never had Bacon confided for so long and so often to the watchful eye of a photographer. For hour after hour they conversed on matters of death, painting, the masters they admired, the painters they hated, and on colour, love, instinct, photography, pain, sex and life…quite simply, their life.

This exhibition is the eye of Bacon through the eye of Giacobetti, a truly loving meeting of minds.




  Marlborough Fine Art




The Directors of Marlborough Fine Art are pleased to announce their forthcoming exhibition of Francis Giacobetti’s photographs of Francis Bacon which opens to the public on Wednesday 11 June, with a Private View on 10 June from 6-8pm. This exhibition also marks the Gallery’s renewed commitment to fine art photographs, having previously organised exhibitions of work by Bill Brandt, Jules Brassaï and Irving Penn amongst many others.

Born in Marseilles in 1939 to a Corsican family, Francis Giacobetti grew up in Paris where he began his career as a photographer in 1957. He shot to world-wide fame through his work on nudes, fashion and cutting-edge advertising. During the last 15 years Giacobetti has photographed some of the most important personalities and statesmen of our time from the Dalai Lama and Stephen Hawking to Fidel Castro, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Federico Fellini.

Giacobetti’s aim as a photographer has always been to proceed beyond the factual and to use camera and film in search of the full aesthetic, symbolic and magical potential of the medium.

In 1991, Giacobetti entered into perhaps his most extraordinary and highly productive working relationship. His subject was the painter, Francis Bacon.

Giacobetti had long admired and studied Bacon in detail and when the photographer approached him to take part in his portrait project, the artist agreed to participate in Giacobetti’s exploration of photographic portraiture. A friendship began and Bacon entrusted himself to this mature and deftly intuitive photographer who could create images that engaged with issues of time and gesture and the essence of being and mortality.

From their first session in the autumn of 1991 to their last in early 1992, Bacon gave himself up to Giacobetti’s direction and the photographer created a series of powerful visual images, sometimes using props with cross references to specific canvases painted by the artist. In these photographs, Giacobetti pushed to the limit all the lessons he had learned during his thirty years as a photographer, his senses guiding him to capture on film the elusive qualities that define the state of human existence and that conventional portrait photography can so rarely transcribe.

At the end of this project, Giacobetti felt that he had succeeded in coming close to the complex core of the artist’s being. Francis Bacon died in April 1992 and for the best part of a decade the photographer postponed working with this wealth of material. Only recently has he become ready to confront the issues of scale and process which needed to be addressed in order to translate what he had captured on film into substantially powerful works of art. It is this series of important photographs that will be shown and offered for sale for the first time at Marlborough Fine Art this Summer.

A fully illustrated catalogue is available. 



Uncensored Flesh

by Donald Kuspit ,

Artnet, NY - 15 June 2003


It seems clear that Lucian knows the basics of his grandfather's theory of dreams, at least in outline. But in his art psychoanalytic ideas lose their therapeutic purpose. Sadistic clinical exposure was never Sigmund's purpose; it became, however unconsciously, Lucian's main purpose. Once again cruelty is the royal road to major art in modernity, that is, art that conveys the corrosive effect on the self of living in the cruel modern world: with the death of Francis Bacon - who encouraged Lucian to make the transition from socially polite to existentially potent art...To this day Freud finds painting difficult, as he has acknowledged - which is why his paintings continue to be full of life, however much they make us conscious of the death we prefer to be unconscious of - no doubt because of the difficulty of lifting his sitter's censorship, which makes for the (necessary) tension of their relationship. He seems to have begun to paint under the influence of Francis Bacon, a friend he portrayed in 1952. His first paintings, exhibited in 1958, were badly received. They were regarded as crude and coarse - vulgar. Kenneth Clark, famous for his distinction between the nude and the naked body, essentially a distinction between the refined and the raw - Freud, like Bacon, abolished the difference (although his figures tend to be more raw than refined, while Bacon's suavely blend the raw and refined, which is why they seem civilized however barbaric) - congratulated Freud on the exhibition and never spoke to him again. Thus polite society passed judgment on his painting. It preferred the familiar illustrator, whose drawings conformed to social and aesthetic norms - even in their very English eccentricity, which added tang to their tastefulness - to the violent, irreverent, transgressive new painter, going into all too human territory, usually repressed. Freud's new paintings were, after all, too "Freudian." He had come into his own by identifying with his grandfather, spurred on by the already Freudian Bacon.




Even friends aren't safe from the Bacon slicer


PANDORA   Sholto Byrnes


Sholto Byrnes | The Independent | June 12th, 2003


From beyond the grave Francis Bacon has launched an astonishing attack on the late David Sylvester, considered by many to have been Britain's greatest post-war critic and curator of modern art. In a hitherto unpublished interview given to the photographer Francis Giacobetti only two months before he died, the painter said of Sylvester: "I don't think he has a genuine feeling for painting because in the book he wrote with me he mentioned all sorts of frightful people, all these painters whom he loved and admired. I think he has no critical sense." The comments in the interview, reproduced in The Art Newspaper, are all the more surprising given that the two were friends, and the artist was the subject of Sylvester's last book, Looking Back at Bacon. But it seems that the public amity concealed Bacon's low opinion of the critic. James Birch, a friend of Bacon, confirms this view. "Francis thought that he had no taste," Birch tells me. "He often said that Sylvester had no idea about art at all."




Painting with light


Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris, 1900 ... Vittorio Storaro reveals the inspiration behind some of the most beautiful films ever made


Interview by Jonathan Jones | The Guardian | Wednesday 9 July, 2003


Vittorio Storaro, one of the greatest cinematographers in the world, has worked with Bernardo Bertolucci on films from The Spider's Stratagem to The Sheltering Sky and, in what is perhaps the high point of his career, was responsible for the extraordinary appearance of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. The restoration of his colour photography is the most dramatic revelation of Apocalypse Now Redux. Currently in post-production on an Exorcist prequel, Storaro recently published Writing With Light, in which he ranges across the history of art and the psychology of colour in an attempt to enrich the language of cinematography, which he feels is too often assumed to be a technical skill rather than part of cinema's culture.

Last Tango in Paris: Francis Bacon

I realised I was using light in connection with the conscious side of the mise-en-scène and dark for the unconscious. By instinct and by feeling I was drawing a conflict between light and shadow. Bacon's paintings gave me the confirmation of an idea that Bertolucci and I had about the conflict between the warm artificial light in a northern city like Paris during wintertime and the natural winter light. We already had the idea, but then we saw the Bacon exhibition in Paris and it confirmed it. We change our metabolism in front of a painting or watching a film.

  · Writing with Light Volume One: The Light, by Vittorio Storaro is published by Aperture




Figure in a Landscape, Francis Bacon (1945)


Jonathan Jones  | The Guardian | Saturday June 28, 2003

Artist: Francis Bacon (1909-1992) revolutionised painting by dragging it backwards into its own visceral, bloody, expressive history. Bacon was once an acolyte of the international style, the smooth, stylish modernism of the interwar years. It was a style he aspired to in his abortive career as an interior designer: the bizarre circular furniture that props up this Figure is very like the glass and tubular steel objects the young Bacon created.

However, Bacon's originality was to mine the traditional in painting, to return, in the 1940s, to the apparently bankrupt genres of the portrait, the landscape, even the religious altarpiece. No one could accuse him of seeking comfort in the past. What he found there was horror, and a language to speak of horror.

In Velázquez he found alienation, in Rembrandt death, in Christian iconography sadism. The potentially kitsch qualities of representational art become, in Bacon, tragicomic, the luxury of painting - and his painting is nothing if not luxurious - a disillusioned debauch in a closed room. By revealing that "traditional" art in a gilded frame could be more sick, hideous and, therefore, contemporary than avant-garde experiment, Bacon resurrected painting, albeit as mutant zombie.

Subject: Bacon based this painting on a photograph of his friend Eric Hall in Hyde Park.

Distinguishing features: This painting fixes you with its hauteur. On the white wall at Tate Modern, it is old-fashioned and archaic, a portrait on the scale and with the grandeur of an Old Master. It has that kind of authority, and the sense that you are looking at a sad, noble thing. It is imposing. But it is a trick. Accepting it as real, you are pulled into its paradox: a body that is not a body, a person who is not there. It is a gothic nightmare.

Look at the suit, that stereotyped garment designed as a uniform for civilians. Bacon paints it with orthodox realism. It is a real suit, but its legs fade into nothing. The jacket is a sheltering darkness, a funnel, a haunted house. Inside is no one. The man who sits here has no heart, no eyes and no head. Someone has sliced away almost all of him. Horribly, there is still flesh and there is still a person, or as the surrealists would say, a personage.

The blue and purple, meaty hand protrudes from the right sleeve as if there were a human being in this portrait. What emerges from the left sleeve is worse. Bloody, gory and undefined, a mess of powdered colour, his left hand explodes before our eyes into a violet cloud. We are looking at an abomination, a body without consciousness and without structure.

This painting is what portraiture might look like after the end of humanity: the ghost of the portrait. It is a travesty of the relationship between human beings and nature that painting once richly explored. TS Eliot is surely a reference point. Eliot's wasteland, where life itself, its continuation, is chilling - tubers from the death earth - is matched in the jagged grass and icy blue sky of this desolate park. Bacon's nature, while melancholy, is alive. It is the man who doesn't belong here.

But finally there is pity. This is a Frankensteinian thing, a wretched, friendless nobody, someone who wears a suit but cannot fill it, not a personality but a bit of shapeless flesh, a hollow man.

Inspirations and influences: Bizarrely, but unmistakably, Bacon's painterly parkland recalls the lovingly flicked foliage in which the 18th-century portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough nestled his subjects.

Where is it? Tate Modern, London, SE1 (020-7887 8000).




An artistic Brummie in Paris


Martin Gayford reviews At Work In Paris: Raymond Mason on Art and Artists by Raymond Mason


Martin Gayford  | The Daily Telegraph | 25 May 2003

Raymond Mason is that unusual thing, a Parisian from Birmingham. Born in 1922, the son of a taxi driver, he proceeded to become a sculptor. Like many other young British artists, he crossed the Channel soon after the end of the Second World War to see what was going on in what was then generally regarded as the cultural capital of the world.

Equally diverting is Francis Bacon's off-the-cuff judgment on the work of his friend Henry Moore, "When one thinks about it, Raymond, it's so b-a-d. If I ever see his King and Queen once more, I'll throw up." Moore himself announced one day that "After all, I am the one who invented the hole", a remark Mason considers worthy of Punch.




The screen painters

Rare film footage of famous artists at work and in conversation has been lost, thrown away or even destroyed. Hannah Rothschild has set out to rescue what remains

Hannah Rothschild | The Daily Telegraph | 22 May 2003



                                                                                  Picasso filmed by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1957



Imagine the thrill of seeing Titian or Rembrandt or Velazquez actually painting. How would they hold their brushes? Or approach their canvasses? Would they sit or stand, sing or remain silent? What did Titian look like? Was Rembrandt as melancholy as his self-portraits suggest? Did Turner really mix his paint with beer and did Constable and Ingres labour over every mark?

Our knowledge of the old masters is pieced together from their work and the anecdotes of observers such as Giorgio Vasari and the Goncourt brothers. But in the last century there has been an extraordinary and undervalued addition to art history: film-makers have roamed the world capturing painters at work and in conversation.

One of the earliest artists to be filmed was Auguste Renoir. By 1915 he was so decrepit that he painted from a wheelchair, and his hands, deformed by arthritis, resemble plaited loaves - he dabs at a canvas holding his brush precariously in bloated, twisted fingers. He clearly loved being filmed and grins like an elderly elf at the camera. (The director was Sacha Guitry and the shoot was attended by his son Jean, a great film-maker in his own right.) By contrast, the elderly Monet is thoroughly magisterial, standing in front of the lily ponds at Giverny in 1914, his snowy beard matching a white smock and the bristles of his brushes.

Picasso appears half-naked in Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1957 film, Le Mystere - his torso oiled to catch the studio lights. But it's his brush you can't stop watching. It's compelling cinema. The confidence of every stroke, the unexpected twists and turns of the composition and finally his destruction of the picture. It wasn't good enough for posterity.

France, recovering from the shame of the Vichy government, filmed Matisse walking in the Cote d'Azur. It was a piece of pure propaganda aimed to prove that the country might be bankrupt politically but it was still pre-eminent artistically. Here was the painter as ambassador and cultural icon striding around in a beautiful landscape backed by a rousing patriotic soundtrack.

In 1925, George Grosz and Otto Dix are dressed like surgeons and use their pens and brushes with the precision of scalpels as they wring portraits out of paint and on to canvas. Dali hums and postures. Magritte dresses like a bank clerk and paints in a nondescript bourgeois home. Pollock drips. Spencer, mindful of wartime shortages, draws on rolls of loo paper.

In all these films, serious artists are shown trying to make sense of both their craft and the world they live in. The advent of sound in the 1920s allowed them to be heard as well. When asked by an interviewer in 1982 if his images were a little macabre and disturbing, Francis Bacon retorts, "What could I paint that is more violent than human nature?" Frank Auerbach, orphaned aged eight by the Nazis, suggests that his painting is driven by a desire to "pin things down". Gerhard Richter, the most powerful and expensive contemporary artist working today, admits that he's suffering from crippling painter's block. Louise Bourgeois, while smashing a sculpture to pieces, claims that her creativity is driven by anger.

The best of these films are not only fascinating records: many are fine biographies in their own right. Their makers - who include Alain Resnais, Leni Riefenstahl, John Schlesinger, Victor Erice and Ken Russell - are our modern-day Vasaris. In this country alone, there's probably six or seven hundreds of hours of film of artists working and talking, a wonderful learning tool for children, artists and scholars, a window on a new world for the rest of us.

The tragedy is that few can see it. The material is held in archives, national and independent. Each has its own cataloguing system and bureaucratic apparatus. This all takes experience and money to negotiate and is beyond the means of the average person. A viewing tape can cost up to £250. Some owners obstruct release, closing history in favour of money.

Conservation is also a constant problem. A few weeks ago the entire Indian National Film Archive exploded. Early nitrate film stock is highly flammable. It only takes one bad can. A similar accident happened in Mexico. Imagine losing your film heritage in one bang. It's essential to preserve, digitise and study. Other footage is missing, presumed lost. Where, for example, is Tristram Powell's film of Lucian Freud made for the BBC in the 1970s - and never seen since?

But like flints in a flowerbed, old films keep surfacing. Last year colour footage turned up of Stanley Spencer exploring a churchyard with some children, as did home movies of Walter Sickert in his dotage, filmed by a friend's grandson.

Then there is the story of unseen, uncut footage of Francis Bacon and William Burroughs in conversation in New York - which lay in a vault for 20 years. Its soundtrack has just been rediscovered by chance, a reminder of the fragility of film history.

Sadly these discoveries don't outweigh the losses: over half of the work of the distinguished German film-maker Hans Curlis - the man who invented the arts documentary - has disappeared. Due to lack of storage space, rushes are dumped in roadside skips. Poorly stored footage turns into celluloid soup. Our heritage is eroding unnecessarily.

With this in mind, the art historian and film-maker Robert McNab and I have founded the Artist on Film Trust, a charity that aims to make copies of this footage easily available. In this country there are four main players: Melvyn Bragg immediately pledged his support and the South Bank Show's material. Channel 4 took a fortnight to agree. The Arts Council cogitated for several months. And as for the BBC? Well, one can hardly expect fleetness of foot, but it took five and a half years. (It was the Birtian era and no one knew which department should ratify the agreement.) The important thing is that these organisations have established an altruistic principle.

The trust's main priority now is to find a home and funding. In the meantime there are talks and exhibitions to plan. The first series of lectures was held at the Prince of Wales Drawing School this spring and reunited, where possible, the films, their makers and subjects. The artists Robert Crumb and John Virtue, film-makers Melvyn Bragg, Alan Yentob and John Read all contributed. The next series is at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival this month, where Anthony Wall, of Arena, will premier his Bacon-Burroughs rediscovery, and Melvyn Bragg, Alan Yentob, and Gerald Fox with Marc Quinn will screen and discuss their work.

In October the Getty Institute in Los Angeles is mounting an exhibition of Alexander Liberman's photographs of the artist at work. The Artist on Film Trust will complement their images with our moving footage. We're also working on proposals with the Hermitage in Russia and two major British institutions, the National Gallery and the London Institute, for collaboration. Film in museums is often confined to a small, darkened space off the main room - a holding area between postcards and the exit sign. That era, we hope, has ended. Film is finally coming out of the back room.

France and Germany pioneered the arts documentary but we perfected it. This country still produces great films on artists such as Gerald Fox's recent profile of Gerhard Richter. The television companies' commitment to arts programming is vital for two reasons. Firstly, these films enrich our understanding of the present. Secondly, they add to the record of history and create a source of pleasure for future generations. Let's hope that more people can see and appreciate them.

Hannah Rothschild's Omnibus portrait of Frank Auerbach is being shown during the Hay Festival on May 29.




The beautiful shadow

In this exclusive extract from his new biography, Andrew Wilson describes a chance encounter that turned Patricia Highsmith into a stalker - and inspired her second novel


Patricia Highsmith | The Guardian | Saturday May 17, 2003


Highsmith loved the paintings of Francis Bacon and, towards the end of her life, she kept a postcard of his Study Number 6 on her desk. "To me Francis Bacon paints the ultimate picture of what's going on in the world," she said: "mankind throwing up in a toilet with his naked derrière showing." Her fiction, like Bacon's painting, allows us to glimpse the dark, terrible forces that shape our lives, while at the same time documenting the banality of evil. The mundane and the trivial are described at the same pitch as the horrific and the sinister and it is this unsettling juxtaposition that gives her work such power.

As Terrence Rafferty, writing in the New Yorker, said: "Patricia Highsmith's novels are peerlessly disturbing - not great cathartic nightmares but banal bad dreams that keep us restless and thrashing for the rest of the night . . . Our minds have registered everything, the ordinary and the horrible, with absolute neutrality; we seem to have been marooned in a flat, undifferentiated territory, like a desert - a place without values, without the emotional landmarks of our fictions or our waking lives." Highsmith, although working within the suspense genre, not only transcended its confines, but created a whole new form. "Popular fiction isn't supposed to work on us this way," added Rafferty.




Will Phil the Till bring home the Bacon?


London Spy | The Daily Telegraph | 24 April 2003


There is a new twist in the long-running controversy over who will inherit Francis Bacon's millions.

Despite speculation to the contrary, Spy learns that the great artist's huge estate - or at least the paintings contained in it - will not end up in the sticky clutches of a colourful ex-gangster known as Phil "the Till" Mordue.

Mordue, a former convict who now runs girlie bars in Thailand, was rumoured to have come into the £30 million estate following the death of his long-term boyfriend, John Edwards, last month.

Edwards - Bacon's friend and muse - had been named as the sole beneficiary following the artist's death in 1992.

Senior figures in the art world have been worried that the collection of the 20th century's greatest British artist would fall into Mordue's hands.

However, solicitors acting for the Bacon estate are now able to confirm that this will not happen. "Any reports of Mr Mordue inheriting the collection (of Bacon works of art) are wrong," said a spokesman yesterday.

One likely outcome is that the body of art, which has rocketed in value since Bacon's death, will go into a trust. "The John Edwards Charitable Foundation was founded before John died," comments Richard Butcher of Payne Hicks Beach, a partner involved in the administration of the estate.

"It was designed to promote the works of Bacon, but I cannot tell you if that is where the pictures will end up: I can make no comment until the will becomes public knowledge.''



Artists and their Studios

Image: Bruce Bernard, Francis Bacon in his studio, 1984. 



Photographs of Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Euan Uglow, Michael Andrews and Leigh Bowery


Bruce Bernard (1928 - 2000) is probably best known as a picture editor and curator of photography. His acutely critical but sensitive eye was legendary. He was responsible for the revelatory photojournalism of the Sunday Times in the 1970s. His book, Photodiscovery (1980) remains a classic, and the later anthology of photographs, Century (1999), was a runaway best-seller, as was Van Gogh by Himself (1985), the first of a series of pictorial diaries combining the words and images of great painters.

Bernard studied as a painter at St Martin's in the 1950s and always affirmed the supremacy of painting in the visual arts. When he took up the camera himself in the 1980s, his work was strongly imbued with a painterly sensibility. Writing of Van Gogh's early paintings, Bernard once observed that 'what good photographs emphasise best to me is not human mortality but human endurance, and a very photogenic aspect of that is human beings at work or standing by their work'.

Bernard's photographs of his artist friends are uniquely penetrating. The show opens with six studies of Francis Bacon made in 1984. Bacon disdains to play-act for the camera, as does Lucian Freud in an equally powerful series of portraits from the 1990s. The intensity in both men's eyes speaks of their vocation. Other photographs taken in Freud's studio show his models Leigh and Nicola Bowery sprawling naked on a couch, the grandeur of the interior suffused in a Rembrandtesque light. Bernard's last portraits, of Euan Uglow and Frank Auerbach, were executed shortly before his death in 2000.


3 May 2003 - 1 June 2003

7 June 2003 - 6 July 2003

12 July 2003 - 10 August 2003

20 September 2003 - 19 October 2003
Bedford School

25 October 2003 - 4 January 2004
Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery

10 January 2004 - 8 February 2004
Cardiff, St David's Hall



Vicente Todolí se despide del Museo de Serralves con una gran muestra sobre Bacon


Levante  Efe, Oporto


The valeciano Vicente Todolí presented/displayed yesterday the first great exhibition of Francis Bacon in Portugal, in its last act like director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Serralves before being in charge of the Tate Modern of London. The exhibition, that reunites near fifty works of the British painter, is inaugurated today and will remain open until the 20 of April.

The exhibition organized by Todoli in exclusive right for the museum of Oporto includes some of the Bacon's more well known works, one of the main painters of the European contemporary art, in addition to works rarely exposed in public.

Todoli, historian of art born in Palm in 1958, explained that "this exhibition is not a retrospective one", because is only tried "to focus one of the central subjects that Bacon persecuted during all its artistic race". In that sense, the exhibition "looks for to show the conflict of the artist with the painting, its permanent fight to summarize in only a picture all its problems without solving", added.

The new director of the Tate Modern of London, position for which was chosen in last May, said that the idea of the title of the exhibition, Caged-uncaged, "can be understood better in the light of Bacon's own words, when he talked about his attempt to realise  the element animal of the human".




Francis Bacon - 'Caged/Uncaged'

Time Out,  Lisbon: Art


The first exhibition ever in Portugal of paintings by what the gallery plausibly labels the most famous European artist of the second half of the 20th century. The show is at the Serralves in Oporto (whose former director Vincent Todoli has now taken over at Tate Modern). The museum also has a mini-show by 1999 Turner Prize-winner Steve McQueen, with the films 'Carib's Leap' and 'Western Deep'. Unless you just can't get enough of Bacon in Britain, the exhibition may not justify the three-hour train trip on its own but it may be worth organising your trip up north around Serralves opening hours.

Until 20 Apr, 10am-7pm Tue, Wed & Fri-Sun; 10am-10pm Thur; Fundaçao Serralves, Rua Dom Joao de Castro 210, Oporto (351 22 615 6500). Train to Oporto from Santa Apolonia/Gare do Oriente rail stations, then bus 81.



Francis Bacon:  'Caged/Uncaged'   British Council


This is the first exhibition ever in Portugal of paintings by Francis Bacon, the most famous European artist of the second half of the 20th Century. This exhibition, curated by Vicente Todoli, comprises forty masterpieces and portrays Bacon's life-long struggle with painting, and, to use his own words, lets 'the animal element emerge from the human'. It's a must in everybody's cultural agenda. Do not miss it!

Museu de Serralves, Porto
24 January to 20 April 2003
Enquiries: 22 615 6500




Bacon's extraordinary legacy


By Jonathan Cooper | The Evening Standard | 7 March 2003


With a suicide, some petty criminals, a brilliant artist, his homosexual lover and a mysterious shooting, the only element missing seems to be murder. It is the story of the legacy of Francis Bacon and it all begins with a death.

Not the 1992 death of Bacon, the brilliant artist in question - the Soho bohemian, irascible charmer and ill-tempered drunk, a sadomasochistic homosexual who could move from gentleman to boor in the downing of glass.

And not even the death of his longtime friend and sole beneficiary of his £11 million will, John Edwards, who died of lung-cancer in a Thai hospital this week and opened a whole new mystery into the ownership of Bacon's paintings and the worth of his estate.

The death that starts this whole tale is the suicide of Bacon's lover George Dyer, sitting on a lavatory bowl with blood coming out of his nose and mouth, having swallowed fistfuls of sleeping pills in a Paris hotel room in 1971.

Dyer was a small-time criminal when he met Bacon, and the artist delighted in telling the story of their first meeting. As he told it, Dyer was at work, burglarising Bacon's studio, which then was on Narrow Street in the East End. But he hadn't realised the artist was in residence and asleep.

Bacon said that he woke up, saw the burglar and immediately said: "Take all your clothes off and get into bed with me. Then you can have all you want."

Less imaginatively, and perhaps with a greater degree of truth, Bacon also said they met when he was drinking in a Soho pub with the photographer John Deakin and Dyer came over, saying: "You all seem to be having a good time. Can I buy you a drink?"

Either way they ended up as lovers. That was in 1964. Dyer had been in jail, in Pentonville as well as Borstal, but Bacon was unconcerned. He said that "I think in a way he was simply too nice to be a crook. Anyway he was always being caught".

Dyer was more complicated than just nice. He was a drifter with a speech impediment, he was withdrawn and often sullen. Terribly unsure of himself before he actually killed himself, he had attempted suicide at least twice before.

He was also the subject of some of Bacon's greatest work. Bacon could not get enough of Dyer onto canvas. In 1968, for example, three of his works were Portrait Of George Dyer In A Mirror, Two Studies Of George Dyer With A Dog and Two Studies For A Portrait Of George Dyer.

Earlier works included George Dyer Crouching and George Dyer Talking. After his death there was the triptych In Memory Of George Dyer, and Triptych August 1972.

But the relationship between master and muse was a destructive one, as the suicide attempts bear out. Bacon tried to physically distance himself from his lover, buying him a cottage in Kent, but physical distance could not destroy their symbiotic attachment.

At its worst, two years before he killed himself, Dyer had even planted drugs in Bacon's studio - now moved from Narrow Street to Reece Mews in South Kensington, - and then tipped off the police, who promptly arrived led by a female detective and a sniffer dog called Colonel.

At the subsequent trial, Bacon was found not guilty. As an asthmatic, he said, he would have found it difficult to smoke anything, let alone drugs, and he was forgiving of his lover.

And so he took him to Paris in October 1971 for a huge retrospective in the Grand Palais and the most significant show in Bacon's career as an artist.

Returning to the Hotel des Saints-Peres that night, 24 October, the story goes that Bacon was told of his lover's suicide by the concierge and showed no emotion. "Eh bien," he said. "And where is the body?"

James Birch is a Soho art dealer and collector whose gallery was below the Colony Room, the drinking club on Dean Street founded by Bacon's friend Muriel Belcher, a lesbian dominatrix who brought together artists and writers, prostitutes and gangsters, snakes and charmers, politicians too, to indulge themselves in whatever their fancy fetched.

Speaking yesterday, Birch - who became friends with Bacon when he organised the artist's first and only show in Moscow in 1988 - said: "When George Dyer died, he felt so guilty about it and was guilty about it for the rest of his life. And when he met John Edwards a few years later he made sure the relationship wasn't going to be anything like the same.

"Francis would throw a lot of money at George, and George would then pretend to be Francis Bacon or emulate him at least. He would buy drinks for everyone, which didn't really work if you didn't have the kind of panache that Francis had.

"He treated John very differently. Francis felt John was like a surrogate son in a way and he wanted to make sure John was secure for the rest of his life."

Edwards was 53 when he died in the Bumrungrad, a modern state-oftheart hospital in Bangkok - recognised for its quality even by American organisations - and he was indeed secure.

He had homes in Suffolk, where he also bought properties for his parents, and in New York. But he moved to Thailand nine years ago, settling in Pattaya, a resort some 100 miles east of the capital, and is said to have enjoyed an easy life, walking on the picture-postcard beaches or fishing.

But Pattaya has another side. International gangsters, child abusers, pornographers and prostitutes all sit side by side in the seedy go-go bars - one is called The Dog's Bollocks - as the police turn a blind eye.

A few years ago 1,000 of Thailand's finest were despatched to clean up this "Cowboy town", as it was described, and the only result was a droll tale about a detective who had picked up and then been robbed by a prostitute. British gangsters treat the place like a second Costa del Sol.

Six years ago, the police concluded that a Briton called Geoffrey Chapman, found drowned in the sea, had committed suicide. But others wondered how he could have when his legs were tied to his waist and then to a rock.

That same year, an Englishman called Philip Mordue was shot in the neck in a bar on the main sex-drag. He survived.

Mordue, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was in fact Edwards's lover and - despite Francis Bacon - had been for 30 years. With Edwards's death, the legacy of Francis Bacon will almost certainly pass on to Mordue.

About two years after George Dyer's death, Bacon met Edwards, who - from the East End, with an inf liction, in his case severe dyslexia, and homosexual - was not unlike Dyer. Where he differed was his attitude to life, positive where Dyer was negative, and helped fill the void left by Dyer's death. By all accounts Edwards, who was 40 years the artist's junior, and Bacon (Edwards nicknamed him "Eggs") did not become lovers. But, on Bacon's death in 1992, Edwards was made the chief beneficiary of his will, some £11 million worth. And, all the while Edwards was posing in his underpants for Bacon, his true lover was Mordue.

In recent days Mordue has been dubbed Thailand Phil and Phil the Till, and his name has been attached to the seamier side of town, where it is said that he frequented both gay and girlie bars in between occasional gigs as an amateur DJ.

But yesterday friends who know him were eager to paint a different type of character. James Birch, for example, thinks that Edwards and Mordue went to Thailand for tax, and not sex, reasons.

Dave Courtney, the celebrity criminal who was a friend of the Krays, shared a cell with Mordue in Coldingly Prison near Woking in 1980.

He told the Standard: "Phil is a lovely fellow. He is not a criminal. I know people are saying he is an ex-con but the only thing he was ever in for was some driving offence.

"He is very, very much into art. I've seen a lot of him since we were inside together and he has obviously been cultured by John.

"He is what you would call public school material. The reason he is called Thailand Phil is because in my phone book ... How many Phils do I know? About 300. I have got Fat Phil, Ginger Phil, Skinny Phil, Funny Phil and Thailand Phil. The only criminal thing he has done I know about is I think he was done for driving while disqualified or something like that.

"He's a bit of a comedian. He will get on with any circle of people you put him in with. He's a Champagne Charlie when need be, can rub shoulders with the premier league naughty men when need be, and he can also be very knowledgeable with the art world."

Birch says: "He looks a bit like Robbie Williams and likes a laugh."

Neither man has an explanation why someone would want to put a bullet into someone so innocent as Mordue.

The exact inheritance coming Mordue's way is also mysterious. When he died, Bacon was rumoured to be worth up to £60 million. Over the years paintings have been sold for as much as £5.5 million, there were problems with the Inland Revenue and it wasn't until 1999 that a costly and long-running dispute between the estate and the Marlborough Gallery, which had represented Bacon, was settled.

One report has suggested that Mordue had been selling Bacon's paintings - presumably with his lover Edwards's knowledge - to invest in Pattaya bars and clubs.

In an interview with the New York Times before his died, Bacon spoke of death and the afterlife. He said: "We live, we die and that's it, don't you think?" If only it were so simple.




  Bacon's legacy in doubt after heir dies

      Colin Blackstock | The Guardian | Thursday March 6, 2003




                        Artist and muse: Francis Bacon & John Edwards



The artist Francis Bacon's long-time companion and muse, John Edwards, died yesterday in Thailand, throwing the ownership of the dozens of paintings he inherited after Bacon's death into uncertainty.

Mr Edwards was the sole heir to Bacon's tangled fortune and was left an £11m estate after the artist died in 1992.

Mr Edwards, 53, died after a long battle with lung cancer. It is thought he may have left part or all of the inheritance to his boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, who like Mr Edwards is from east London.

The two men have lived in a luxury penthouse in Pattaya for the past nine years. Although the size of the inheritance is now unknown, reports have it ranging from as much as £30m to very little.

Mr Edwards struck up a friendship with Bacon and would visit the artist's South Kensington mews house to make him breakfast every morning and sit with him while he painted. Bacon had described Mr Edwards as the only true friend he had. Both men were gay, but Mr Edwards said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph a year ago that they were never lovers.

Whether much of the inheritance remains is unclear. Mr Edwards is understood to have bought properties in Suffolk for his parents and other family members, and he is also believed to have sold some paintings through galleries in New York and London.

An administrator of the Francis Bacon estate refused to comment on the question of the inheritance yesterday.

Mr Edwards is understood to have moved to Thailand with Mr Mordue after Bacon's death to get away from the press. Reports in Thailand said that Mr Mordue, nicknamed "Phil the Till" in Thailand, was shot in a bar on Pattaya's main sex-bar strip in 1997. He was in hospital for four days after a bullet passed through his neck.

Mr Edwards was taken to Bumrumgrad hospital in Bangkok and was with Brian Clarke, a friend and Bacon's executor, when he died, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Prof Clarke, the British architectural artist, said: "He showed no self-pity and joked with friends to the last." The body will be flown to London for a private service.



Francis Bacon's model companion, in good times and in bad

John Edwards: Obituary


Michael McNay | The Guardian | Friday March 7, 2003

John Edwards, a dyslexic, illiterate East End bartender and multi-millionaire, who has died aged 53, hit pay dirt on the day the painter Francis Bacon failed to show up at the Swan, one of the three pubs where Edwards worked for his brother.

Muriel Belcher, the legendary owner of the Colony club in Dean street, Soho - known to its intimates as Muriel's - used to descend on the Swan to meet her friend, Joan Littlewood. One evening, Belcher told Edwards to order some champagne for her next visit, when Bacon would be with her. But neither of them appeared.

Champagne was not the tipple of choice for the masses in 1972, and the chances of shifting it over the bar of the Swan were remote. So Edwards went off to the Colony club, marched up to Bacon, and put it to him squarely that he owed him. "Who do you think you are, mate, ordering champagne and not bothering to turn up to drink it?" he later said he told the artist. Bacon, charmed, bought Edwards dinner at Wheeler's, in Old Compton Street (Edwards chose caviar), and took him under his wing.

Edwards was 22 at the time, 41 years Bacon's junior. When Bacon died in 1992, he left an estate of nearly £11m to Edwards. By the time Edwards himself died - of cancer in Bangkok - he had, it is thought, drunk a heroic portion of his legacy, latterly in a beach resort in Thailand, where he had washed up after a spell in the Florida Keys.

Bacon and Edwards were both homosexual, but, despite their obvious closeness, they said that their companionship was a father and son relationship. Cynics doubted this, but it was probably true, more or less.

Edwards was the son of a London docker - one hard case in a brood of six, who, like their father, could look after themselves; and he took it upon himself to look after Bacon as well. The artist's initial attraction to the East End had doubtless been access to rough trade - he liked his sex sadistic - but, like the Tory MP Bob Boothby, he also enjoyed the raffishness of his social contacts there, and, like Boothby, he counted the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, among his dodgier pals. Edwards knew nothing of art and, as Picasso had in different circumstances, Bacon responded gratefully to this lack of pretence or pretension.

As their relationship deepened, many of Bacon's older friends died, and the artist felt his own end approaching. Edwards's company brought him solace, and even calm, down at the Waterman's Arms, the music-hall-cum-pub started on the Isle of Dogs by Daniel Farson, Bacon's boozing pal and one of his biographers; or as he passed among the tables of Charlie Chester's casino, neatly staking chips next to the roulette wheels.

Bacon had, in fact, the reputation of spending more time in pubs, night clubs and gambling dens than in his Kensington mews studio, but he was always up at 7am to paint, and the first picture he made of Edwards was done without the barman's participation. After that, he painted several portraits of his companion - including a famous triptych which fetched £3m - just as he did of others, from his last model, George Dyer, to Peter Lacy, the friend of another ill-starred relationship, and female friends like Belcher, Isabella Rawsthorne and Henrietta Moraes.

It was all one to Edwards. He made no demands, and he and his artist friend went together like eggs and bacon - unsurprisingly, Edwards's nickname for Bacon was "Eggs". But he was always there when he was needed, usually, as it happened, over eggs for breakfast after the first painting session in the studio.

Easy come, easy go was the watchword for Bacon as well. He had earlier bought a plush studio near the Brompton road, in west London, but found that luxury militated against the ability to paint there, and simply gave it away. So it was no surprise to his friends that he should bequeath his estate to Edwards; he would, those who knew him felt, have been smiling down from heaven on his protégé as he watched him spend his way through the fortune.

For Edwards, it was a mixed blessing. Part of the bequest was the poky studio in Reece mews, where Edwards had helped Bacon to destroy work that the artist didn't feel came up to scratch: Edwards donated the studio to the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin, the city of Bacon's birth, which has reconstructed it in all its scruffy, paint-spattered glory.

But he felt that the Marlborough Galleries, which had run Bacon's professional life for him, were holding out on him, and, it was later said in the high court, would not give him an account of their dealings, or even a list of the paintings they had taken from the easel as Bacon finished them, characteristically not demanding a receipt. The court ordered Marlborough's nominated Bacon executor to stand down, and, last year, the affair was settled out of court with each side paying its own expenses. Unverified reports have it that the remainder of Bacon's estate will now go to Edwards's friend in Thailand, Philip Mordue, an ex-convict also from the East End.

As Edwards lay dying, the friend at his bedside was the artist Brian Clarke, another executor of the Bacon will and the man who had advised Edwards in his suit against the Marlborough. Edwards, Clark reported, died as he had lived, laughing and joking.

· John Edwards, barman, born 1950; died March 5 2003




What now for Bacon's inheritance?


Questions over works after friend loses cancer fight, reports Nigel Reynolds


Nigel Reynolds | The Daily Telegraph | 6 March, 2003


John Edwards, the long-time companion of the artist Francis Bacon and the sole heir to his tangled fortune, died yesterday. Ownership of the dozens of paintings he inherited is now clouded in uncertainty.

Bacon astonished the art world by leaving his £11 million estate to Mr Edwards, the illiterate, homosexual son of an East End docker who was 40 years his junior, when he died in 1992.

Speculation rose yesterday that Mr Edwards, who died in Thailand after a long fight against lung cancer, aged 53, may leave all or part of the inheritance to his boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, another East Londoner.

Mr Edwards and Mr Mordue, 54, nicknamed "Phil the Till" in Thailand, shared a luxury penthouse in Pattaya for the last nine years.

Bacon, who was hailed as Britain's greatest painter in his lifetime, had an extraordinary friendship with Mr Edwards. Though both were homosexual and frequented drinking clubs in Soho, Mr Edwards in an interview with The Telegraph a year ago, insisted that they were never lovers.

The uneducated Mr Edwards would visit Bacon's South Kensington mews house and studio every morning to make the artist breakfast and sit with him almost every day while he painted. For 16 years, Mr Edwards was his closest friend and confidant and, as Bacon put it, the only true friend he had.

The size of Bacon's inheritance now is unknown. Reports in Thailand yesterday suggested that it might have grown to £30 million. But in London an acquaintance of Bacon and Mr Edwards, who asked to remain anonymous, said he believed that it might have shrunk to very little.

Mr Edwards is thought to have bought properties in Suffolk for his parents and other members of his family. It is also believed that he has sold paintings through galleries in London and New York.

"I think that Edwards spent a lot of the money," said the art world acquaintance. "Bacon was not the sort of man who was ever going to leave his money for artists' almshouses. I think he would be very tickled that much of his fortune has trickled down into the East End."

Since his death, Bacon's works have sold at up to £7.5 million though it is thought that the paintings bequeathed to Mr Edwards were all late works which are less well regarded by critics.

Liz Beatty, administrator of the Francis Bacon estate, refused to comment on the death or the question of inheritance yesterday.

A long-standing Soho friend of Mr Edwards said of him: "He was a typical East End 'diamond geezer'. If you crossed him he wouldn't want to know but he was also very loyal and generous. He was incredibly upset when Francis died, and he and Philip moved abroad then to get away from the press."

According to reports in Thailand, Mr Mordue was shot outside a bar on Pattaya's main sex bar strip in 1997. The bullet passed through his neck but he was released from hospital four days later after surgery.

Mr Edwards inherited Bacon's house and studio, a large sum of cash and an unknown number - several dozen, according to friends - of paintings. Bacon had painted Mr Edwards more than 30 times.

But the inheritance proved to be a complicated web. In 1999, the estate brought a case against the Marlborough Gallery in London which had represented Bacon for most of his working life, alleging that the painter had been "wrongfully exploited" in his relationship with the gallery and seeking "a proper accounting of his affairs".

The litigation was suddenly withdrawn last year and both sides agreed to pay their own costs. Marlborough said afterwards: "The entire case was without foundation and totally unsustainable."

Marlborough agreed to release to the estate all the documentation that belonged to Bacon which was still in its possession.

Mr Edwards died at the Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok. Prof Brian Clarke, the British architectural artist, a close friend and Bacon's executor, was with him at the time of his death.

Prof Clarke said: "He showed no self-pity and joked with friends to the last".

Mr Edwards's body will be flown to London for a private service. In last year's interview with The Telegraph, Mr Edwards said that he planned to use some of his money to set up a charity to commemorate Bacon and to further studies. It is not known whether this happened.

He also gave Bacon's studio to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where Bacon was born. The famously messy studio, which included around 100 canvases that Bacon had cut up because he was not satisfied with them, has been faithfully recreated in the gallery.




Ex-convict gets the spoils of Bacon's £30m legacy


| The Times | March 06, 2003


IT BEGAN as the intriguing case of the painter, his lover, the former convict and a multimillion-pound inheritance.

Last night it ended with claims that a large tranche of the estate of Francis Bacon, one of the towering figures of 20th century art, has been invested in the bars and brothels of one of the seediest resorts in Thailand.

When Bacon died 11 years ago, at 82, his works were fetching millions, and since then they have changed hands for up to £5.5 million each. Every penny of Bacon’s £11 million fortune was left to his long-term partner, John Edwards, the dyslexic son of a London docker. By the time Mr Edwards died of cancer in a hospital in Bangkok yesterday, aged 53, the inheritance had grown, by some estimates, to almost £30 million.

He is understood to have left a substantial amount to the man who shared the last ten years of his life: Philip Mordue, better known among London’s underworld as Thailand Phil, and to his associates in that country as Phil the Till.

The exact size of Mr Mordue’s inheritance was unclear last night, but it is thought to include several of Bacon’s portraits of Mr Edwards. Mr Mordue, 43, is a well-known figure in the resort of Pattaya, a town 100 miles east of Bangkok which is teeming with prostitutes, where the streets are lined with go-go bars, and where the English-style pubs display signs declaring: “Lager louts welcome.”

Pattaya has long been a haven for sex tourists, but today local people complain that it is also packed with members of the Russian mafia, the Japanese yakuza and, most visibly, gangsters from London. After Bacon’s death, Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards divided their time between a six-bedroom Victorian house surrounded by several acres of Suffolk countryside, and a luxury seafront penthouse in Pattaya. There has long been speculation among expatriates in Thailand that some of Bacon’s millions have been invested in the Pattaya sex industry.

A British bar owner in the town said yesterday: “Phil hasn’t worked for ten years and will not need to work again. But using the Bacon fortune he has been backing bar projects in the resort for many years.

His name was frequently mentioned in connection with a bar called Butlins. (It) had Thai girls dressed up as redcoats and offering sex services but it bombed.”

At Mr Mordue’s local, the Winchester, named after the bar in the television series Minder, one regular denied that any of Bacon’s money had been invested in Butlins. But he added: “A lot of mystery money is behind sex bars in Pattaya now.”

Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards knew each other long before the latter met Bacon in 1976 at the Colony Room, the artist’s favourite watering hole.

Mr Edwards said in an interview last year: “I think (Bacon) felt very free with me because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn’t asking him about his painting. He liked the way I didn’t care about who he was supposed to be.” Neither man made any secret of his homosexuality, but Mr Edwards denied that he was Bacon’s lover, describing their friendship as more akin to a father-son relationship, even after they were photographed kissing in a Soho street. Mr Edwards would stay with Bacon through the day while he painted. He was the only person the artist ever allowed to watch him at work.

Their life together followed a set pattern each day. Even after a hard night’s drinking, Bacon was always up by 7am to start work.

Around 9am he would telephone his companion to say that he was ready for breakfast. As Bacon only liked egg white and Edwards preferred the yolk, Edwards used to joke that they had the perfect relationship. His nickname for the artist was Eggs.

He became Bacon’s favourite model, inspiring him to put brush to canvas in more than 30 portraits. His Portrait of John Edwards (1986-87), which shows a seated figure dressed only in a pair of white underpants, is regarded as one of the artist’s last masterpieces.

Mr Mordue describes himself as a close friend of Dave Courtney, a gangster-turned-author who has described in his autobiography Stop the Ride I Want to Get Off how they first met in prison. Mr Mordue, he said, was a “real character and proper class”. It is unclear what offence Mr Mordue had committed to find himself in prison, however, and last night he could not be contacted to comment on his new-found wealth.

He has kept a low profile in Pattaya since he was shot in the neck during a dispute in the red-light district six years ago. Since emerging from hospital he is said to have employed a Thai former policeman as a chauffeur and bodyguard. At Mr Mordue’s farmhouse in a village near Bury St Edmunds, where his neighbours include Terry Waite, a young man describing himself as the housekeeper said that Mr Mordue visited little more than once a year.

Whatever the truth about what has happened to Bacon’s estate, it seems clear that the artist himself would not have cared. He earned very little money until he was in his fifties, and even then lived and worked in a chaotic two-room mews house illuminated by naked light bulbs.

He once said: “I’d be quite happy going back to the income I had as a young man, when I worked as a cook and general servant.”



How Francis Bacon's millions ended up in the hands of an ex-con called Phil The Till



Did a trail of bitter rivalry, unrequited gay love and a lesbian dominatrix lead a great artist's legacy to the seedy strip clubs of Thailand?







        BEST FRIENDS: Francis Bacon, left, and John Edwards



UNDER crashing tropical thunderstorms and in temperatures of 95 degrees, a grim-looking trio set out last week on the final leg of an extraordinary journey which has set the art world alight.

Their trip brought to a head the bizarre story of Francis Bacon, the greatest British artist of the 20th Century; a story of base desires, of missing artworks and of a pound sterling30 million-fortune - set to end up in the hands of a dubious character from the East End of London called Phil 'The Till' Mordue.

It was Mordue, a blond-haired Robbie Williams lookalike, who appeared most downcast as the trio travelled the 6,000 miles from Bangkok to England, carrying with them the ashes of Bacon's long-time companion, John Edwards.

With Mordue were Edwards's brothers, David and Lenny.

The relationship between Bacon, the irascible, volatile and flamboyant genius, and Mordue, an ex-convict and practised charmer from a far more prosaic background, involves a convoluted tale of rivalry, thwarted love, infidelity and tangled homosexual relationships.

Both men were drawn into the same Soho drinking crowd by John Edwards, a Cockney barman who left school at 14 but who became a self-made millionaire through a string of nightclubs and pubs.

He was to become Bacon's long-time companion and muse. For 16 years, Edwards formed his emotional bond with Bacon - the closest the artist ever had. But it was Mordue with whom Edwards preferred to be physically intimate.

When Bacon died of a heart attack in 1992, he bequeathed his entire pound sterling11 million estate to Edwards, leaving many in the elitist art world fearing that the fortune would simply filter down into the lower echelons of society and that his artworks would perhaps simply disappear.

Now, following Edwards's death from lung cancer last Wednesday at the age of 53, the controversy has been reignited.

Already there are mutterings that Bacon disapproved of Mordue and would be turning in his grave that his legacy - believed to have tripled in value the last past 11 years - should be left to a man with whom he had little more than a tenuous link.

Those who knew Mordue in Thailand say he invested some of Edwards's inheritance in the seedy girlie bars of the Thai beech resort of Pattaya. The Edwards family vehemently deny this.

However, there is not doubt that Phil was well known around the bars of Pattaya. He even had a nick-name Phil 'The Till' - which came about because he always had a stash of cash on him, ready to buy rounds of drinks.

The irony of it is that Bacon would have hated his money ending up with Mordue - not because the artist would have harshly judged unsavoury connections or time spent in jail (after all, the seamier side of life had always attracted the Irish-born, uppercrust artist) - but simply because he despised Mordue, who was a serious rival in his affection for Edwards.

It is simply too much for the high-brow art experts to contemplate that Bacon's money should end up with Mordue, who didn't have Edwards's streetwise business acumen.

Phil 'The Til', or Thailand Phil as he is know among his friends at home, is said to be a man who counts gangsters as his closest friends and whose favourite haunt in Pattaya is The Winchester Club, where naked girls dance on the bar while sweating Westerners gaze up through their legs.

The club is a magnet for British criminals on holiday and is the kind of establishment where rooms are more often rented by the hour rather than the week. The club even auctioned a Thai virgin last year - whom Mordue won with a bid of £250.

Worse, it is said is that some of Bacon's paintings have already been sold to raise money to finance Mordue's ownership of the girlie, as he vies with the Yakuza - the Oriental Mafia - and Thai crime gangs for supremacy in the region's sex industry.

Barry Joule, Bacon's friend for 14 years, said that the artist 'would not be happy' to see his estate pas to Mordue. H said he would probably rather have seen it left to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, where he was once treated.

Joule said: 'I don't think Francis had a great respect for Philip.'

Former gangster Dave Courtney, once a henchman for the famous Kray twins, knew Bacon and Edwards and knows Mordue. He served time with Mordue at Coldingley Prison near Woking, Surrey, in 1980, when Mordue was jailed for a serious driving offense.

Courtney last saw Mordue six weeks ago when Edwards had treatment in a £5,000-a-night at the Cromwell Hospital in West London. He said: 'I know Phil's been left a lot of money and the trouble is that a lot of noses are put out of joint because it's said he may get £30 million.

'From what I can gather, the art world may feel cheated and entitled to a bit of it and this just stinks of snobbery. I get the impression there is a massive fight and the Establishment has its daggers out for getting all that money. If you ask me this is just the green-eyed monster.'

The story began when Edwards was working as a bar man in a pub in Wapping, East London. He was already close to Mordue who had previously worked for Edwards's brother, David.

One of the regulars at Edwards's pub was lesbian dominatrix Muriel Belcher, who took him to the infamous Colony Club in London's Soho in 1976.

There, Bacon would often hold court, buying bottle after bottle of champagne for his entourage. Edwards refused to be impressed by Bacon's revered status - and Bacon, who famously enjoyed 'rough, physical and untutored' types and 'enjoyed the company of crooks, gamblers, drifters, and chancers' - was immediately attracted.

During the next 16 years, he became Bacon's closest friend and confidant. Indeed, Bacon called Edwards, who was 40 years his junior, 'the only true friend' he had.

Edwards was one of seven children born to a poverty stricken East End family, the son of a docker who became a war hero.

The family was grindingly poor and the sons slept sixe in a bed, but they were, and still are, close, loyal and loving - another fact which attracted Bacon, whose own childhood in Ireland had been brutal, cold and starved of love.

Edwards was the only person Bacon ever allowed into his Reece Mews studio in London's South Kensington while he worked. Edwards, however, already heavily involved in a relationship with Mordue, always claimed they were never lovers.

When Bacon contentiously left his estate to Edwards, many in the art world were appalled. What could an illiterate Cockney know about art and how could he possible steer such an estate with success? In truth, he managed to more than triple the size of the legacy. Edwards disappeared to Florida with Mordue shortly after the inheritance came through, before suddenly moving to Thailand about five years ago.

There, they bought a palatial penthouse at Jom Tien, set in grounds of swaying banana trees, royal palms and exotic red hibiscus a mile from Pattaya, known as Thailand's seediest resort.

Here desperate Thai girls and boys ply their trade next to paedophiles and pornographers in the dozens of bars which line the once-pristine white beaches.

During 1999, Edwards emerged from his semi-seclusion to take on the Marlborough Gallery, which had represented Bacon for most of his working life.

Edwards alleged that the gallery had 'wrongfully exploited' the painter and sought 'proper accounting' of his affairs, for an amount believed to be £100 million.

However, the threatened action was suddenly withdrawn just over a year ago, with both sides paying their own costs, although it was agreed to release to Bacon's estate all documentation still in the gallery's possession.

Courtney said: 'John had been ill for about five years and that was when they decided to go and live in Thailand. He took me there twice all expenses paid, and he often bought me and my family presents - beautiful Thai silk shirts and clothes. Phil's bisexual, which I know because I saw him with a girl during an orgy in Thailand about a year ago.

'I'm not sure if John minded, but the truth is that they were a devoted couple and it was Phil that kept John going the last two years.'

But for all the spin that their friends try to put on their 'devoted' relationship, both men had other sexual partners.

In fact, Edwards had been having another relationship with a 22-year-old Thai man known as Jack, for the past six years, and Mordue had been seeing a Thai woman for the last four. Jack is likely to be another beneficiary from Edwards's will.

Ian Read, owner of Le Café Royal hotel and piano bar in Pattaya which Edwards frequented, said Edwards was so attracted to Jack that he refused to attend a gallery showing of Francis Bacon's work in New York when Jack wasn't granted a visa, and refused to attend the opening of Bacon's studio, which had been recreated at Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery, until the Irish embassy would allow the young Thai into the country.

Jack, who was at Edwards's bedside when he died said: 'He took good care of me, but I also took good care of him. I dressed him, I bathed him and I pushed his wheelchair. I was at the hospital everyday.

'At the end he could no longer speak, but I was able to make him laugh with my jokes. Our relationship had far more laughter than tears.'

Also at the bedside were Mordue, and the Edwards brothers, David and Lenny.

On Friday, the three boarded a Thai Airways flight and brought John's ashes home to England, delivering them to his mother, 80 year-old Beattie, who lives close to his six-bedroom white-brick farmhouse in the quire Suffolk countryside, a world away from the noise, fumes and steaming humidity of Pattaya.

Beattie, distraught at the early death of her son, has placed the oriental urn, wrapped in peach-coloured Buddhist robes, on her dresser, while she contemplates where John's final resting place will be.

Just two weeks ago, her son had been on a spending spree in Thailand, buying her a multi-carat, brilliant diamond necklace worth thousands of pounds and designer goods for his brothers and sisters, all meant as goodbye gifts.

David Edwards, a millionaire antiques dealer, explained how he and Lenny had arrived in Thailand hours before John died on Wednesday. Although he was a Catholic, he was cremated later that day in a  simple Buddhist ceremony in a temple at the Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok.

David told The Mail on Sunday: 'It was a very solemn occasion; simple and brief and the ashes were placed in an oriental urn and wrapped in a peach coloured monk's scarf.

'He hadn't converted, but he preferred the Buddhist way of dying - a passing over - rather than the finality of it all in the Christian religion.'

He disputed allegations that his brother or Mordue had invested in sex and sin bars in Pattaya.

He said: 'My brother was never Francis Bacon's lover. But they were very close friends. John went to Thailand to lead a peaceful life. The only money he had invested there was in his home, a penthouse in the most expensive building in the area.

'He very rarely went out and if he did it was usually to an expensive restaurant for a quite supper.

'Phil liked going out a lot more than John as he's a bit like me, a social animal. And sometimes if they wanted to do different social things, they would go separate ways.'

He said that it was unlikely that Mordue would inherit all of John's money.

'The will has not come back yet, but I  know John wished to set up a foundation, possibly to promote up-and-coming artists. I also know John would have made provision for all those people he loved.'



he painter, his lover, the crook and the £130m fortune



Are Francis Bacon's millions funding Thailand's girlie bars?


From Andrew Drummond in Bangkok






           LEGACY: Artist Francis Bacon, left, with best friend and beneficiary of his estate John Edwards and, inset, Philip Mordue, Edwards’s lover


HE WEARS gold chains and bracelets round his neck and arms, and sports a diamond stud in his ear. To all appearances, he lives life for the music, vodka, and raucous nightlife for which the Thai resort of Pattaya, 100 miles east of Bangkok, is famous.

Life for Philip Mordue is an endless tour of bars, and he is as well known in Boyztown, a gay area of the resort where men go-go dance in skimpy white briefs, as in the girlie bars that abound everywhere.

He has come a long way from the days when he hung around London’s Piccadilly, working as a roofer in south London and supplementing his income by robbing gas meters. But although cash buys respect in this seedy resort where the booze is cheap, and the sex often cheaper, Philip Mordue never really elevated himself on the social ladder until last Wednesday.

That’s when he became the recipient of – or at least gained a substantial share in – what is now expected to be the £130million estate of great British artist Francis Bacon.

Mordue, 54, was the companion of John Edwards, who died last week after a long battle with lung cancer. Edwards, in turn, was Bacon’s muse, close friend, and some say lover, for more than 15 years. The artist left his entire fortune to him when he died in April 1992. The estate was valued at £11million – a figure which, with the value of Bacon’s work growing and his works changing hands for more than £7million pounds, plus interest on investments, has now grown tenfold.

It may seem shocking that the fortune of one of Britain’s most admired artists should perhaps be frittered away in the bars of a downmarket sex resort, but Bacon was no snob. He lived a lifestyle which he described as “from the gutters to the Ritz” – an existence to which Philip Mordue can also lay claim. Bacon never hid his homosexuality. Edwards became his full-time companion after the pair met at the legendary Colony Club, the Soho bar famed in Fifties and Sixties London for the drinking sessions of its raffish artistic patrons. Edwards was an East End barman and friends with the Colony’s owner Muriel Belcher.

He refused to pander to Bacon’s fame and the artist was duly taken with Edwards’s plain-speaking common sense. After meeting in 1976, the pair spent their days together, always sharing a breakfast of eggs – Bacon liked only the white, Edwards only the yolk, making theirs a “perfect relationship” Edwards later said – and Bacon painted his companion some 30 times.

The artist insisted that their relationship was not sexual. “I loved him as the best friend a man could have. He was fond of me like a son,” he said of Edwards, who was 40 years his junior.

After the artist’s death Edwards, said by friends to be devastated, retired to the Florida Keys before moving, a year later, to Thailand with Mordue.

But while Edwards, the chronically dyslexic son of an East End docker, strove to improve himself studying the arts, the latest recipient of Bacon’s fortune, Mordue, earned his living by petty theft.

He served time in Borstal with gangland enforcer Dave Courtney – the model for the character played by Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – and they became good friends. When Edwards and Mordue moved to Thailand 10 years ago, both had different plans for their lifestyle. Mordue hit the girly go-go bars and gay bars, while Edwards studied, took walks on the beach, went fishing and monitored investments. He took particular interest in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where the Irish-born Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews, London had been re-constructed from contents donated by Edwards (including dirty paintbrushes, stained carpets, curtains and slashed canvasses) of his benefactor’s home.

BUT DESPITE their differences, Mordue and Edwards remained inseparable. Within months, Mordue had settled into his new home, becoming known among the London criminal fraternity with whom he kept close links as Thailand Phil.

In Thailand, meanwhile, he was known alternatively as Phil the Till or Flambo Phil. He has been known to herald his approach by blowing trumpets and whistles.

His favourite bar was the Winchester, run by a man known as Big Bill and named after Arthur Daley’s local in the television series Minder.

As in the fictitious pub ‘the Old Bill’ would not be welcome at the Winchester, two miles east of Pattaya in the small resort of Jomtien.

Dotted around the walls are pictures of the Krays, Charlie Richardson, the Great Train Robbers and Arthur Daley (George Cole) himself.

The amiable boss Bill – nobody uses surnames in Pattaya – understandably doesn’t have a bad word to say about his new multi-millionaire customer: “Phil is well liked here by everyone. “Well,” he admits, “I’ve thrown him out a few times when he gets drunk and starts shouting, but I always let him back later, and we all get drunk occasionally, after all.

“He is a lovely guy. He just likes music, the lifestyle, a beer and a cigarette. He and John were inseparable, lifelong mates. I was very sad to hear of John’s death. John was a quiet, considerate man.

“He had come from nothing and educated himself. He was very well-versed in the arts, but he taught himself.”

Mordue DJs at the Winchester on Sundays when the girls – most of whom are pictured on the club’s website – provide shows which would make a docker blush. In 1997, he was shot outside the Lucky Star, a bar in Pattaya’s Walking Street, the resort’s main sex bar strip.

During a drunken brawl, a bullet pierced his neck. Happily, little damage was done and Mordue was released from hospital four days later, after minor surgery. Another Pattaya bar is a favourite haunt of the new millionaire. The Dog’s Bollocks is run by Chris Hendersen, a former member of the notorious football hooligans group the Chelsea Headhunters, and was a hang-out for football thugs heading for Japan during last year’s World Cup.

MANY have claimed that Mordue’s interest in Pattaya’s bars is not merely that of a loyal customer; although claims that he has already invested some of the Bacon fortune in the resort’s many sex bars remain unproven. A girl at the Playpen a-go-go, another favourite establishment, has more stories to tell about Phil the Till. “Sometimes he would come in and ring the bell and buy everyone in the bar a drink. Other times he was drunk and would leave without paying a penny,” she said. She also made clear that while Edwards and Mordue had undoubtedly been lovers at one stage, Mordue still enjoyed the company of women.

“One of the girls here got pregnant and insisted Philip was the father,” she continued. “He supported her for a couple of months, then threw her away. We had to have a collection for her hospital expenses when she gave birth.

“She took the baby home to the country and we have not seen her since. I do not know whether Philip was the father but the girl insisted he was.”

In fact, although Mordue has had a string of Thai girlfriends, he has been dating a 24-year-old woman called Wanna for four years. Yesterday he was believed to be with her in Bangkok. A friend said of his absence: “Philip has taken John’s death very badly. He does not want to talk to the press about anything at the moment.”

When Mordue does return home it will be to the million-pound Beau Vista apartment which Edwards bought for himself and Mordue after previous owner Alois Fassbind – an Austrian hotelier known as The Father – died 10 years ago.

The apartment occupies the whole penthouse floor of Tower B at Royal Cliff Garden on a rocky outcrop providing a 360-degree view overlooking Jomtien Beach and Pattaya Bay.

As Mordue looks down over the beaches and bars of the Thai resorts, he will no doubt feel a very long way from his days as an East End chancer who relied on coins stolen from gas meters to make ends meet.




Confusion over Bacon legacy


BBC News Thursday, 6 March, 2003.

The ownership of dozens of Francis Bacon paintings is shrouded in uncertainty following the death of the painter's long-time companion, according to reports.

John Edwards, who died in Thailand on Wednesday aged 53, was Bacon's friend and muse for many years.

He inherited the artist's £11m estate when Bacon died in 1992. The estate included Bacon's house, studio, money and several paintings.

Several newspapers speculate that Mr Edward's boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, is now set to receive part, or all, of the inheritance.

But it is unclear how much of Bacon's fortune still remains, and whether it still includes the paintings.

Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards lived together in a luxury flat in Pattaya, one of the leading tourist destinations in the country.


Mr Edwards is thought to have sold some paintings through galleries in New York and London, the Guardian reports.

He is also thought to have bought several properties in the UK for family members, it adds.

However, the Daily Telegraph said reports in Thailand also suggested the Bacon fortune might have swelled to £30m.

An administrator of the Francis Bacon estate refused to comment on the question of the inheritance on Wednesday.

Mr Edwards, who denied he and Bacon were ever lovers, was the artist's closest friend and companion for 16 years.

He also became Bacon's favourite subject, and inspired more than 30 portraits.

Bacon was one of the last century's most successful artists, earning about £14m before his death aged 82 in 1992.

A series of three paintings of Mr Edwards by Bacon sold for £3m in 2001, and Studies of the Human Body sold for £6m in New York in 2001.



An insightful view into an artist’s world

Francis Bacon Studio at Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

World Socialist Web Site  WSWS.ORG

By Jason Murphy  5th February 2003


The almost life-long art studio and residence of Francis Bacon (1909-92) was recently donated and transported from 7 Reece Mews, London and placed on permanent exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland. John Edwards, Bacon’s sole heir, made the donation; the most significant since Hugh Lane was established in 1908. The relocation was carried out with all the care of a major archaeological dig, with each and every item—some several thousand in all—catalogued and exactly repositioned in the Dublin gallery.

The expense and energy required for the project created some controversy. Relocation and reconstruction cost in the vicinity of IE£1.5 million ($US2.02 million), partly provided by the National Millennium Committee, a state-funded body. An entrance fee of IE£6 ($US8) for over-18s also generated some debate because public art institutions in Ireland are generally free of charge. Some critics raised concerns about the dedication of permanent space to the studio because the Hugh Lane Gallery is quite limited in size; others suggested that the exhibit was not a work of art and therefore had no right to be located in the gallery.

These objections, however, do not alter the fact that the exhibit, which has attracted considerable interest and large crowds since opening in May 2001, provides a rich and meaningful insight into the work and life of this significant 20th century artist.

Despite its limited size, the Reece Mews studio was where Bacon was most at home. He had tried working in other, more practical studios but could not warm to them. More importantly, it constitutes the most extensive collection of visual reference material that inspired his work.

Physical access to Bacon’s principal place of work, therefore, is extremely helpful for anyone who wants to understand the makeup, methods and origins of his art. Along with the studio, the exhibit contains an interview with Bacon by Melvin Bragg, several new paintings, including his final unfinished piece, and a lush, complex interactive multimedia presentation establishing the context of many items in the studio.

Francis Bacon, one of five children, was born in Dublin on October 28, 1909, to English parents, Edward Anthony Mortimer Bacon and Christine Winifred Firth. Bacon’s parents were of wealthy, land-owning descent and remained in Ireland until World War I, where after they moved between England and Ireland.

Bacon was born into a world undergoing tremendous upheaval. The Irish Republican Movement was torching English-owned properties in a campaign aimed at ending British rule, and Europe was beset with increasing tensions between Britain, Germany and France. At the same time, science and industry were making great advances and large numbers of working people were demanding a new political order with real improvements in their social existence.

Bacon, who was said to have been closest to his mother, was a frail child and frequently ill. His father, an austere, puritanical figure, regarded his son as weak and reacted with horror against the young man’s homosexual tendencies. (Homosexuality was illegal in Britain at this time and severely punished.) Shortly after the 17-year-old Francis was discovered dressed in his mother’s clothes in 1926 his father forced him out of the family home. Over the next few years he spent time in Berlin, Paris and other European cities, a period that defined his personal and artistic development.

The bohemian and more open post-WWI Berlin and Paris were dramatically different to the highly repressed and conservative Irish social life with which Bacon was familiar. His visits to these cities were defining experiences and he spent time passionately sketching in the transvestite bars of Berlin and on busy summer evenings in Paris’ Montparnasse district.

It was during a visit to Paris in 1927 that the 18-year-old Bacon saw Picasso’s drawings at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery. He later explained that these works had made a great impression. In fact, Bacon was to name Picasso as the most significant influence on his work. Michael Peppiatt, the art critic and author of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, described Picasso as a “father figure” to Bacon.

Although not as prolific or artistically varied as Picasso, one can see the connection between Bacon’s explorations of the figure and Picasso’s—for example, Bacon’s attempts to represent and capture far more of a person than the mere conventionally representable. But the similarities end there. Picasso was full of passion and the joy of life and simply could not stop creating. A dynamic and playful artist and person, he created in a multi-dimensional way. Bacon, by contrast, was far more introverted in his approach and his work radiates pain, confusion and uncertainty.

Visual inspiration

Bacon, who held his first solo exhibition in 1934, drew on many and varied sources of inspiration. He chose not to paint from life, but rather from memory and an eclectic collection of visual images. His portraits—even of close friends, whom he painted frequently—were derived from photographs. The aim of this practice, he said, was to “deform his portraits back into appearance,” because the presence of sitters in his studio would “disturb the deformation.”

The Reece Mews studio contains all the recognisable visual influences in his work: reproductions of Diego de Silva Velázquez’s painting of Pope Innocent X; the screaming woman from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin; and photographs of Bacon’s lover and long-time partner George Dyer.

But working through the maze of Bacon’s studio one comes into contact with an extraordinary range of images—virtually everything the 20th century had to offer. There are black-and-white reproductions torn from books and medical journals; x-rays and film stills; phonograph recordings; and images given to him from photographer friends John Deakin and Peter Beard. Bacon was also captivated with the carnal and the animal and the studio contains pictures of animals screaming in aggression and pain and includes many images from the great African plains and the predators found there. One can imagine him randomly drawing on these pictures in times of difficulty and low motivation.

Bacon, who had many dark sides to his imagination, was obsessively focused on the human figure and painted it in a compelling and complex style. This darkness was indicated by his fixation with disease, particularly of the mouth and skin, and manifest in one of his best-known works—Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)—an unsettling picture of a screaming, inhuman, blood-spattered pope.

One long-standing and debatable habit of Bacon’s has blocked greater access to his artistic work. A passionate and explosive man, he would often erupt in anger and destroy any painting that displeased him or fell short of the mark. When asked by his friend, the writer and curator David Sylvester, about this practice, Bacon said he “liked to find accidents in the image and would often ruin a found image in the course of attempting to explore and develop it further”. While Bacon ruined many pieces, particularly those from the 1930s and early 1940s, he later regretted the destruction of some works, particularly an important early painting, Wound for a Crucifixion.

Although Bacon spoke at length about his work, he refused to discuss its significance or meaning. He did not adhere to any social, political or religious belief, at least not publicly, and shunned literal readings of his work, claiming they were unexplainable products of his sub-conscious. He once declared: “Talking about painting is like reading a bad translation from a foreign language. The images are there and they are the things that talk, not anything you can say about it.”

This approach, however, suggests that art cannot be understood by examining the social context in which it is produced. Notwithstanding this false assertion, Bacon’s artistic vision developed in specific political conditions and on the foundations created by the Dadaists, Surrealist movement and Sigmund Freud’s explorations into the subconscious.

By the time Bacon had reached “artistic maturity” and created his own unique and longstanding style in the mid- to late-1940s, he had lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and numerous betrayals of the Soviet and international working class by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Although it is not clear how much Bacon understood of these events—he largely isolated himself from other artists, both physically and ideologically—his work seems to be an intuitive but pessimistic and acquiescent response to them, a vision of humanity that is bleak and disturbing.

The Hugh Lane Gallery studio reconstruction certainly deepens one’s understanding of Bacon and his work. In fact, the dark negativity in his art seems to prefigure the present social and political climate and can serve to remind us that the background to his harrowing images—the onset of war and imperialist conflict—is in danger of being repeated.







London, King Street Sale Date Feb 05, 2003 

Lot Number 3 Sale Number 6692 
Creator Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 



                                             Study for a Portrait Francis Bacon


Estimate: £400,000 - £500,000 British pounds 
Special Notice VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium 

Sold: £556,650

Lot Description: Study for a Portrait  Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Painted in 1979 

signed, titled and dated 'Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1979' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas 14 x 12in. (35.6 x 30.5cm.) 

Provenance: Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Private collection, United States.
Anon. sale; Christie's New York, 20 November 1996, lot 22.
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.

Exhibited: London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Small Portrait Studies: Loan Exhibition, October-December 1993, no. 3 (illustrated in colour).
London, Olympia Exhibition Halls, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, February-March 1996. 

Lot Notes:  Just as the people around Francis Bacon formed the backbone of his life, so their portraits formed the backbone of his work. Although Bacon painted animals and landscapes in some of his works, it was the host of characters from his daily life who provided his main source of inspiration and fuelled his works. Many of these paintings featured his friends and lovers, be they dead or alive, and Study for a Portrait, executed in 1979, is marked with notable similarities to the pictures Bacon painted of his partner John Edwards, whom he had first met in 1974. Even through the haze of Bacon's hallmark distortions, these features are visible. Meanwhile, the arching shape of the heavy eyebrow in particular is echoed throughout Bacon's portraits of Edwards. This was also a feature of Bacon's own physiognomy, as seen in his self-portraits, meaning that Study for a Portrait appears as a strange and haunting fusion of the two men.

In fact, the distortions in Bacon's art lend the faces and flesh of his subjects an extra intensity. Bacon does not merely paint a portrait, he manages to smear life itself across his canvas. "The living quality is what you have to get," he explained. "In painting a portrait the problem is to find a technique by which you can give over all the pulsations of a person... Most people go to the most academic painters when they want to have their portraits made because for some reason they prefer a sort of colour photograph of themselves instead of thinking of having themselves really trapped and caught. The sitter is someone of flesh and blood and what has to be caught is their emanation... There are always emanations from people whoever they are, though some people's are stronger than others." (F. Bacon, 1982-84, in: D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact. Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York 1990, pp. 172-74.)

It is these emanations that mark Study for a Portrait. They seem to blur the face, to bruise it as though Bacon's rendering a portrait is in itself some act of violence, some assault. However, Bacon was a master of rendering flesh and character, and this work condenses both into an almost coagulated mass of humanity.

Bacon's early works were clearly influenced by Surrealism, and its legacy remained visible in his work throughout his career. Instead of merely representing the world and people around him, he tried to displace everything, to rip it out of context so that it could be examined in a new and stark light. This functioned on several levels: in Study for a Portrait, the facial features appear to have been dragged and blurred, for instance the nose which seems to have little connection to the face. At the same time, Bacon's means of framing the work with bands of orange creates a palpable sense of placing and display, as though the head were in a cabinet. The blue and beige background increase this effect, giving no clues as to the location of the sitter and yet adding a sense of dirt, a bruised darkness whose texture throws the flesh into contrast and thrusts it into the viewer's space.




Why has Melbourne writer Barry Dickins immersed himself in the world of Brett Whiteley?


The Age,  Australia, December 8 2002


Brett Whiteley remains a controversial figure in the Australian cultural landscape, but since his squalid death in room four of the Beach Hotel in Thirroul on June 15, 1992, he is often seen in the monolithic terms of art and heroin.

Melbourne writer Barry Dickins has spent almost two years revisiting Whiteley's world - a world inhabited by until-now unspoken remembrances in search of completion, lingering affections, and unresolved resentments about the man and his legacy.

Dickins describes his new book, Black + Whiteley, as a "warts and all" account of the most controversial of all Australian artists. He says that while he was writing the book, he was "working with love and respect after everyone else has devoured his ruins". Black and Whiteley, he says, is "more a collected reminiscence on Whiteley, not a biography".

"At his best the pictures are like jewellery - Whiteley was very finicky about finishes. If the reader could come to smell the linseed oil, and see the rusty tins of brushes and crumpled mountains of work - they would come to know that diligence in his work."

Whiteley offered this advice to young artists in 1989, just three years before his death: "Try to cheat, lie, exaggerate, and most particularly distort as absolutely and extremely as you can. Then, after six months or a year of frustration you'll see something you haven't seen before, and that is the beginning of yourself, and that heralds the beginning of difficult pleasure."

Whiteley took influences from everywhere, and often conspicuously so. He had a close association with Francis Bacon, the homosexual English abstract painter, whom Whiteley described as "a wonderful man". His portraits of Bacon not only pay homage to the artist, but emulate his style. "He called himself a raider, that he raided from everyone - bits of Picasso, Rembrandt, bits of Nolan and, of course, Bacon," says Dickins. "I see him as more of a Bower-bird, just collecting ephemera and nostalgia from everywhere. He was also a brilliant publicist. He only had to turn up at press conferences and say 'I've just been with Francis'; everyone knew he was talking about Francis Bacon, then the most famous artist on earth. Just how close their relationship was no one really knows."




John Deakin

Dean Gallery, Edinburgh


John Calcutt, The Guardian  Tuesday November 19, 2002

Critical epithets are already starting to congeal around John Deakin's work. His black-and-white portrait photographs of the 1950s and 1960s are "merciless", "cruel", "brutal". Yes - but there is something fake about the moody angst displayed here, a subtle whiff of attitude.

Many of Deakin's "victims" were fellow travellers in London's postwar bohemia: Colony Room diehards, artists (Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud) and writers (Dylan Thomas, JP Donleavy).

Were they really all so mad, bad and dangerous to know? The works were destined for the chic pages of Vogue (Deakin's two-time employer), and a sense of artful slumming clings to them. Hard on the heels of the genuinely brutal, cruel and merciless images coming out of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, their cultivated gloom is caught between existential despair and grimy self-admiration.

Yet their currency is undeniable. It would be hard to think of Freud's wide-jowled, frame-filling portrait of Bacon existing without Deakin's earlier model, or of David Bailey's crim-cool portrayal of the Krays without Deakin's low-life hauteur. And there is something very compelling in these photographs: an uneasy tension between their aesthetic interest as images, their anecdotal authority as documentary records and their physical presence as material things.

In compositional terms, Deakin rarely strays from a basic formula: a single figure posed within a shallow, frontalised space. This relative lack of formal complexity shifts attention from the image's internal structure to its external subject matter. In the earlier Paris Walls series, Deakin produces images of images, directing his camera towards shop signs, graffiti, sculptures and, in one outstanding instance, a shop-window tableau of one mannequin painting a portrait of another.

But the most distinctive feature of these photographs is their material presence. Many are creased, torn, physically distressed. Those commissioned by Bacon as reference material for his paintings have the greatest impact. Paint-splattered, crumpled and ripped, these rescued fragments resonate as objects within the world, rather than as images of the world. Bacon with Orange Paint Tube summarises this effect: a squeezed, flat paint tube sticks to the jagged remnant of a photographic print - shattered debris from the colliding forces of photography, painting and messy lives.

· Until January 12. Details: 0131-624 6326.




Francis Bacon Symposium

Hugh Lane Gallery


The Francis Bacon Symposium opened on the evening of Friday, 8th November with a reception and private view of the Francis Bacon Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery. The highlight of the evening was the announcement by Professor Brian Clarke, Sole Executor of the Estate of Francis Bacon, of the donation by John Edwards of a further substantial archive of Francis Bacon material to the Hugh Lane Gallery. This includes photographic material and the artist's correspondence with friends including Stephen Spender and Sonia Orwell and will add greatly to the existing archive of Bacon material in the Gallery's collection thus further strengthening the gallery's role as the international centre for Bacon studies. 

On Saturday, 9th November, over 120 delegates attended the Symposium, which was held at Trinity College, Dublin. Speakers were Barbara Dawson, Director of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dr. Hugh Davies, The David C. Copley Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Professor Ernst van Alphen, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Leiden, Dr. Matthew Gale, Senior Curator, Tate Britain, Dr. Margarita Cappock, Curator, Francis Bacon Studio and Archive, Hugh Lane Gallery, Faberice Hergott, Directeur des Musées, Musées de Strasbourg, Martin Harrison, Photography Historian. 

The papers were of an exceptionally high standard and gave an excellent flavour of research currently being carried out on the artist by scholars. Subjects covered included the significance of Francis Bacon's studio at 7, Reece Mews; Bacon's works on paper; the nature of influence and its role in Bacon's work; the Black Triptychs; interviews with the artist; Bacon and photography; the artist's early life in Ireland; the Francis Bacon Retrospective at the Pompidou Centre in 1996. At the end of the day, a lively panel discussion took place with a number of important questions being posed by a well-informed audience. It is intended that the Hugh Lane Gallery will publish the papers in the near future.



Absolute Arts 

Indepth Arts News

"Francis Bacon: Paintings"
2002-11-04 until 2002-12-07
Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY, USA


 The Directors of Marlborough Gallery are pleased to announce the opening on November 4th of an exhibition of important paintings by the renowned English artist, Francis Bacon. This will be the first show of Bacon’s work at Marlborough since 1993. Marlborough Gallery represented Bacon for most of his career up until his death in April 1992. With the exception of one early work all the works shown in this exhibition are signed by the artist, and several have been exhibited at different times at museums around the world such as the Grand Palais, Paris; Tate Gallery, London; Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Marlborough’s show will consist of nine works as follows: three quintessential triptychs dating from 1970, 1983 and 1986-87, each panel measuring 78 x 58 inches; a rare 1957 painting of a pope, measuring 60 x 46 1/2 inches; Study for Self Portrait, 1981, measuring 78 x 58 inches; two other single panel works of the same size dating from 1988 (Jet of Water) and 1990 (Male Nude Before Mirror) as well as two outstanding small works, 14 x 12 inches, from 1967 and 1982 of Isabel Rawsthorne.

One cannot overestimate the importance of Bacon’s oeuvre. He is very probably the single most important artist England produced in the twentieth century and, arguably, along with Turner and Constable, the most significant painter to emerge in that country’s artistic history. He would also be counted on most everyone’s short list of leading artists of the twentieth century. One could simply say that Bacon had a highly original mind and that as an artist he was a genius. No other artist of his time produced works of such visceral impact combined with what The New York Times called “delirious beauty.” If the subjects of his work offer “enigmatic glimpses like lurid images from barely remembered dreams or nightmares” (Ken Johnson), it is his stature as an inventive and unrivalled painter which assures Bacon’s high elevation and which will endure through the ages. In an interview with his friend, the art critic, David Sylvester, Bacon once talked about Van Gogh and what he (Bacon) wanted to get in his work. He said, “Van Gogh is one of my greatest heroes because I think that he was able to be almost literal, and yet, by the way he put on the paint give you a marvelous vision of the reality of things. I saw it very clearly when I was once in just saw in this absolutely barren country that by the way he put on the paint he was able to give it such an amazing living quality...The living quality is what you have to get.” That “living quality” could fairly sum up what makes any painting a great work of art, and one might add that the more living it is, the greater it is. What Marlborough’s show demonstrates clearly is that Bacon’s primary insistence was to a large degree based “on the use of paint as the essential subject” and that in his best works he got that “living quality” time and time again.

Born in Dublin of English parents in 1909, Bacon travelled to Berlin and Paris before settling in London in 1929. After a brief career as a furniture designer, he took up painting. Although never trained as a painter, his work began to receive wide attention after World War II when he exhibited his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1945. Over his long career his works drew from sources as disparate as Velasquez, Muybridge, newspaper and magazine photos, and film stills. An illustrated color catalog of the Bacon show will be available at the time of the exhibition.



Sunday MirrorUK - 05 Oct 2002


HUNDREDS of previously unknown preliminary sketches and slashed works by Ireland's most famous post-war artist, Francis Bacon, have been discovered by art scholars.

The finds, made at Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, have been described as "a spectacular insight into Bacon's mind" by the gallery's director, Barbara Dawson.

The discoveries came as the artist's chaotic Kensington bed-sit studio was dismantled and transported from London to Dublin after being gifted to the gallery by the artist's heir, John Edwards.

The move, which cost Û2.6 million, began in secret more than two years ago in case the British government tried to block it.

The studio at Reece Mews had been virtually untouched since the artist died of a heart attack in Spain in 1992.

It has since been painstakingly recreated, item for item, at the gallery where it is now a major attraction.

The new finds were made by staff sifting through the clutter.

The preliminary drawings contradict Bacon's assertion that he did no preparatory work for his later paintings.

Ms Dawson said: "It's a very major find and important because for the first time we know how Francis Bacon approached his work.

"The material that we have discovered was inspirational for his extraordinary images, some of which are considered some of the finest paintings of the 20th century."

About 200 preliminary sketches have been found, 1,500 photographs and 100 slashed paintings.

"He may not have done conventional preliminary work but he certainly did a lot of painstaking research, realising the concept he had in his head before he went on to do the actual painting.

"He did a lot of preparatory work."

One of the slashed paintings dates back to 1946, though Bacon didn't move to the Mews until 1961.

"It is quite amazing to think that he kept it with him all his life. We found the two pieces that were actually slashed from the canvas.

"It was actually slashed many years after it was painted."

Ms Dawson said she doubted they would attempt to restore the slashed paintings: "I think that might go against the artist's wishes. He had particular reasons for slashing the canvas. Some are quite violently slashed and some just have the faces cut out."

Bacon was born in Baggot Street in October 1909 after his father moved to Ireland to train horses.

The studio, where he created many of his most famous works, had been offered to London's Tate Gallery. It failed to respond, but galleries in the US and Japan were said to be interested.

Then, when Hugh Lane was approached it gathered a specialist team to move the studio lock, stock and barrell.

First into the bed-sit was a surveyor, then archaeologists, archivists, conservators and cataloguers. In the chaos, every single item was numbered and tagged and its location marked with precision in relation to everything else. Its angle in the room, its orientation and exact position was logged.

Specialists who normally dealt with Renaissance and frescoed walls removed the dry-lined walls of the bed-sit. They were extensively daubed with paint as Bacon mixed his colours on them as he worked. Everything was moved, walls, floor and ceiling.

The studio was also re-created in virtual reality on a computer.

There were more than 7,500 items in the clutter including photographs of surgery, dead people and animals, piles of books several feet high, clothes, newspaper clippings, letters, notebooks and a broken mirror.

The new finds will go on display for the first time at a symposium on the artist's work to be held on November 8 and 9.



 Francis Bacon painting stolen

News in brief
The Sunday Times
Sunday  29 September 2002

A PAINTING by Francis Bacon worth millions of pounds has been stolen from a house belonging to the artist's former handyman in France. Barry Joule, a Canadian who befriended Bacon in 1978 when he put up a television aerial at his home in South Kensington.



Bring home the Bacon!

Antiques Magazine

A Francis Bacon painting, Study for Pope II, has been stolen from a house in Normandy, France.

The house belonged to one of the artist's former workman, Barry Joule, who struck up a  friendship with the artist after erecting a television aerial for him. Joule blames a BBC documentary for alerting thieves as to the whereabouts of the painting. 




Gallery reveals Bacon findings


BBC News, Monday, 23 September, 2002



                                                                                               Bacon's studio has been recreated at the Dublin Gallery


Scholars have unearthed hundreds of sketches by artist Francis Bacon that have been hidden away in his former studio for decades.

The discovery of the drawings, and some of Bacon's paintings that were thought to have been destroyed, has given art experts new insights into the way the artist worked.

Over 70 drawings which were found offer evidence that Bacon did make preliminary sketches of some of his best known works, something he said he stopped doing after 1962.

Fragments of one of the paintings he destroyed - 1946's Study For Man With Microphones - were also discovered.

The painting vanished in 1948 and has always been thought of as a lost artwork.

Other items thought to have given Bacon inspiration, including magazine articles and a book from 1920 featuring photos of paranormal activity, were also uncovered.

The material was found by scholars who have been re-creating his famously chaotic Kensington Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

The Gallery has been working on the project for two years and plans to present its new findings on Bacon at a symposium to be held in November.

""We spent two years going through every single item," Margarita Cappock, curator of the Francis Bacon Studio and Archive at the Hugh Lane Gallery told BBC News Online.

"Our findings show that Bacon was a lot more deliberate in his work than he pretended to be."

Bacon was born in Ireland to English parents but he left Ireland when he was a teenager. He died in Spain in 1992.

For 30 years, he worked in a studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington.

His studio was known for being chaotic and messy, with every inch of floor space covered by newspapers, tins of paint and photos.

Bacon himself once wrote that his studio was the only place he could work because he was incapable of working in places that were too tidy.



Hugh Lane Gallery

Francis Bacon Symposium


On November 8th and 9th, The Hugh Lane Gallery in association with the Estate of Francis Bacon and Trinity College Dublin will host a Symposium to highlight new research on the artist with particular emphasis on his work after 1961.

Internationally renowned Bacon scholars including Professor Ernst van Alphen, M. Fabrice Hergott, Dr Matthew Gale, Dr Hugh Davies, Professor Brian Clarke, Martin Harrison, Barbara Dawson and Dr Margarita Cappock will participate in the Symposium which will provide an exciting forum for discussion on Francis Bacon and contemporary influences on post war artists.

The cost of the Symposium is E250 per person.

Concession rates of 100 euros for arts organisations/60 euros for students are available.

For further information please contact Brid Bergin ( or Alexander Kearney (




      Francis Bacon outside 7 Reece Mews.

       Photograph: Peter Stark.



'Her power is ageless'

DEIRDRE KELLY meets Sophia Loren - screen goddess, devoted
mother, tough cookie, and on top of her game as she turns 68





'My god!," shrieks Sophia Loren, a ringed hand flying into the air. "You said you'd take just one photo! You have taken now, how many?"

Her producer-husband Carlo Ponti (turning 90 in December) is said to have amassed a fortune for the family. He has produced most of Loren's films during her 50-year career (he met her when she was 15, the winner of an Italian beauty contest he was judging) and in addition has a sizable art collection (including the biggest private collection of Francis Bacon) worth many millions of dollars.






Francis Bacon  1909-1992



each signed, titled and dated 1978 on the reverse
oil on canvas, in two parts
each: 14 by 12 in. 35.6 by 30.5 cm.

Brook Street Gallery, London
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sotheby's, New York, May 5, 1986,
Acquired by the present owner from the above
London, Thomas Gibson Fine Art, Francis Bacon, 1985, illustrated in colour

Executed during what David Sylvester called "Bacon's peak years as a painter", Study for Portrait of Clive Barker is a remarkable double portrayal of this British sculptor. Born in 1940, Barker first showcased his chromium-plated sculptures of inconspicuous everyday objects at the RBA Galleries' Young Contemporaries exhibition in London in 1962. Barker and Bacon met during the 1960s and the connection between the two is most evident in a 1978 exhibition at the Felicity Samuel Gallery in London, Twelve Studies of Francis Bacon by Clive Barker which also included three studies of Barker by Bacon.

The viewer is presented with two versions of Barker. The left canvas reveals the sitter's head turned to his right, wearing a white T-shirt. The right canvas declares a more frontal position, wearing a black T-shirt. This opposition between black and white may be extended into a binary antagonism between good and evil. In both cases, Bacon has closed in on Barker's face, cropping the top of his sitter's head and forcing a claustrophobic angst. As in all of Bacon's small portraits, the artist boldly confronts the human subject. Pushed right to the front of the picture plane, these two meditations on human appearance confront the viewer in a manner unique to Bacon's artistic vision: unsettling the viewer, challenging our sensibilities, yet still declaring a masterful poise and precision of both portraiture and painting.

Bacon has suggested in interviews that he instigated a certain 'violence' towards his sitter when making their portrait. This 'violence' (ostensibly a 'de-naturing' of the physical that, in turn, exaggerates the psychological) was perpetuated in absentia as he usually painted his portraits either from memory or, on occasion, from a photograph. This varied source material, in this case no doubt recollections from fleeting meetings between the artist and his subject, manifests itself as a unique dictionary of Barker's appearance in Bacon's mind. Framed within the artist's consciousness, these fleeting expressions are liberated by the artist's imagination in his translation to canvas of the sitter. Now, newly invigorated and revitalised, Bacon's portrait represents his attempt at gaining a real purchase on the 'truth' of his sitter - to go beyond mere physiognomy. As Bacon said, "If I like them, I don't want to practice the injury that I do to them in my work before them. I would rather practice the injury by which I think I can record the facts of them more clearly." (David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1990, p. 41)

Here, the 'facts' come in the shape of two starkly executed canvases. Barker is presented almost filmically, in two fleeting moments. He appears to fidget across the canvases, each subtle movement intensified by Bacon's exceptional motion of his loaded brush. Onto the bare linen, Bacon has forcefully modelled and invaded Barker's face with fluid, gestural brushstrokes that at once define and distort his features, chasing across the canvas not so much his physical presence - his muscles, sinews and bone structure - but rather the psychological trace of his own existence. The present work can be seen as the perfect marriage of the physical with the psychological; the meeting point where presence becomes absence. As such, we are presented with a haunting, almost mystical image that transcends the boundaries of mere depiction. One delights in the drama of matter and existence; however, this terse, deeply-felt combat is counterbalanced by the softness of Bacon's palette: a combination of gentle lilacs, pale blues and fleshy pinks punctured by swaths of electric white. Bacon's palette moves seamlessly from one canvas to the other, as does his rhythmical gesture, blurred distortion and bold inscription, thus contriving to build a magical presence that somehow adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Study for Portrait of Clive Barker is a fine example of Bacon's artistry and of his ability to unearth subconscious emotional states. Bacon's two portraits of Barker "...exude nervousness, they embody bafflement, they have the marks of endurance, the mannerisms of suffering bitten in ... Each one is a sort of trophy. Each has the air of being won. The faces seem to come from underneath the paint." (William Feaver, "That's It" in Francis Bacon, 1909-1992: Small Portrait Studies, Marlborough Fine Art, London, 1993, n.p.) William Feaver noted that the Surrealist Andre Breton said that a portrait should be an oracle that questions, rather than just a mere image. Bacon's double-portrait of Barker goes beyond the oracular. As Feaver points out, these two canvases "...are too far gone to submit to any form of questioning. They are glimpsed, spied on, left to themselves. Bacon uses melodramatic devices (the impact of the slap, the texture of intimacy) but does so knowing that melodrama can be resolved into hypnotic, magnetic stillness". (Feaver, Ibid.)


Here’s A Francis Bacon, And Another, And Another…


by Dorothy Ho, PD Newswire - 05.29.02


There’s a famous photograph of British artist Francis Bacon in his studio, sitting on a chair in a midst of a cluttered workspace. That image — taken by Michael Holtz — is one of 30 images of the artist to be displayed at a special exhibition in Arles, France.

The images of Bacon are to be exhibited with Bacon’s paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, a series of 12 paintings he created in homage to Van Gogh. But the black-and-white photographs of Bacon will speak as much about the artist as his work of Van Gogh.

Before Bacon died in 1992, a host of photographers had captured him in a variety of moods and poses. In fact, some say that Bacon referred to many of these photographs of himself when painting his self-portraits. Peter Beard, Harry Benson, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Perry Ogden and Michel Soskine were among the photographers whose images of Bacon alone, working in his studio, or with friends, will be shown at the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles from July 4 to October 6.  





Contemporary Art Evening Auction


New York, Tuesday, November 12, 2002


Property from a Private French Collection

LOT 48   FRANCIS BACON (1909-1992)

 Signed, titled and dated 1966 on the reverse: oil on canvas.




Estimate : 1 800 000 USD - 2 200 000 USD 



The Artist
Sotheby's, London, Twentieth Century Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture presented to The Institute of Contemporary Art for sale on behalf of the Carlton House Project, June 23, 1966, lot 3 (donated by the artist)
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (acquired from the above)
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris
Nesuhi Ertegun, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above


London, Institute of Contemporary Art, The Obsessive Image, 1960-1968, April - May 1968, illustrated
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Surrealism: Two Private Eyes, June - September 1999, p. 50, illustrated in colour

Any history of Twentieth Century painting would not be complete without a thorough examination of the art of Francis Bacon. His challenging and provocative work ranks amongst the most sophisticated examples of the art of painting in the post-war period. This is an art driven by an insurmountable desire to record the self beyond the expression; to convey presence beyond mere representation. As such, when exploring Bacon's limitless quest for the ultimate immediacy (and thus reality) of depiction, it is to his small format portrait triptychs that one often turns in an effort to understand the finer examples of his creative genius. Here, color, form and composition are tightly knit together in a dazzling display of painterly bravura, forming a small group of extremely rare works that remain some of the highlights of the last one hundred years of oil painting.

Triptych: Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes,
executed at a time many believe to be the height of Bacon's creative powers in 1966, is an exquisite example of this rare series of triptych portraits executed on separate fourteen by twelve inch canvasses. Indeed, the intimate size and proportions of these supports allowed Bacon to experiment most dynamically with the potency of his brilliant gesture. He would paint, repaint and more often than not, discard these smaller works until he found the kernel of his subject's being. One cannot, therefore, be surprised to learn that relatively few of these portrait studies have survived the artist's own (at best) temperamental editing. Approximately forty-one examples exist, of which nearly half now grace important museum collections. Those that did survive, however, reveal some of the most intense and elaborate examples of Bacon's painterly genius. As John Russell has written, "The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards, the scene of some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them'' (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99).

Dynamically thrust to the front of the picture plane, these searching canvasses reveal a varied approach to Bacon's exploration of self. The left-hand canvas finds the head occupying the majority of the surface turned to the left and built up through a network of tight strokes. The central canvas, imposing in its strident position along the central vertical axis, is a little looser, while the right-hand canvas is looser still, suggesting the swift motion of Henrietta Moraes' head. Bacon's over brushed and scumbled paint work contributes to the ambiguity of the form depicted, but simultaneously, to a deeper penetration of the sense of self. Again, form and shape are bewilderingly different, yet when seen together, these forms combine to fuel the homogeneity of the composition as a whole. Each, however, confront the viewer in a manner unique to and utterly typical of Bacon's art, so that the poise and precision of Bacon's portraiture and painting is represented in all its variegated forms. Set against a brooding indigo blue and black ground that propels the forceful plasticity of Bacon's brushwork, the artist has vigorously modeled Moraes' face. The side views, particularly, are markedly different from each other, but as noted above, they serve to balance the composition in its triptych format. There is indeed a wonderfully organic rhythm to the triptych as a whole. One need only follow the sensuous undulation of the subject's shoulders, or make connections between similar pigmentation on the separate canvasses, to see how Bacon has managed to generate a wonderful flow of form, colour and movement within the triptych form that energizes this most traditional of formats.

The three canvasses also relate to one another as if they were separate layers of the same painting, that when superimposed one on the other, would allow the viewer to fully comprehend the 'reality' of the artist as sitter. Indeed, Bacon told David Sylvester of his predilection for working in series, "...I see every image all the time in a shifting way and almost in shifting sequences. So that one can take it from more or less what is called ordinary figuration to a very, very far point'' ('Francis Bacon', 1962, in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1990, p. 21). This extreme point, beyond the mere illustration, description or narrative that Bacon so detested, conveys what the artist termed the sitter's 'emanation': "The sitter is someone of flesh and blood and what has to be caught is their emanation. I'm not talking in a spiritual way... But there are always emanations from people whoever they are, though some peoples' are stronger than others" (David Sylvester, Op. Cit., p. 174).

Bacon has not chased across each canvas Henrietta Moraes' physical presence - her muscles, sinews and bone structure - but rather the psychological trace of her own existence. The present work is thus the perfect marriage of the real and the ethereal: we become witness to a meeting point where presence becomes absence, and vice versa. These haunting, almost mystical images that prevail transcend the boundaries of mere depiction. This is amplified by the intense background that occasionally consumes her face, creating terse undertones to the drama of self, which Bacon recounts before us. However, this drama, of matter and of self is counterbalanced by the softness of Bacon's palette: a combination of gentle lilacs, fleshy pinks and delicate hues of purple and red.

Bacon's unique ability to convey the complex nature of self and presence can only be compared to Rembrandt's portraits, particularly his late paintings, which Bacon so admired. They both share a passion for broad, sweeping strokes of pigment, set against dark, ominous backgrounds, unveiling, in the process, the dance of light and shade as a metaphor for the dance of life.




Contemporary Art  


Bond Street, London, Wednesday, 26 June 02, 7:00 PM


LOT 17


Francis Bacon (1909-1992)  Three Studies for a Portrait  

each panel : 35.5 by 30.5cm. 14 by 12in.

  £1,400,000 - £2,000,000

  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: £1,546,650  GBP 


each: titled and dated 1976 on the reverse
oil on canvas, in three parts 


Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris
Marlborough Galleries, Inc., New York
Charity Auction: Dublin, Artists for Amnesty, 19th May 1982, Lot 31 (Acquired by the present owner)


Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Francis Bacon: Oeuvres Récentes, 1977, no. 8, illustrated in colour
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno; Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Francis Bacon, 1977
New York, Marlborough Fine Art, Francis Bacon Recent Paintings, 1980, p. 29, no. 12, illustrated in colour
New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art (Extended loan since 1982)

"The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards, the scene of some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them.'' (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99)

As part of the constant questioning of his ability to transcend mere representation in his work, to record the self beyond the expression, Bacon's small portrait studies became the lifeblood of his oeuvre. In his unbounded quest for the ultimate immediacy of depiction, the intimate size and proportions of these canvases allowed him to experiment endlessly with the potency of his brilliant painterly gesture. Bacon would paint, re-paint and discard these pieces until he found the core of his subject's being.

For a few chosen subjects, Bacon's constant social and professional dedication to their appearance, his repeated observations of their mannerisms and movements provided the key to their existence on canvas. In the age of photography, Bacon felt that traditional portraiture lacked depth and mere appearance was not enough to capture the essence of life. For him the outcome of his art depended on a direct opposition between a kind of visual intelligence (ordering, remembering, exemplifying) and sensation. His portraits strove not to tell the story of someone's life, but to clamp themselves to the viewer's nervous system and offer as he put it "the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance.'' A history of observation could be conveyed in the cast of a gesture and that was where the painting stood or fell. 

Executed during what David Sylvester has described as 'Bacon's peak years as a painter', Studies for a Portrait - Triptych is one of Bacon's finest portrayals of his close friend Henrietta Moraes, former wife of the renowned Indian poet Dom Moraes. Bacon counted very few women amongst his pantheon of friends and even fewer made it onto his canvases, but after meeting Moraes in Soho in the mid-sixties, she immediately became one of his favourite and most striking subjects. This particular piece is taken from a renowned series of triptych portraits, begun in the late sixties, which boldly confronted the human subject, literally head-on. Pushed right up to the front of the picture plane, these three deep meditations on human appearance test the viewer in a manner unique to the art of Francis Bacon: unnerving the viewer, challenging his or her sensibilities, yet still declaring a masterful poise and precision of both portraiture and painting.

When Bacon turned his hand to portraits, as he did more and more in the seventies, it was his friends who came under scrutiny: "If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them'' (Francis Bacon in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 41). This violence, however, was perpetrated in absentia - since he painted his portraits most usually from memory, and from photographs, or in general from anything except the actual living and sitting model. This varied source material formed Bacon's unique 'dictionary' of Henrietta's appearance in his mind. Spread around his studio, these photographs became a gallery of her 'fleeting expressions', a record of her individual existence which Bacon translated to a newly invigorated being and vitality. Her presence in the room would have inhibited his progress towards 'truth'. He went on to say: "If I like them, I don't want to practice the injury that I do to them in my work before them. I would rather practice the injury in private by which I think I can record the facts of them more clearly.'' (in David Sylvester, Op. Cit., p. 41)

Here, the 'facts' come in the shape of three starkly painted canvases, which present a Modigliani-esque Moraes almost filmically, in a fleeting, angst-ridden moment. She fidgets across the swathe of the triptych bearing a remarkable economy of marks, each exceptional motion of the loaded brush adding up to a true reflection of the fragility of Moraes' existence. Onto the pink background, Bacon has forcefully modelled and invaded Moraes' face with fluid gestural brushstrokes that at once define, yet distort her features, chasing across the canvas not so much her physical presence - her muscles, sinew and bone structure - but rather the psychological trace of her own existence. At one point, in the central canvas of this disturbingly honest depiction, Moraes' face becomes more rounded, her cheekbones more pronounced and her jaw thrusts forward, teeth dramatically exposed. Studies for a Portrait-Triptych must thus be seen as a perfect marriage of the physical and psychological; the meeting point where presence becomes absence, and vice versa. As such, the viewer is presented with a haunting, almost mystical image that transcends the boundaries of mere depiction. However this drama, of matter and of existence, is counterbalanced by the softness of Bacon's palette: a combination of gentle lilacs and fleshy pinks punctured by stark whites and enshrined by haloes of thick brown hair. These run throughout the triptych and although each portrait differs from the others, the dynamic of rhythmical gesture, blurred distortion and bold inscription contrives to build a magical presence which somehow adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.


He climbed inside faces


Liz Jobey on the 'wizened, acned dwarf' of 1960s Soho who documented city lives


A Maverick Eye: The Street Photography of John Deakin by Robin Muir
208pp, Thames & Hudson, £36


The Guardian,  Saturday June 8, 2002


Nobody who has read the various accounts of Francis Bacon's life could have missed the figure of John Deakin, the small, drunken photographer who made some remarkable portraits of the painters, writers, models and friends who gathered round Bacon in Soho during the 1950s and 1960s, notably at Muriel Belcher's Colony Room.

In most accounts Deakin is reviled, not for his drunkenness but for the bitchiness, scrounging and general meanness of spirit that came with it. Bacon - who, according to his friend and biographer Dan Farson, was fond of Deakin - called him "a horrible little man", though he also thought his portraits "the best since Nadar and Juliet Margaret Cameron". George Melly called him a "vicious little drunk", Jeffrey Bernard said he was "a wizened, acned dwarf of a jockey". But Bruce Bernard, Jeffrey's brother, recognised Deakin as a member of "photography's unhappiest minority whose members, while doubting its status as art, sometimes prove better than anyone else that there is no doubt about it".

Photography was a second best for Deakin, who had failed to find success as a painter and only took up the camera by accident in 1939 - he is said to have woken up in a Paris apartment after a party, found a camera unattended, and taken it away to try it out. His working life was haphazard - he had two brief periods under contract to Vogue, both of which ended badly, and two small exhibitions in Soho; he produced two guidebooks, one to London, the other to Rome. He more or less gave up photography in the last years of his life, and had it not been for Bruce Bernard, who rescued several boxes of photographs from under Deakin's bed after his death in 1972, the pictures might have gone the way of his other artworks and ended up in the gutter in Berwick Street.

In 1984, Bernard made a selection of these photographs for an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum called The Salvage of a Photographer. The creased and tattered prints, many of them portraits of his Soho companions, were to establish Deakin's posthumous reputation. In 1996, Robin Muir, who as the picture editor at Vogue in the early 1990s had found another cache of Deakin's prints, contact sheets and negatives in the Condé Nast library - this time of the artists, writers, actors and directors Deakin had photographed for the magazine - curated a show at the National Portrait Gallery and published a book on Deakin's work.

This was four years after Bacon's death, and it included some of the 40 or so trampled and paint-spattered photographs that had been found in Bacon's studio. These were photographic studies Deakin made at Bacon's request of figures he wanted to use as references in his paintings. They included the now well-known sessions with Lucian Freud, Henrietta Moraes and Isabel Rawsthorne, all of whom are recognisable in Bacon's pictures.

As well as fuelling the debate about just how much Bacon had relied on photographs, the distressed prints added the glamour of found fragments to what was by now acknowledged as Deakin's increasingly important archive. The 1996 show concentrated on Deakin's portraits. The large close-ups show every pore, pockmark and hair follicle; in most cases the eyes stare directly into the lens, and the face is often squared off prematurely by the frame.

They have been described as "cruel" and "brutal", but in fact seem to be more the result of Deakin's impatience with the kind of theatrical gestures and posturing body language that so often makes a portrait false. But there was another group of pictures, found in an annexe down the back stairs of the National Portrait Gallery. These were Deakin's street pictures, taken in London and during his many trips to Paris and Rome - the city he loved most. It is these that Muir has concentrated on in his second book.

The difficulty this presents is obvious: how to produce a second book that contains enough information to satisfy those coming to Deakin for the first time, while offering those who know his work something new? Muir has partially solved the problem by retelling the story of Deakin's life in the text - and here there is, inevitably, a certain amount of repetition - and placing the emphasis, in the choice of pictures, on much less familiar aspects of Deakin's work.

Of the three sections of photographs, "London" is still largely made up of Soho portraits, though ones taken at more of a distance: most are cropped just above the knee, or full-figure. There is a little series of pictures of Bacon and his lover George Dyer, posing for Deakin both singly and together, one day in Soho in the 1960s; a strong head of the writer Elizabeth Smart; and an awkward full-length picture of Muriel Belcher. There are also a few street scenes - signs, hoardings, shopfronts - in the manner of Atget, which serve as a throat-clearing exercise for what is to follow.

After London, the book really changes pace. Paris and Rome seem to have brought out a more compassionate side of Deakin. He is drawn to street people, to shopkeepers and market traders, tramps and beggars, and to the cities' ageing fabric. Before his death he had planned a number of books: one on Paris, another on Rome, and two called "London Walls" and "Paris Walls". And here you can see why. Walls so often provided the canvas for some of his best photographs. Like Brassai, who had begun collecting pictures of graffiti in the early 1930s, Deakin was fascinated by the randomness of street art. Scribbled in chalk, the simple drawings for children's games, the vows of love or hate and the slogans of street philosophers have a fragile, temporary quality that, on the uneven surface, gives them the emotional purchase of paintings.

Deakin liked walls on which the commerce of the city had left its mark - layers of tattered posters, or the giant letters of advertising slogans half rubbed out by the weather. In Paris he followed Atget's example of going out each morning at dawn to photograph the empty streets. In Rome he found that the public displays of religion offered fine opportunities for pictures. He used a Rolleiflex, as Bruce Bernard pointed out, with the same ease that other street photographers used a Leica. In his portraits it enabled him to climb inside a face (some of his portraits are close enough to reveal that aqueous millimetre of flesh that lines the bottom eyelid) with what would have been intrusive intimacy if he hadn't know his subjects so well. In his landscapes, it gives ordinary scenes a greater formality.

Deakin said of his pictures that he was "fatally drawn to the human race". He probably was a fatalist, but there can be few more life-affirming photographs than the picture of a group of mothers in Trastavere, proudly holding up their children for his inspection. In some ways it might have served Deakin well to have one book that included all sides of his work and all his best pictures. But that's easy to say in retrospect. Somebody who probably never expected to be remembered for his photographs now has a life in two volumes.

· Liz Jobey is a deputy editor of Granta




    Sotheby's Contemporary Art

      Sale 7797  7 pm, May 15, 2002



                  Lot 41, Study from the Human Body, Francis Bacon, 1981


By Carter B. Horsley

This evening sale of contemporary art has the usual sprinkling of famous names such as Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974), Gerhard Richter (b. 1932), Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945), Cy Twombly (b. 1928), Morris Louis (1912-1962), Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Mark Rothko (1903-1970), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), mostly with good and representative but not truly remarkable works.

Perhaps the best painting is Lot 41, "Study from the Human Body," a large, dramatic and mysterious work by Francis Bacon. Dated July, 1981, it is an oil on canvas that measures 78 by 58 3/4 inches and its basic composition is similar to his "Study for Self-Portrait" of the same dimensions and year that is in the collection of the Von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal, but this work is more vibrantly colored and complex. In the Wuppertal picture, a clothed male figure is seated in front of the left panel of a two-panel black screen and he casts a shadow across the bottom of the picture. In this work, a naked male figure appears to be stepping into the right panel but he casts no shadows and two bright red arrows of unequal length point towards him. It is painted with Bacon's masterful touch and is a difficult but impressive image. It has an estimate of $2,500,000 to $3,500,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $1,800,000, which was quite surprising given the fact that another large Bacon,





Contemporary Art

Evening: New York May 15, 2002

BACON: Lot 41

Study From The Human Body

signed, titled and dated July 1981 on the reverse

Estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000




                                         Lot 41, Study from the Human Body, Francis Bacon, 1981



The beginning of the 1980's saw Francis Bacon embark upon a series of Studies from the Human Body, made in conjunction with a number of Self-Portraits and landscapes as well as more abstract works that depicted, for example, running water.  Seen together, these works from the early 1980's find a number of connections, even though their subject matter is wildly different. Technical, stylistic and chromatic patterns emerge that connect the group as a whole. This connectivity is further compounded by Bacon's visual vocabulary: light cords, screens, tables, and arrows appear throughout these works, greatly contributing to the homogeneity of the 'series' as a whole. Whilst it is not correct to position the present work as part of a series, it is rewarding to see it in the same light as a number of, seemingly, very different paintings. A continued passion for the human form, as well as a development  in the cubistic frames Bacon used that would simultaneously imprison and project his figures, come to light. An emphasis on sensuous texture, on a more sophisticated pigmented ground as well as a dryer brush work delineating a more fragmented and dislocated body seems apparent.

The present work is an outstanding example from this later series of explorations into the human male form, positioned within the fabric of Bacon's pictorial language. The paraphrase of form here seems to step into a dark screen, as if into another dimension. The spatial dynamic of the composition is cleverly problematized here as Bacon has allowed most of the screen to almost fall out of the picture plane. The three-dimensional form indicated by the frame leg on the left is negated by the diagonal in the centre of the composition, breaking down the screen into two parts. The second 'half' then slopes away, making no solid connection with the pregnant ground Bacon has painted. The motif of the 'double-screen' may be seen as a development of Bacon's cage-like constructions from the 1950's that served to  encapsulate and condense the human figure, thereby exaggerating the emotions Bacon depicted. Screams became louder; cries became deeper, more angst-ridden. The present screen form is seen, in various manipulations, in other paintings, such as Study for Self-Portrait (1981, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal). The black ground framed by this screen is mirrored in Bacon's use of opened doors leading into unknown chambers of black as clearly seen in his Triptych from 1981 inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus. Moreover, Bacon used the black background in his earlier triptychs, Triptych. August. (1972) and Triptych. May-June. (1973), both depicting the moment of George Dyer's  eventual demise. These pseudo-cubistic frames here serve to deliberately drain the composition of any perspectival logic: the figure shifts in and out of  the artificial spaces that lend a sense of urgency to struggle and flux. Any sense of perspective is further disturbed by Bacon's use of the light cord in the right-hand section, and the two crimson arrows, pointing towards the figure, but for no apparent reason.

The figure seems to enter in one section and then exist from the other, and it is very noticeable that the  morphology Bacon adopts is extraordinarily elastic. There is nothing to anchor the figure to a recognizable character. His portraits of  George Dyer or John Edwards, for example, are clearly 'readable'. Here the figure is anonymous; what interests Bacon are the shapes of legs, buttocks, backs and shoulders. The fragmentation of the body is continued with other Studies of the Human Body from 1982: a male version, wearing cricket pads and a female version, based on a drawing by Ingres from the same year. Both these fleshy forms act as erotic quotations: buttocks, genitals and breasts are morphed together to create hybrid-like forms set against bright orange grounds. These forms are static, whereas, through the use of arrows,  and the ensuing sense of movement to the figure, here the form seems nuch more active.

Bacon's choice of color is magnificently subtle, yet powerful upon contemplation. The sandy ground holds ochres, golds, pinks, graphites and beiges that all coalesce together to form a densely pigmented floor. The ground must therefore be connected to Bacon's more abstract experiments with pure texture that one sees in works such as Sand Dune (1981) and Water from a  Running Tap (1982). The powdery surface seems to crystallize in front of the viewer, continuing the sense of motion inherent to the figure in the most sophisticated fashion. The robust flesh tones of the 1960's have now been replaced with lighter mauves and lilacs, accented with passages of orange and enlivened through sweeps of white pigment that activates the form. The deeply saturated black ground further projects the figure out of the pictorial space, and provides the most glorious contrast to the ground.

Study from the Human Body is a glorious example of Bacon's late work. It insists on a stark, down-to-earth realism that is contained with a lightness of touch rare in Bacon's oeuvre. This work powerfully exemplifies Bacon's aesthetic ideal: one which he called 'the brutality of fact', and one which possesses an innate grandeur that marks this painting as a wonderfully intelligent contemplation of the human body.


    Contemporary Art & 14 Duchamp Readymades

   Philips de Pury & Luxembourg  7pm, Monday, May 13, 2002  Sale NY865




       Lot 30 Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes by Francis Bacon, oil on canvas, 78 by 58 inches, 1964


       Art Auctions By Carter B. Horsley, The City Review,  2002


The announcement earlier this year by Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg that it was canceling its spring Impressionist & Modern Art auction came as a great relief to Sotheby's and Christie's but also raised serious questions about the future of Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. The aggressive entry of the Phillips auction house into the big leagues of fine art auctions under the guidance of Bernard Arnault's LVMH conglomerate stole a lot of business away from Sotheby's and Christie's, both of which were under antitrust investigations that created serious financial problems for them and made them appear to be quite vulnerable to new competition. 

One of the auction's highlights is Lot 30, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, a 78-by-58-inch oil on canvas by Francis Bacon (1909-1992). A classic and major Bacon, it was painted in 1964 and has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $6,712,500.

The catalogue notes that Bacon's convoluted reshaping of the human body sometimes conjures chopped-up carcasses and that in this work the woman's body "appears played, and the passages of gray and red pigment suggest bruises and blood respectively." "Yet the morbid suggestion of raw, exposed flesh is countered by an opposing sense of the sitter's vitality. Moraes' voluptuous figure seems to throb and pulsate before one's eyes, as though it were releasing a powerful visceral energy."




Seeing through the skin


Lucian Freud, perhaps Britain's greatest painter, learned early on that portraits could be "revealing in a way that was almost improper". That terrible candour is clear in all his work. William Feaver looks back over his 60-year career with him


The Guardian, Saturday May 18, 2002.


Freud's great friendship, for 20 years from the late 1940s, was with Francis Bacon. He admired the way he painted and the way he lived, incautiously and impulsively, an enemy to gentility. "Art," Bacon said, "is a method of opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object." Freud recognised that Bacon was reinventing painting. Bacon's dismal men in suits, his skid pan wipes and smears, his hilarity and shrieking derision, made his own accomplishment seem tight and circumspect.

"I got very impatient with the way I was working, and I think my admiration for Francis came into this. I realised that by working the way I did I couldn't really evolve. The change wasn't perhaps more than one of focus, but it did make it possible for me to approach the whole thing in another way."




Tate takes Bacon archive at last


Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent, The Times, Thursday 2nd May 2002


The Tate is accepting a gift of a Francis Bacon archive containing more than 1,000 sketches and annotated photographs, four years after it rejected the offer.

Barry Joule, the owner and a friend of the artist, has struggled for years to prove the authenticity of a collection that he says Bacon gave to him days before his death, and which, with 1,500 items, has been valued at £20 million.

The artist's estate has declined to authenticate the archive, threatening legal action when the Barbican Centre in London exhibited it last year.

Ten years after Bacon's death, Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director, now says he will recommend to the trustees that they acquire it. The collection includes hoarded paint-splattered photographs, clippings, pages torn from magazines and books and scribbled sketches. The images range from cyclists and boxers to a portrait of Mick Jagger over which outlines of figures have been rehearsed.

Mr Joule, who was Bacon's chauffeur and handyman, says that one of his duties was destroying works with which Bacon was not satisfied. He said that the artist handed him a bundle of papers to destroy, but, realising their importance, he had instead kept them.




Bacon archive


The Times, Friday 1oth May 2002


The Tate Gallery has asked us to make it clear that, whereas it is looking forward to discussions about Barry Joule's Bacon archive (The Times report, May 2  2002) it has not yet received, or accepted, a formal offer.


Tate to acquire Bacon collection after rejecting it

The Tate is accepting a Francis Bacon archive of more than 1,000 sketches and annotated photographs four years after it rejected the offer.

The collection, said to be worth £20m, is owned by Barry Joule, who was Bacon's chauffeur and handyman.

Joule is said to have struggled for years to prove the authenticity of a collection he says Bacon gave to him days before his death.

The artist's estate has declined to authenticate the archive, threatening legal action when the Barbican Centre in London exhibited it last year.

Ten years after Bacon's death, Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director, now says he will recommend to the trustees they acquire it.

The Times says the collection includes hoarded paint-splattered photographs, clippings, pages torn from magazines and books and scribbled sketches.

The images range from cyclists and boxers to a portrait of Mick Jagger over which outlines of figures have been rehearsed.

Mr Joule says one of his duties was destroying works with which Bacon was not satisfied.

He said the artist handed him a bundle of papers to destroy but he realised their importance and had kept them instead.


Tony Shafrazi
119 Wooster Street, SoHo
Through May 18 2002


If you were depressed by the joyless art of Gerhard Richter at the Museum of Modern Art, you might not think a visit with Francis Bacon would be much help. Bacon is popularly thought of as the pontiff of existential horror, his most famous image being of a screaming Pope Innocent X based on a portrait by Velázquez. What Bacon produced, however, was more a kind of black comedy; increasingly as time passed he realized it in suavely designed, vibrantly hued, generously spacious compositions.

Far from depressing, the late paintings in this show combine the sensuous and the visionary to exhilarating effect. All of the large canvases from the 1980's feature the painter's familiar iconography of smeary lumps of humanity - or, in one case, a dangling, plucked chicken  -  in empty rooms. They are like updates of Christian altar paintings. The largest work, a triptych in which a vignetted male pelvis has wounded areas circled or pointed to by a small graphic arrow, refers unmistakably to the Passion, even as the third panel with the silhouetted head of a bull adds pagan resonance.

In anyone else's hands such imagery would be unbearably heavy. But Bacon managed his traumatic vision with a light, almost Pop-style touch. He paints the space around his deftly distorted figures with the hedonistic delight of a Color Field painter. In the triptych and two related paintings, broad fields of scrumptious Creamsicle-orange are balanced by windows of sweet sky blue. The ultimate effect is of a zany and voluptuous beauty. KEN JOHNSON

Published: 04 - 26 - 2002 , Late Edition - Final , Section E , Column 1 , Page 33



The art of loss


Paul Bailey on a collection of portraits of creative gay lives: Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar by Colm Tóibín

Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar
Colm Tóibín   288pp, Picador, £16.99


The Guardian, Saturday April 13, 2002

In the introduction to this perceptive collection of essays, Colm Tóibín admits to an "abiding fascination with sadness...and, indeed, tragedy". It should be stressed that this is a sympathetic fascination, not a morbid or mawkish one, as his brief accounts of the painful lives of Elizabeth Bishop and James Baldwin - two of the best pieces here - testify.

What Tóibín admires about the painter Francis Bacon is his life-long refusal to play the role of "tragic queer". He is properly scathing about the three biographies that appeared, with indecent haste, after Bacon's death - by Andrew Sinclair (scissors and paste), Michael Peppiatt (dull when it isn't prurient) and Daniel Farson (a hotchpotch of sexual tittle-tattle). "It is one of the problems of biography that it seeks out the colourful and the dramatic at the expense of the ordinary and true," Tóibín observes.

Bacon's relationship with George Dyer wasn't all gloom and drunken doom - at least, not in the beginning. Tóibín prefers to look at the paintings, with apt quotations from Bacon's conversations with David Sylvester, Michel Archimbaud and the shrewdly observant John Russell. He reminds us how hard Bacon worked, and that the real danger he had to cope with was that of repeating himself and burning himself out. This is more interesting, though less amusing, than his remark - which was intended to be heard by the posh women seated nearby - that he wanted to be buggered by Colonel Gadafy.

Tóibín's other subjects are Oscar Wilde, Roger Casement, the poets Thom Gunn and Mark Doty, and the film director Pedro Almodóvar. This last, a reprinted article from Vanity Fair , is the one really weak chapter in this otherwise fine and thoughtful book. One wants to know more about this man who thrives in an atmosphere of chaos. Tóibín, for once, provides only a sketch, instead of the customary rounded portrait.

Paul Bailey's most recent book is Three Queer Lives (Hamish Hamilton).



Testy tosspot never quite doused anger


Obituary: Graham Mason  1942-2002

Denizen of Soho, journalist 


The Daily Telegraph, April 15 2002


In the 1980s, Graham Mason, who has died aged 59, was the drunkest man in the Coach and Horses, the pub in Soho where, in the half-century after World War II, a tragicomedy was played out nightly by its regulars.

His claim to a title in bibulous misbehaviour was staked against stiff competition from Jeffrey Bernard and a dedicated cast of less-celebrated but formidable drinkers.

Mason was a fearsome sight at his most drunkenly irascible. Seated at the bar, his thin shanks wrapped around the legs of a high stool, he would swivel his reptilian stare around behind him to any unfortunate stranger attempting to be served and snap: "Who the fuck are you?"

Unlike his friend Bernard, though, Mason did not make himself the hero of his own tragedy. His speciality was the extreme. In one drinking binge he went for nine days without food. At the height of his consumption, before he was frightened by epileptic fits into cutting back, he was managing two bottles of vodka a day.

At lunchtime he would walk through the door of the Coach and Horses still trembling with hangover, his nose and ears blue whatever the weather. On one cold day he complained of the noise that the snow made as it landed on his bald head.

His practice of "boozer's economics" meant dressing in the shabbiest of clothes, many of them inherited from the late husband of the woman with whom he lived. He wore a threadbare duffle coat with broken toggles. One day it was inexplicably stolen from the pub coat hook. Bernard took the opportunity to combine kindness with condescension by buying a replacement of much grander design and cloth.

From the 1960s on, Mason was a friend of many of the painters, writers, actors, layabouts, retired prostitutes, stagehands and hopeless cases that then gave Soho its flavour. He enjoyed talking to Francis Bacon in the Colony Room Club because Francis Bacon was funny; and, until they finally had a row, Francis Bacon enjoyed talking to him.

In a couple of hours one evening in February 1988 he had loud altercations with John Hurt ("You're just a bad actor"); with a law writer nicknamed the Red Baron, who was later murdered ("You know I don't like you. Go away and leave me alone"); and with Bernard (who stood up and shook him by the lapels).

Michael Heath often featured Mason in his comic strip The Regulars. In one episode he is shown apologising for being so rude the night before: "You see, I was sober."

Amid the violence of Soho arguments he became a friend of Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian author of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a book about her lover George Barker, the poet, who became another friend. Mason also succeeded in liking Francis Bacon's final close friend, John Edwards, which some people did not.

Mason felt at home in the Colony Room Club in the years before homosexuality was decriminalised because no-one who drank there minded one way or the other.

Mason's own closest friendship was with Marsh Dunbar, the widow of an admired art director at The Economist. He lodged with her at first in a fine early 19th-century house in Canonbury Square, Islington, where she was bringing up three sons. She had herself fallen into Soho after the war, knowing everyone from John Minton to Lucian Freud. Though enthusiastically heterosexual, she lived with him until her death.

In the days before licensing liberalisation, he resorted in the afternoon when pubs were closed to drinking clubs such as the Kismet, a damp basement with a smell that wits identified as "failure"; it was known as "the Iron Lung" and "Death in the Afternoon". Mason admired the diminutive but firm presence behind the bar, known as Maltese Mary. But his favourite resort remained the Colony.

Graham Edward Mason was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He had been conceived on a sand dune and to this he sometimes attributed his abrasive character.

He was educated at Chingola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and then joined a local newspaper. From there, as a bright and promising 18-year-old, he was recruited for the American news agency UPI by its bureau chief in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe).

He learnt fast as a reporter of the civil war in Congo, finding the veterans from the Algerian war among his colleagues both kind and helpful. He witnessed a line of prisoners executed with pistol shots to the head and was himself injured in the thigh and chin by a mortar shell. Among those he interviewed were Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe; he did not take to the latter.

Posted to the UPI office in London in 1963, he set off in a Land Rover with three friends and no proper map through Tanganyika, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, and then on an East German ship via Trieste to Hull.

From UPI's London office in Bouverie Street, Mason soon discovered Soho and, like many before him, felt he had come home. He continued as a foreign correspondent, taking a year out in 1968 to work for 20th Century Fox on feature films, which he hated.

With BBC Television news he reported from the Northern Ireland troubles and in 1975 took another year out to run a bar in Nicosia. It happened to coincide with civil war and he and Dunbar were lucky to be evacuated by the RAF. From then until 1980 he worked for ITN. One day he was found asleep under his desk, drunk. It was something of a low point.

He was living with Dunbar in a flat in Berwick Street, Soho. A fire there sent them, fleeing bills, to a rundown council tower block on the Isle of Dogs. The compensation was a view of a sweep of the Thames towards Greenwich. He worked while he still could, managing Bobby Hunt's photographic library.

Mason cooked Mediterranean food well and liked classical music and fireworks. After Dunbar's death in 2001, with almost all his friends dead, he sat imprisoned by emphysema in his flat, with a cylinder of oxygen by his armchair and bottles of white wine by his elbow, looking out over the Thames, still very angry.

The Daily Telegraph, London



Eggs, Bacon and jellied eels


Why did Francis Bacon leave his £11 million estate to John Edwards, an illiterate barman from the East End?  Mick Brown meets him


 Mick Brown, The Daily Telegraph, 19 February, 2002

                                                                John: ensured no one took liberties


'And that," says John Edwards, pausing in front of the huge canvas at the top of the stairs in the South Kensington mews where Francis Bacon lived and painted for more than 30 years, "is me."

Portrait of John Edwards, 1986-87, which shows a figure seated cross-legged in a chair, dressed only in a pair of white underpants, is one of the 30 or more paintings that Bacon executed of Edwards, and is widely regarded as one of the artist's last masterpieces.

"Actually," says Edwards, with a laugh, "some people have said I look like a monkey. But I didn't mind. I mean, Francis was a lovely painter, wasn't he?"

For 31 years, Bacon spent almost every day in his Reece Mews studio but, as Edwards admits, he would hardly recognise it now.

The cramped bed/sitting room, lit by four bare light bulbs, where Bacon slept and ate, is now an elegant lounge, all leather sofas and smoked glass tables. The detritus of dirty brushes, paint pots, mounds of newspapers and photographs that littered the floor of Bacon's studio have been replaced by polished wood and splashy abstract rugs.

"Terrible mess, it was," says Edwards. "I remember the first time I saw it, I said to Francis: how can you work in here? But he said it was how he liked it. He couldn't be bothered to clear it up. All he wanted was to have the peace and quiet to paint."

Edwards, the son of an East End docker, was working as a barman in a Wapping pub when he first met Francis Bacon in 1976. For the next 16 years, until the painter's death from a heart attack, he was his closest friend and confidant - as Bacon put it, the only true friend he had.

When Bacon died in April 1992, he left everything - an estate valued at some £11m, including the mews studio in South Kensington - to Edwards.

But the legacy proved to be more tangled than it initially appeared. In 1999, the Bacon estate brought a case against the Marlborough Gallery, which had represented Bacon for most of his working life, alleging that the painter had been "wrongfully exploited" in his relationship with the gallery and seeking a "proper accounting" of his affairs.

The litigation, which threatened to become one of the most acrimonious - and costly - legal battles that the art world has ever seen, was suddenly withdrawn two weeks ago, in a "drop hands settlement", in which both sides agreed to pay their own costs. Marlborough has also agreed to release to the estate all the documentation that belonged to Bacon which is still in its possession.

The reclusive John Edwards has never before spoken publicly about Bacon and their relationship. Following the artist's death, he moved to Florida and, for the past seven years he has lived a quiet, almost reclusive life in Thailand.

Last year, however, he was diagnosed with cancer, and returned to London for treatment.

He is 52, a genial man with dark, battered good looks, who speaks in a soft, unreconstructed Cockney accent, spotted with rhyming slang. "Don't I know your boat-race from somewhere?" he asks. He offers Krug champagne - "it was Francis's favourite" - and a "lah-di-dah" (cigar).

A Bacon triptych dominates one wall. On another are grouped a framed collection of French five franc stamps bearing Edwards's image, painted by Bacon; a child-like picture dedicated "to Francis" and signed "Ronnie Kray, Broadmoor" ("He certainly knew Ronnie", says Edwards, carefully, "but I don't think I'd describe them as friends"); and a scroll marking the award to Edwards of the Lord Mayor's Medal by the city of Dublin.

This was in recognition of his donation of the contents of the Reece Mews studio to Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery, where it has been painstakingly reconstructed, item by item, and now stands as a permanent exhibit. Bacon, Edwards says, "would have roared with laughter", to think of his discarded brushes and paints, his moth-eaten bedspread and rotted curtains preserved for posterity.

Edwards first met Bacon in the Colony Room, the famously raffish Soho drinking club where the painter would hold court. Edwards, at the time, was working as a barman in his brother's East End pub, and he was friends with Muriel Belcher, who owned the Colony, and Ian Board who worked as the barman there.

A few weeks earlier, Edwards had been asked by Belcher to lay in some champagne as she intended to bring her "famous painter friend" to the East End. But they never came. When Edwards was eventually introduced to Bacon in the Colony Room, he "gave him some stick" for ordering champagne, then not bothering to turn up and drink it. "He liked the way I didn't care about who he was supposed to be."

So began a relationship that would last until Bacon's death. Bacon was homosexual and the popular misconception is that Edwards was his lover. But that, he says, was never the case. Edwards is also gay and has been with the same boyfriend for 27 years. His relationship with Bacon was one of deep emotional, but never physical, friendship.

"Francis was a real, true father figure to me. I was close to my own father. But Francis gave me all the guidance I needed, and we laughed a lot. And I think he liked me because I didn't want anything from him. With everybody else, it was 'Francis this' and 'Francis that'."

It was, on the surface, an improbable friendship. At 66, Bacon was almost 40 years Edwards's senior. He was also Britain's most celebrated living painter; a man of mercurial intelligence and high poetic temperament.

Edwards knew nothing about painting or books. Chronically dyslexic, he had never learnt to read or write. But his lack of a formal education, his down-to-earth unpretentiousness, was one of the things that clearly endeared him to Bacon.

Edwards recalls that, shortly after their first meeting, Bacon took him gambling at Charlie Chester's casino, one of his regular haunts. When Edwards was handed a membership form he confessed that he could neither read nor write. "Francis said, God, that must be marvellous. Because he hated filling in forms or anything like that."

Their life together followed a set pattern. No matter what time he'd been drinking until the night before, Bacon would rise at between six and seven o'clock and start painting. Around nine, he would telephone Edwards to say that he was ready for breakfast and Edwards would join him in Reece Mews, where Bacon would cook a fry-up. Bacon, he says, liked only egg white, Edwards only the yolk, "so it was the perfect relationship". His nickname for the painter was "Eggs".

Edwards would then sit with Bacon through the day while he painted - the only person the artist ever allowed to watch him at work - talking and helping him prepare his canvasses for collection.

"We'd talk about everything. He was a beautiful man; you'd be hypnotised by him. He'd talk to you and you'd just want him to talk more. Everything he talked about - his posh mates, the people he knew in the art world, it was all so clear."

"I think," says Edwards, "he felt very free with me, because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn't asking him about his painting or anything like that. Most people around Francis looked up to him, and he didn't like that.

"I asked him once: what do you see in me? And he laughed and said: you're not boring like most people.

"I remember once we were with the Duke of Devonshire, talking about all this and that, and Francis decided it was time to change the conversation, so he got me talking about running a pub and jellied eels. The nice thing about Francis was he wouldn't let you roast."

"John was the only person in London who treated Francis as an absolute equal," says the architectural artist Brian Clarke, a close friend of both men and, for the past six years the executor of Bacon's estate. "Whenever you saw John and Francis together you knew you were going to laugh a lot. John is a totally honest man. He would be very rude to Francis, which was a very enjoyable thing to see because nobody else had licence to do that. He'd give it to him straight, and Francis appreciated that. Even in the Colony Room, Francis was the king of Soho. But to John he was just 'My Francis'."

Clarke describes the friendship as "each looking after the other". Bacon had a famously cavalier attitude to money. He never carried a cheque book or a credit card, but always had a wad of cash, likened by one friend to "a bog roll" from which he would peel off notes to spend on gambling, meals at Wheelers, drinks at the Colony Room, or simply to give to friends.

Edwards took it upon himself to ensure that no one was "taking liberties".


     Edwards with Bacon: 'Francis was a real, true father figure to me. He gave me all the guidance I needed'


Bacon, he says, didn't mind being taken advantage of "up to a point". But beyond that point, he didn't like it.

"He said I was a good judge of people, which I am," says Edwards. "There were always lots of people around Francis on the cadge. But they wouldn't do it while I was around."

When they went gambling together, Edwards would carefully pocket some of the chips to ensure that Bacon had something left over at the end of the evening. Bacon, he says, was "a clever gambler", who "won some big lumps and lost some big lumps.

"I remember, one night, he won £15,000. I put some of it in his jacket and some in his trousers, so he wouldn't lose it.

"The following morning, he phoned and asked if I had the money. I said no, I'd put it all in his pockets. We searched all over the flat and couldn't find it anywhere. And then, a couple of days later, I came across it. He'd stuck it in a pair of old socks. He was so pleased, he gave me half of it."

Edwards's guileless good nature was recognised by others in the painter's circle. Sonia Orwell, the widow of George, and a close friend of Bacon, offered to teach Edwards to read and write. But she fell ill before they had the chance.

Stephen Spender was another of Bacon's friends who became deeply enamoured of Edwards.

"I think that if I knew him well I would become obsessed by him, and I can well understand loving him," Spender wrote, in a letter to Bacon, in 1988.

"Of course, it is seriously marvellous to be untainted by what is called education. It means he moves among real things, and not newspaper things."

"Steve was a lovely bloke," says Edwards, affectionately.

This letter from Spender is among a significant cache of documents that have been returned to the Bacon estate during the course of the litigation, and which provide a fascinating insight into the painter's friendships, affairs and his rackety personal life.

They include a cache of some 150 letters from such friends as Sonia Orwell, Hans Werner Henze, Peter Beard and the painter Victor Passmore, as well as numerous pleas for money from Daniel Farson, and a promise to return "the 50 quid you lent me" from Jeffrey Bernard. "Fat chance!" says Edwards with a laugh. "Jeff was terrible. I remember Francis once sitting in the Tate Gallery, signing books, and Jeff was there right beside him, trying to borrow money as he signed."

Clarke says that Bacon's death left Edwards "completely devastated". For years, the painter had told Edwards that he intended to leave him everything, but he was totally unprepared for the attention the bequest brought him.

"I remember him telling me about opening the curtains at Reece Mews and seeing the mews full of photographers," says Clarke. "To a shy person it was the ultimate nightmare."

Edwards retired to a remote area of the Florida Keys for a year, and then to Thailand, where he lived quietly in a house on the beach, spending his days fishing and walking.

But, after five years, he realised that he had still not received a full accounting of his inheritance. He approached Clarke, who in turn introduced Edwards to his lawyer, John Eastman - the brother of the late Linda McCartney - who initiated the action against Marlborough.

Edwards is reluctant to discuss the case, except to say that he is relieved that it is now over.

"All that John wanted," says Clarke, "was to do right for Francis.

"Francis left John very well looked after. And John was prepared to spend every penny he had in the prosecution of this litigation, win or lose."

The documentation retrieved as a result of the case will form a substantial part of the material for a comprehensive catalogue raisonne of Bacon's work that Edwards intends to commission, and will then go to the Francis Bacon archive at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

Edwards is also establishing a charitable foundation that will be devoted to the promotion and study of Bacon's work and life.

It is for other people, he says, to make an estimation of Francis Bacon the painter. He can talk only about Bacon the man.

"I think," he says, "that a lot of people misunderstood Francis. People get this impression of him as the bon vivant, the gambler, the drinker. That was part of it. But what people don't realise is that he was a very lonely, and shy man. But I felt warm with Francis and I think he felt warm with me."




Estate of Francis Bacon drops legal action against Marlborough

No evidence of blackmail, and video shows the artist satisfied with his gallery


By Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper,  February, 2002 



LONDON. The Bacon Estate has dropped its legal action against the Marlborough Gallery, just days before the full hearing was due to begin. Executor Professor Brian Clarke had initiated the case because of concerns that the London gallery and its Liechtenstein subsidiary had not paid Francis Bacon properly for his pictures, resulting in a loss which could have amounted to as much as £100 million. The Estate also suggested that Marlborough had “blackmailed” the artist to prevent him moving to New York’s Pace Gallery (The Art Newspaper, No.121, January 2002, p.3).

Last month the Estate said it was “pleased to announce that it has settled its litigation with Marlborough.” Both sides are paying their own legal costs, which altogether could amount to £10 million. It was also revealed that the Estate’s sole beneficiary, Bacon’s close friend John Edwards, 51, is suffering from a serious form of lung cancer. The Estate explained: “This settlement has been agreed, against this background and on the basis of Professor Clarke’s assessment of the merits of the case in the light of documents and witness evidence released by Marlborough in the latter part of last year.” The three-month trial, due to start on 18 February, was abandoned at a formal hearing on 6 February.

Marlborough was also delighted with the outcome. Gallery head Mr Gilbert Lloyd commented: “We are pleased that the Estate has finally accepted that the entire case is completely without foundation. The case was totally unsustainable. Contrary to the Estate’s claims, no paintings are missing, no fraud took place and there was no attempt at blackmail. The result of the action is that the Estate has needlessly wasted millions of pounds on legal costs.”


A key factor behind the dropping of the case was the question of evidence of the blackmail which is alleged to have taken place in 1978. Pace director Mr Arnold Glimcher, who had heard about the allegation at the time, believed that his source had probably been Michael Peppiatt, an art historian and close friend of Bacon. Initially Mr Peppiatt did not wish to become involved in the recent legal case, but last month he met Marlborough and told them that he had no knowledge about the alleged blackmail. According to Marlborough’s record of their meeting with Mr Peppiatt on 4 February 2002: “Neither blackmail nor any suggestion of blackmail was ever mentioned by Mr Peppiatt, Mr Glimcher or by Bacon [in 1978]. The first time Mr Peppiatt remembers blackmail being mentioned was in late 1999. The word was first mentioned by Brian Clarke when he was telling him of the various misdemeanours of which he suspected Marlborough.”

The Estate puts a different gloss on the situation. In a statement, it said that although Mr Peppiatt had no knowledge of blackmail, “there remains an unresolved conflict of evidence; Mr Glimcher is clear and detailed as to what he was told; Mr Peppiatt has made it plain that he could not have been the source of that information.”

Further evidence to support Marlborough’s argument that Bacon had been treated properly by the gallery came in the form of a video film made by Francis Giacobetti shortly before the artist’s death ten years ago. In the video, Bacon describes the system under which Marlborough sold his paintings, an arrangement with which he appeared satisfied. This evidence would have proved helpful to the gallery if the case had proceeded.

Future plans

Speaking after the claim had been dropped, Professor Clarke told The Art Newspaper: “We now intend to focus all the Estate’s resources in creative enterprises relating to Bacon rather than the time-consuming investigation of the relationship between artist and Marlborough.” To this end the John Edwards Charitable Foundation is being set up to advance the study of Bacon and his work. It is expected to be chaired by Professor Clarke. Although the Estate was valued at £11 million a decade ago (in paintings and other assets) and has since grown, millions of pounds were spent on legal fees. It is therefore possible that pictures may have to be sold to fund the foundation’s work in the years to come. The most ambitious project will be the publication of a catalogue raisonné of Bacon’s oeuvre. Professor Clarke has already identified eight art historians who might be a suitable editor, and a decision will be made shortly on who should lead the project. A book on the relationship between Bacon and photography is also expected to be commissioned later this month and other publications are likely to follow. Professor Clarke points out that the information which surfaced during the legal proceedings will “cause almost every book on Bacon to have to be reassessed in some ways.” The Estate, which owns a number of important paintings, has already had requests to participate in 14 Bacon exhibitions, including two major retrospectives planned for the next couple of years.

The difficult question now is whether the Estate and Marlborough will be able to work together. The Estate may need access to Marlborough’s photographs of lost and destroyed works for its catalogue raisonné. The gallery, on its side, will only have limited rights to reproduce Bacon paintings which it wishes to sell. In theory, the two sides would benefit from cooperation. However, relations between the Bacon’s Estate and his life-long dealer are now strained and it may be some time before they can work constructively together.




Buyers stampede for 'bleak' Bacons


By Martin Evans, The IndependentThursday 7 February, 2002



THREE PAINTINGS by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon sold for nearly £2m at auction last night. The three works were snapped up during an auction of post-war art at Christie's in London.

The bleak pieces have been described as demonstrating Bacon at his most existential and are good examples of the confrontational, angst-ridden style of the artist's later years.

His 1954 work, Man In Blue VII, was the earliest of his paintings up for sale and was sold for £707,750. It was the culmination of a series of pictures that Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, near the house of his lover, Peter Lacy.

Head, painted in 1962, depicts the head of a surgeon with a lamp strapped to it. Described as one of his darker works, it was completed in the year Lacy died and was sold for £311,750. 

The final piece under the hammer was titled  Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV, painted in 1963. It fetched £894,750, more than double the estimated price. It depicts the image of a man whose distorted face looks as if it has been beaten to a pulp. Bacon's reputation and standing have gone up markedly since his death in 1992, bringing higher prices for his work. His most valuable painting sold for more than £6m in New York last year.

The sale comes the week after Bacon's estate and his former gallery settled a long-running financial dispute.



Bacon paintings sold for £1.9m


BBC News Wednesday, 6 February, 2002



        Man With Glasses IV was bought for nearly £0.9m

Three important paintings by Francis Bacon have been sold for almost £2m at auction.

Christie's in London sold the works by the Irish-born artist as part of a £7.4m sale called Post-War Art on Wednesday.

Man In Blue VII, Head, and Portrait of Man with Glasses IV went under the hammer for a total of £1,914,250.

But in terms of price, they were eclipsed by the top lot, a bright canvas entitled No 15 painted by Russian-born artist Mark Rothko, which was sold for £1.65m.

The Bacon paintings are regarded by critics as great examples of his most existential and angst-ridden work.

Bacon's 1954 work, Man In Blue VII, was sold for £707,750.

The piece is the culmination of a series of pictures Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel at Henley-on-Thames, near the house of his lover, Peter Lacy.

Head, painted in 1962, the year Mr Lacy died, depicts the head of a surgeon with a lamp strapped to it. It was bought for £311,750.


Portrait of Man with Glasses IV, from 1963, was sold for £894,750, twice the expected price.

It depicts a man whose distorted face looks as if it has been very badly beaten.

Bacon was one of the last century's most successful artists, earning about £14m before his death in 1992.

Violence was prevalent in much of his work, reflecting the turbulence of his own life.

His relationship with Mr Lacy was punctuated by fights that often resulted in Bacon's canvases being vandalised.

A series of three paintings by Bacon of his long-time partner, John Edwards, sold for £3m in 2001, and Studies of the Human Body sold for £6m in New York last year.

In total, Post-War Art fetched £7.4m and included work by Erika Klein and Andy Warhol.


              Bacon worked for 30 years at his Kensington studio




Christie's Post War Art  6 & 7 February 2002
Inside Bacon's Head

by William Patton



 'Francis frequently slept on the sofa at my place underneath a painting he had given me, the small head of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead… Having slashed the larger [original] canvas… a friend persuaded him to let me have it… To my lasting shame and regret, I sold it when I was in my doldrums in Devon'.

So wrote Dan Farson, describing Head (Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1994, pp.251-52).

A Soho habitué and well-known television journalist, Dan Farson had met Bacon in 1951, beginning a long friendship that lasted until the painter's death. Head was painted in 1962, a remarkably turbulent year for Bacon. 

The opening of his momentous Tate retrospective had been overshadowed by the death of his lover, Peter Lacy, whose features haunt those of the surgeon in Head. Their tumultuous relationship was punctuated by fights, which often resulted in Lacy attacking Bacon's paintings. This violence was complicated by Bacon's complex enjoyment of a certain brutality in his relationships and trysts, a sado-masochism that constantly permeated his art, not least in the hulking figure of this surgeon.

Medical images often appear in Bacon's work, deriving from his impressive archive of pictures in books on radiography, disease and deformity but they are always imbued with violence. Bodies are shown bandaged and mutilated, pierced by syringes. An element of torture taints Bacon's use of the medical. In Head, the surgeon's headlight suggests interrogation rather than inspection.

The latent brutality implied by his bulk and distorted head is wholly detached from conventional images of doctors. Bacon's decision to take Head from a larger canvas intensifies this brutality. The surgeon bursts forth from the small painting, dominating its composition completely. This surgeon - possibly a unique figure in Bacon's œuvre - shows none of the healer's compassion. Instead he appears as an aggressor, a hybrid of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is the harbinger of horror, occupying a role usually reserved for Bacon's nightmarish zoomorphic Furies. 

The bodies Bacon depicted in his paintings tend to be those of victims or patients, but here the surgeon, as protagonist, stalks Bacon's psyche in all his Neanderthal glory. He is not merely the embodiment but also the cause of the 'human cry' that Bacon sought to capture in his art, what he once described to Farson as the 'whole coagulation of pain, despair'.

William Paton is a Researcher in the 20th Century Art Department at Christie's King Street, London.

Sale 6553, Lot 5
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Head, 1962
Oil on canvas laid down on card
Estimate: £300,000-500,000



Heir's illness ends the battle between Bacon's estate and his gallery


A High Court action brought by the estate of the artist Francis Bacon against his former gallery has been settled, lawyers announced yesterday.


By Steve Boggan & Terri Judd, The Independent, 02 February 2002


A line was drawn under one of the most acrimonious art wrangles in decades yesterday when Francis Bacon's estate and his former gallery opted to settle amicably.

In the end it was human frailty that averted the £100m High Court battle. The estate revealed that its only beneficiary - John Edwards, 51, a former pub landlord whom the artist treated "like a son" - is seriously ill with lung cancer.

The estate had sued Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd and Marlborough International Fine Art (Mifa), based in Liechtenstein, which had vigorously defended the action.

Bacon, one of Britain's greatest 20th-century artists, was represented by the international Marlborough gallery from 1958 until 1992 when he died in Spain from a heart attack, at the age of 82.

The estate took legal action, saying it was seeking a "proper accounting from Marlborough, so as to be able to establish that there was a fair balance struck between the interests of the gallery and Bacon".

Marlborough said it had enjoyed a "frank, close and mutually beneficial" relationship with the artist for 34 years.

A statement from the solicitors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer yesterday said: "The trial need not now proceed. Marlborough will release to the estate all documents still in their possession that belong to Bacon or his estate. Each side will pay its own costs."

The statement continued: "Professor Brian Clarke, the executor, was under a duty to investigate the concerns as to the relationship between Bacon and Marlborough, which he has discharged.

"It is with sadness that the estate has to announce that the sole beneficiary of the estate, John Edwards, has very recently been diagnosed as suffering from a serious form of lung cancer. This settlement has been agreed by the estate, against this background and on the basis of Professor Clarke's assessment of the merits of the case in the light of documents and witness evidence released by Marlborough in the latter part of last year as part of the litigation process."

Professor Clarke said: "I am glad that the litigation has settled. We are now going forward with our long-planned establishment of the John Edwards Charitable Foundation, which will be for the furtherance of the study of Francis Bacon and his work."

Gilbert Lloyd, the son of  Marlborough's founder, said it was pleased  to "draw a line" under the matter.

Sources involved in the settlement said: "Because of the length of time involved since Bacon died and since the litigation was begun, both sides were finding it extremely difficult to find evidence to back up their side of the claim.

"Coupled with that, when the news came that John Edwards was seriously ill it was decided that talks would begin with a view to reaching an amicable settlement. Since Mr Edwards is the sole beneficiary there seemed little point in entering into potentially acrimonious litigation. Each side will pay its own costs and both parties will walk away."

It is understood from other sources that no money will change hands as part of the settlement. This will be seen as a vindication of the Marlborough's claim that it had treated Bacon fairly.

On the side of Professor Clarke, it is understood there is considerable satisfaction because during the legal process a number of paintings were recovered and vast quantities of correspondence and documents relating to the life of the artist were handed over by the gallery that will interest art historians for generations to come.



Francis Bacon and Dealer Settle a Two-Year Suit Over Pricing 





In the eve of what could have been one of the art world's nastiest trials, the estate of Francis Bacon and the artist's dealer mutually agreed to withdraw a two-year-old case in England over whether the dealer had fraudulently earned tens of millions of dollars by consistently undervaluing many of Mr. Bacon's paintings.

Under their agreement, the estate and the dealer, Marlborough U.K. and Marlborough International, will each bear its own legal costs and be spared the risk of losing a bruising case and having to pay both sides' legal fees, which could have come to more than $15 million.

Also adding to the estate's decision not to go to trial was the fact that John Edwards, the sole heir, was recently found to have lung cancer.

"It was going to be a long, tough case," said John Eastman, one of the estate's lawyers. He said the estate's executor chose to conclude the case with the uncertain outcome among the uppermost things in his mind.

Mr. Bacon, who died in 1992, left his estate to Mr. Edwards, a reclusive character with whom he had a filial relationship. Over the years Mr. Bacon's paintings of distorted, anguished figures brought as much as $6 million at auction and made him one of Britain's most celebrated postwar artists.

The suit contended that Marlborough controlled the most minute aspects of Mr. Bacon's financial and personal life — to the point of paying his laundry bills and handing him spending money — and so could buy paintings from him at greatly reduced rates and quickly resell them for substantially higher prices.

Stanley Bergman, a lawyer for Marlborough, called the charges baseless, saying the estate "realized it was without merit."

Mr. Eastman said that the executor, Brian Clarke, is completing plans to set up the John Edwards Charitable Foundation for the study of Francis Bacon and his work.




Three Bacon paintings to be sold for £2m


By Matthew Beard, The Independent, 10 January 2002


Three paintings by Francis Bacon, including a portrait of a tortured-looking Peter Lacy, a homosexual lover, are expected to fetch up to £2m at auction in London next month.

Nearly 10 years after the death of Britain's finest post-war artist, competition is expected to be intense for Man in Blue VII, part of a series Bacon painted in the early Fifties with Lacy as a model.

The tension-filled portrait shows the subject in a dark suit, standing as though in the dock of a courtroom. Bacon emphasises his subject's vulnerability by ghostly vertical stripes in the background, which resemble cell bars.

The 60in by 42in (150cm by 105cm) oil on canvas is estimated to fetch about £700, 000 at Christie's on 6 February. A second, much smaller Bacon, a haunting and disturbing painting called Head and given by the artist to his friend, the writer Daniel Farson, in 1962, is estimated at up to £500,000. Farson, to his "lasting shame and regret", sold the painting in 1966 for £2,400 when he found himself "in the doldrums".

A third Bacon, Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV, painted in 1963 and showing a distorted face reminiscent of the nanny shot in the head in the Russian film classic Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, should make up to £400,000. It is being offered for sale by a private collector.

The Man in Blue portrait, for which competition is expected to be fiercest, was painted in 1954 while Bacon was staying in the Imperial Hotel, Henley-on-Thames, to be close to Lacy, who had a house in the Oxfordshire town. Fernando Mignoni, a Christie's specialist, said yesterday: "It is only fitting that a painting showing traces of the features of Lacy, with whom Bacon had a turbulent and at times violent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity.

"This is Bacon at his most existential, painting the whole angst and fragility of life."

Last year, three 1984 portraits by Bacon of another lover, John Edwards, fetched more than £3m at Christie's in London. The world record for a Bacon is $6.6m (£4.6m) for a 1966 portrait of a previous lover, George Dyer, who killed himself in 1971. Edwards met Bacon in 1974 and stayed with him until the artist's death. He was, like Dyer, an East End boy much younger than Bacon.

Next month, the High Court in London will hear allegations that Bacon was blackmailed into staying with the Marlborough Fine Art gallery in London. The Pace Gallery in New York offered to pay Bacon £50,000 a painting in 1978, but its owner, Arnold Glimcher, claimed that Bacon stayed with Marlborough after it allegedly threatened to stop his access to his Swiss bank account and expose him to higher income tax.

The court ruling will settle a £100m battle waged by trustees of the Bacon estate to establish exactly how much the artist was paid in his 34-year relationship with Marlborough.




Three Bacon paintings up for auction


Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent , The Guardian, Thursday 10 January, 2002


Three angst-filled paintings by Francis Bacon including an ominous portrait of his lover, representing a traumatic period in the artist's life, come up for auction in London next month.

Each is estimated by Christie's at under £1m, but could well soar far past that: the world record for a Bacon is over £6m, paid at a Sotheby's auction in New York last year, and a series of three portraits of his last companion, John Edwards, sold for just over £3m at Christie's in London.

One of the paintings, Head, the contorted image of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead, was given as a present to his friend, the writer Daniel Farson. Four years later, in 1966, Farson sold it - in his own words to his "lasting shame and regret" - for £2,400: it is now estimated at up to £500,000.

Bacon's relationship in the 1950s with a former fighter pilot, Peter Lacy, was marked by fights which frequently became violent, and sometimes led to Lacy physically attacking Bacon's canvases. Head was painted in 1962, the year of Lacy's death.

A second small canvas was painted the following year, Portrait of Man with Glasses IV, and shows a face so distorted and apparently blood-spattered that it appears to have been beaten to a pulp: it is estimated at up to £400,000.

The painting expected to attract most interest is a portrait of Lacy himself, Man in Blue VII, estimated at up to £700,000. It was the culmination of a series painted in 1954 when Bacon was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames, to be near Lacy's house.

Christie's specialist Fernando Mignoni said yesterday: "It is only fitting that a painting that show's traces of the features of Lacy, with whom Bacon had a turbulent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity. This is Bacon at his most existential."

Bacon's reputation has continued to soar since he died in 1992 of a heart attack, leaving his entire fortune, then estimated at £11m, to John Edwards, a former East End barman.

His chaotic studio, often knee-deep in litter, has been treated as a shrine, and recreated in his native - but hastily abandoned - Dublin.






  London, King Street Sale Date Feb 06, 2002 


                                                 Head 1962 Francis Bacon


Francis Bacon (1909- 1992)
oil on canvas laid down on board
16 5/8 x 17in. (42.4 x 43.2cm.)
Painted in 1962

Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 British pounds

Lot Number 13 Sale Number 6553 

Literature: R. Alley and J. Rothenstein, Francis Bacon, London 1964, no. 205, p.148 (illustrated p.248).

Provenance: Daniel Farson, London. His sale; Sotheby's London, 14th December 1966, Lot 156 (sold for £ 2,400).

Painted in 1962, Head was a gift from Bacon to his friend Daniel Farson, a writer who would later become the artist's biographer. Speaking of the house in Limehouse that he owned between the mid-1950s and 1964, Farson wrote, 'Francis frequently slept on the sofa at my place underneath a painting he had given me, the small head of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead...Having slashed the larger canvas… a friend persuaded him to let me have it. Years later, when it hung above the fireplace in my home in North Devon, Henry Williamson, the author of Tarka the Otter, studied it in amazement. 'That man is a great artist!' he whispered, though he had not heard of Bacon. To my lasting shame and regret, I sold it when I was in my doldrums in Devon' (Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1994, pp.251-52). Farson had met Bacon in Soho in 1951, and they struck up a long friendship that would last until the artist's death.

The early 1960s were a crucial period in Bacon's career, especially the year that this work was painted. Bacon had recently signed a contract with Marlborough Fine Art, giving him both significant financial stability and increased exposure, and it was in 1962 that the Tate Gallery held the artist's first retrospective. The previous year Bacon had changed studio, moving to the mews that he was to use until his death. Despite all these positive aspects to his life at this period, the success of the Tate retrospective was utterly punctured by the simultaneous death of his lover Peter Lacy.

Death and violence often formed the backdrop to Bacon's life, and this translated forcefully to his art. In Head, the menacing hulk of the surgeon reeks with brutality. Bacon himself differentiated between the violence on and off the canvas, saying, 'I have been accustomed to always living through forms of violence - which may or may not have an effect upon one, but I think probably does. But this violence of my life, the violence which I've lived amongst, I think it's different to the violence in painting. When talking about the violence of paint, it's nothing to do with the violence of war. It's to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself' (Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.81). Bacon well remembered the atmosphere of suspense and latent violence in Ireland during his youth, when English and Anglo-Irish families like his lived in constant fear of death. This thread of violence continued in London through the two World Wars where he lived under threat of bombing and, importantly, witnessed the immediacy of the effects of the death and destruction wrought upon the people and the landscape - it is no coincidence that Bacon returned to painting during the Second World War. Likewise, violence played a large part in many of Bacon's relationships, especially that with Peter Lacy. Their fights were often brutal. Bacon's attitudes towards this violence were, however, mixed. Indeed, Bacon was known to enjoy suffering a certain brutality in his relationships. This was most obvious during his time in Tangier, where Lacy worked as a pianist and where Bacon would often be found, bloodied and bruised after an evening's tryst. This mixture of fear and guilty enjoyment mingles freely in Bacon's paintings. The violence of his imagery is mixed with an overt enjoyment of the sensuality of flesh, which he took great relish in painting. The smeared features in Head, the hallmark of Bacon's work, are redolent with a fleshiness that is obtrusive to the point of nausea. The very application of the paint shows an appreciation of the sensual, the materiality itself imbuing the flesh of this menacing surgeon with an awesome presence, perfectly condensing the 'violence of reality itself'.

The implied violence of the surgical theme was of immense interest to Bacon, whose paintings often contained elements filtered from books on radiography, deformity, disease and other medical texts. Bacon himself often told of buying an antique book on diseases of the mouth while in Paris. The book was filled with exquisitely hand-coloured illustrations which he found beautiful. Bacon saw this same strange, horrific beauty in car crashes and other sights packed with the mixed colours and contrasts death and destruction. This fitted with Bacon's fascination with violence, and especially violence wreaked upon the body. In Head, the surgeon, possibly a unique figure in Bacon's oeuvre, is depicted during surgery, wearing what appears to be a surgical robe as well as the light on his head. Usually when medical elements appear in Bacon's work, the subject appears to be the patient or victim - mutilated and deformed bodies people his paintings. The image here is all the more striking because it is the aggressor, the surgeon, an aspect complicated by the surgeon's role as healer. It is clear from other paintings by Bacon that the surgical processes and implements, represented by bandages, mutilations and hypodermic syringes and recalled in many of his works by the slab-like supports upon which his subjects often languish, were sources of little comfort to the artist. Each medical element in his painting screams of horror and torture. In Head, the light on the surgeon's head reminds the viewer more of interrogation than mere inspection. This Dr. Mengele ambiguity, the dichotomy between torturer and healer, cuts to the core of Bacon's life, and especially to his relationship with Peter Lacy. Indeed, traces of Lacy's features haunt this surgeon's face. The pair often fought intensely, and Lacy often destroyed Bacon's paintings in fits of rage, yet he also provided Bacon with great happiness.

While surgical features often appeared in Bacon's works, the surgeon himself is a theme of startling rarity. In many ways, he appears to be a rare, fully human manifestation of the Furies who often appeared in Bacon's paintings, embodying an abstract sense of guilt and violence. The Furies feature throughout Bacon's work, often taking strange, fleshy yet zoomorphic shapes. Here, Bacon has managed to translate this same animal brutality to the image of the surgeon. His thick, dark arms and sloping shoulders retain a sense of the simian. The surgeon's menacing, elongated head is portrayed using Bacon's hallmark methods of distortion, a means of intensifying the image and its reality. Bacon, in a televised interview with Melvyn Bragg, said that his work was a 'concentration of reality, shorthand of sensation' (The South Bank Show, London, 1985). By avoiding what he termed 'illustration' and disrupting actual shapes and sights, Bacon unveiled a subjective awareness of reality and horror. This is achieved both in his swirls of paint and the introduction of an animalism to the surgeon's body. As Bacon himself put it a few years after Head was painted, he aimed to 'distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance… I think that the methods by which this is done are so artificial that the model before you, in my case, inhibits the artificiality by which this thing can be brought back' (Bacon, 1966, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.40).

As Daniel Farson pointed out, Head originally formed part of a larger picture. Bacon himself cut the head and shoulders from the painting and, judging by the drawing pin marks, stuck it up in a place of choice for some time. Bacon was known for his almost whimsical destruction of canvases that he felt were inferior or that he had ruined. However in Head, whatever happened elsewhere in the larger composition had evidently not affected this section enough to merit its obliteration. Although Bacon seems to have spent little care or attention in the cuts themselves, nonetheless he salvaged this part, a testimony to the artist's own satisfaction. The haunting, stretched head has a peculiar and disturbing resonance intensified by its dominance of the picture's new smaller size. This intimate scale and close-quarters depiction of the subject cut to the core of Bacon's portraits in the present format. In retrospect, Bacon's decision to remove this section appears judicious, as increasingly in the early 1960s he espoused brighter colours and a stark but more expansive sense of space in his larger paintings while the smaller ones tended to retain this darkness and customary claustrophobia. Head is similar to these smaller works in appearance and effect. The dark background and looming figure of the surgeon pack the work with intensity, almost inducing an existential nausea with its very presence. Bacon's perceived reality finds a new strength in this small format, and Head becomes an icon to the horrors of existence.






  London, King Street Sale Date Feb 06, 2002 



                                                  Man in Blue VII 1954 Francis Bacon


Lot Title Man in Blue VII

Creator: Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Lot Description  Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Man in Blue VII
oil on canvas
60 x 42½in. (152.7 x 107.9cm.)
Painted in 1954500,000 - 700,000 British pounds

Estimate 500,000 - 700,000 British pounds


Man in Blue VII, painted in 1954, is the culmination of a series of pictures with the same title that Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames. Although to some it seemed like an unlikely spot for the artist to reside, Bacon spent a great deal of time in Henley during the 1950s in order to be close to his lover Peter Lacy, who had a house there. Lacy, in fact, appears to be the model throughout the series, as is most evident in Man in Blue V, where the subject, filled with confidence, confronts the viewer with an intense gaze reminiscent of a photograph of him relaxing in Ostia. However, in Man in Blue VII there is less confidence. The depicted man seems oppressed both by his background and his situation.

During the early 1950s, Bacon had begun to abandon the expressionistic, dreamlike images he had earlier produced, paintings filled with zoomorphic horrors. Instead, he took as his main subject the human form. His palette became superficially more reserved, with dark backgrounds, blues and blacks, dominating his work. Beginning with his reinterpretations of the famous Velazquez Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bacon explored tortured humanity on an intimate level. In them, the 'Pope' sat, screaming, eyes fixed on the viewer. From these evolved intense images of men dressed in suit and tie, sometimes bespectacled, usually screaming. Despite the superficial normality of the businessman as subject matter, Bacon was far from developing a respectable pictorial process - what he termed 'illustration' had no part in his work. Instead, he was exploring increasingly recognisable subjects that he could manipulate in order to harness the anguish so central to his work. Apart from the Popes, Bacon tended to use photographs of people he knew as the subjects for his paintings, preferring to work from stills rather than live models. However, he always disrupted the scientific certainty of the images of the photographs he used, explaining that, 'I don't think it's damage. You may say it's damaging if you take it on the level of illustration. But not if you take it on the level of what I think of as art. One brings the sensation and the feeling of life over the only way one can' (Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.43).

The Man in Blue took this system of representation to a new scale. The figure is at the centre of a far larger composition, giving a sense of oblivion to the bleak surroundings. Where other figures filled their canvases, here the subject is stranded at the centre of his, helpless. Although in Man in Blue VII the figure is not screaming, nonetheless there is a huge tension as he stands in his suit as though in the dock at court. This adds to the sense that the subject is a defendant, the prey; although Bacon deliberately leaves the nature of his ordeal unknown. Bacon has emphasised the subject's vulnerability with the introduction of the ghostly vertical stripes which resemble bars on a cage. There is a sense of confinement and imprisonment, but at the same time of complete negation, in that the figure appears absorbed into the nothingness of the background. In this final work in the series, Bacon has allowed the figure to be consumed by his surroundings - where he dominated the picture in Man in Blue V, now he is its victim. He appears disorientated, as though he is looking for some relief or respite from above infuses the painting with a sense of paranoia. The simple fact that there is nothing threatening within the painting except the atmosphere itself allows Bacon to imply that the predator, the source of menace, is elsewhere, not within the realm of the painting, but in the realm of the painter - the realm of the viewer.

It is only fitting that a painting that shows traces of the features of Bacon's lover, Lacy, with whom he had a turbulent and at times violent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity. Indeed, the suit is so crisp that the viewer is forced to wonder in part whether the subject is a victim in the dock or a dictator on his podium. The uniform-like suit gives an air of authority, and the pose mingles an impression of restraint - his hands tied behind his back - with a pose of confidence. The mangled features combine the sad eyes of the persecuted with an almost rabid mouth, the fanatical orator frothing with ferocity and enthusiasm. However, the almost disembodied torso that blends into the background, while making this character something of an eminence grise, also lends him an insubstantiality inappropriate to the wilful tyrant. In turn, this phantom-like appearance accentuates the pale face and flesh tones, which are pushed into relief by the chiaroscuro, the tiny spot of flesh almost phosphorescent against the dark. This is Bacon at his most existential, painting the whole angst and fragility of life.






  London, King Street Sale Date Feb 06, 2002 



                 Portrait of Man with Glasses 1963 Francis Bacon


Creator  Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Lot title  Portrait of Man with Glasses IV

Lot description Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of Man with Glasses IV
oil on canvas
14 1/8 x 12in. (36 x 30¼cm.) Painted in 1963

Provenance  A gift from the artist to the present owner.

Literature  J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 154, no. 220 (illustrated).
John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1985, p. 123.

300,000 - 400,000 British pounds


Painted in 1963, Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV was one of a series of four pictures depicting the same man at slightly varying angles. In the early 1960s, Bacon increasingly used small canvases to paint bust portraits, sometimes executing small series reminiscent in their variations of the sequence photography of his much admired Edward Muybridge.

Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV shows a distorted face looking as though it has been beaten to a pulp. The mangled glasses even have a spray of red, implying blood. The head looks battered and bruised. The glasses make this an image reminiscent of one of the most important sources of inspiration to Bacon, the nanny shot in the head in Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin, where the woman's twisted glasses are shattered, blood on her face, her mouth open in a scream. Of this film, Bacon said, 'It was a film I saw almost before I began to paint, and it deeply impressed me - I mean the whole film as well as the Odessa Steps sequence and this shot. I did hope at one time to make - it hasn't got any special psychological significance - I did hope one day to make the best painting of the human cry… it's much better in the Eisenstein' (Bacon, 1966, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.34). Here, Bacon has eschewed his quest for the human cry, instead presenting a haunting image of a beaten man. The dark abysses in place of the eyes create a skull-like effect, while the mouth, so detached from any scream, seems to show the man's resignation, his facial expression appearing as hollow as his eye-sockets.

The dark background in Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV pushes the flesh to the fore, as does the composition. The unpainted areas meld with the man's body and hair. Bacon often used contrasting thick and thin paints, heightening the almost plastic effect of the flesh, but here he has taken it to an extreme, the small areas of raw canvas adding both colour and texture to the painting. Using this technique on the hair and torso of the man serves to make the pallid flesh all the more striking, sensuous yet repellent. Portrait of a Man with Glasses: 'had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events, as the snail leaves its slime. I think the whole process of this sort of elliptical form is dependent on the execution of detail and how shapes are remade or put slightly out of focus to bring in their memory traces' (Bacon, quoted in The New Decade, New York, 1955, p.63.)



I wooed Bacon with Claridge's champagne but London gallery cheated me, says dealer


Steve Boggan, The Independent, Wednesday 28 November 2001


To most hungry artists, the offer would have been too good to refuse. Even to a wealthy Francis Bacon, sipping champagne at Claridge's, it seems to have been the answer to his prayers: a minimum of £50,000 per painting and a move to the books of the New York gallery that handled Picasso.

The offer was made in March 1978 by Arnold Glimcher, the influential Pace Gallery owner, at a time when Bacon, arguably the greatest British-based painter of the last century, is thought to have wanted to break from Marlborough Fine Art in London, the gallery that had pushed his work for the previous 10 years.

But Bacon did not go. Instead, he stayed with Marlborough until his death in 1992, a decision that baffled those close to him. Why he did not leave has remained a mystery. However, according to dramatic claims in what could become the most sensational legal spat the British art world has seen, the reason was simple. He was a victim of blackmail.

That is the allegation to be made in a High Court battle in February which, if proved, could make Bacon's estate up to £100m richer. On one side is Professor Brian Clarke, a friend of Bacon and the executor of his will. The professor claims Marlborough's then director, Frank Lloyd, asserted undue influence over Bacon, cheating him of millions of pounds and failing to account for up to 33 of his paintings.

On the other is Marlborough, the distinguished art house that claims it made Bacon famous and wealthy and dealt with his every whim with scrupulous fairness. Neither side has given ground in preliminary hearings since Bacon's estate launched a civil action against the gallery last year. But what no one expected was that a row over money and paintings would turn up allegations of blackmail.

The Independent reported three weeks ago that threats against Bacon had been alleged, but the full details of the allegations have only become clear since the judge, Mr Justice Patten, ruled that a statement by Mr Glimcher could form part of Professor Clarke's argument.

In it, Mr Glimcher alleges that Bacon was blackmailed by Mr Lloyd into staying with gallery.

According to High Court documents, Mr Glimcher said he had two meetings with the artist in London. "Bacon and I seemed to have an immediate rapport," he said. "By the end of the second meeting [also at Claridge's], we had reached an agreement on which we shook hand.

Bacon, Mr Glimcher said, was delighted with his promise of £50,000 a painting. But, suddenly, the artist pulled out.

Later, Mr Glimcher claims he was told by Michael Peppiatt, the respected art historian and author of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, about the allegations of blackmail.

Mr Glimcher said: "When Francis Bacon informed Frank Lloyd he was leaving Marlborough for Pace, Frank Lloyd told Francis Bacon that if he left Marlborough, Bacon would have problems accessing funds that Marlborough [had] paid to Bacon in Switzerland. I recall something that Bacon's sister was in a sanatorium of some kind. I was also told that there were threats by Frank Lloyd of income tax exposure.

Bacon, who had bank accounts at Dreyfus Soehne and Rothschilds in Zurich, was deeply in debt to the Inland Revenue. According to Professor Clarke, exposure would have left Bacon financially unable to care for his sister, Ianthe Knott, who was suffering from a degenerative disease in Zimbabwe, so he decided to stay with Marlborough.

In his statement, Mr Glimcher, who has been advised by his lawyers not to comment on the case, says he believes it was Mr Peppiatt who told him about the blackmail threat. Lawyers for Marlborough do not want Mr Peppiatt questioned until the full hearing in February. In another statement, however, Professor Clarke says that during a meeting in 1999, Mr Peppiatt said to him: "I suppose you will be wanting to know about the famous 'blackmail' conversation with Glimcher.

Mr Peppiatt has also been advised not to comment. It is understood he has expressed a willingness to co-operate fully with the court, but lawyers for Marlborough are unhappy that Bacon's estate has asked him to help compile a prestigious catalogue of the artist's work.

Marlborough's legal team is also concerned about the independence of Mr Glimcher. During a preliminary hearing several weeks ago, Michael Lyndon-Stanford QC, for Marlborough, pointed out that Mr Glimcher was a competitor of the Marlborough in New York. And he asked Mr Justice Patten to bear in mind that Mr Glimcher had acted for the estate of Mark Rothko when that artist had had a similar dispute with Marlborough in the 1970s.

Marlborough rejects the allegations. It said: "It remains Marlborough UK's case that a provisional arrangement was made between the Pace Gallery and Bacon (as evidenced by [a] letter of 4 March 1978).

"Bacon responded to that letter on 8 March 1978 stating that he had not made up his mind about whether to move to Pace Gallery and wrote again on 17 March 1978 stating that for the present time he had decided not to change his gallery in New York. Marlborough UK does not know why Bacon changed his mind, but would invite the court to infer that Bacon decided that it was in his best interests to continue to work with Marlborough.

That is something Bacon's estate disputes. It claims that dozens of his paintings may be unaccounted for and that he was paid only $40,000 (£28,000) for one series of lithographs when, in fact, many more than that were produced.

If the court case is successful, the recipient of any award would by Bacon's sole beneficiary, John Edwards, with whom he developed a filial relationship after the pair met in London in 1974. Professor Clarke says the primary purpose of the litigation is not to enrich Mr Edwards, but to establish a record of Bacon's work and to provide funds for research.

The judge is keeping an open mind as to the veracity of the allegations. "The court is only concerned at this time to filter out hopeless claims ... the blackmail claim does not fall into that category," Mr Justice Patten said in his judgment. "But that does not mean that it will succeed or that I have formed any view at all as to its truth.

Mr Lloyd cannot defend himself against the allegations. He died in 1999.




Artists' colony


How do you qualify as a member of the Colony Room Club? You either have to be talented or amusing - in fact, bores are barred. Now the infamous private drinking den, where artists from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst have partied for more than half a century, is holding an exhibition of modern art. 


By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2001


ART and alcohol have always made good bedfellows, but nowhere have they snuggled up so successfully and for so long as in Soho's notorious private drinking den, the Colony Room Club. Considering that its founder, the formidably camp Muriel Belcher, claimed to know 'fuck all about art', and that it has never been exclusively an artists' club, it is remarkable how, since its inception in 1948, the Colony has attracted so many British artists of renown. From Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud to Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, successive generations have made their inebriated way up and down the creaking stairs that lead to this small, dark, smoke-filled room in Dean Street.

And since the club's 50th anniversary in 1998, the rank of members and supporters has been swelled by a stream of thirtysomething British artists with big reputations. Next week these, together with a host of illustrious figures from other walks of life who have joined the club, are contributing to an exhibition curated by Michael Wojas, the club's proprietor, to celebrate a hard-won court battle over the lease. Apart from artists of the stature of Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, the twins Jane and Louise Wilson and Gavin Turk, the list includes rock guitarists Paul Simenon of the Clash and Anthony Glenn of Pulp, Swedish actress Amanda Ooms - shortly to be seen in Granada's The Forsyte Saga - and man-about-town and aspiring photographer Dan Macmillan, the 27-year-old great-grandson of former prime minister Sir Harold Macmillan.

So, what's the attraction? Is it something the barman puts in the drinks? Of course alcohol is the common bait. But, more importantly, it's who you drink with that counts. For members of the Colony this is something that is rooted in history. Had Francis Bacon not walked into the club the day after it opened and found someone as sympathetic to his plight as a poor homosexual artist than Muriel Belcher, the legend of the Colony might never have been born. And had the legend not been born, the club would undoubtedly not be what it is today.

This legend rests on the fact that Bacon, arguably the most significant painter of the post-war era, made Belcher's club his second home. 'At unproductive moments in his career,' writes Michael Peppiatt, 'he spent more time at her club than at Reece Mews [his home and studio]'. And where he went, others followed. In Michael Andrews's famous 1962 painting, The Colony Room, Bacon sits, holding court, with Belcher, Freud and the photographer John Deakin in attendance. Dotted elsewhere around the room are the writers Bruce and Jeffrey Bernard,  and the artist's mode; and sometime 'Queen of Soho' Henrietta Moraes.

To Bacon's magnetism, Belcher added a genius for selecting and entertaining not just artists and writers but also actors, gamblers, criminals, peers and politicians. As George Melly has written, 'She liked her members to be amusing or talented or rich, although she could be very kind to down-and-outs.' She knew instinctively who would fit in and who would not, thus giving the place a sense of exclusivity. Although she cultivated artists, she knew it would have been boring if it was just artists talking about art, and bores - except for very rich ones - were barred.

At the Colony rudeness became a cult. As the Hon Michael Summerskill put it, 'It was a place where the rules against slander could be suspended.' But under Belcher's successor, Ian Board, the cult reached new extremes. According to Melly, Board was 'a monster of aggressive, sometimes incoherent rudeness'. After Belcher's death in 1979, Bacon visited less frequently, and although artists continued to drink there, the club lost many of its regular customers.

When Board died in 1994, his mantle passed to the barman, Michael Wojas. A less bombastic, less confrontational character than his predecessors, Wojas quietly set about re-inventing the club. 'The place had such potential. I couldn't just let it drift,' he recalls. 'I didn't have a plan, but I consciously went out to clubs and private views to meet people and listen to their suggestions.' When new faces began to appear at his door he would 'get a feeling, take a chance and sign them in,' he says of the vetting process. 'It's something to do with their general state of mind. And the younger the better, so long as they're not total bores.' And if they are? 'I eloquently tell them to fuck off!'

For Wojas, the defining moment of regeneration came in 1998, when he conceived an exhibition by members to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary. For this he enlisted the support of former art dealer James Birch. Birch had been going to the Colony since the late Seventies and had introduced several younger artists, including Damien Hirst, who was to act as a catalyst for the club's fortunes in the way that Bacon had done. At his house in Clerkenwell, Birch designed the basement as a gallery, and agreed to host the exhibition there. Contributions were received from older-generation artists such as Patrick Caulfield and Barry Flanagan, younger bloods Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn and Tracey Emin as well as from singer Lisa Stansfield and fil mkaer John Maybury.It was, said Wojas, a sort of 'Liquorice Allsorts'. But its impact led to three years of unprecedented membership expansion at the club.



        Bacon was given a weekly 'salary' of free drinks at the art world watering hole in exchange for bringing in new customers


At the opening, Wojas was introduced to Sarah Lucas and complained that he was having trouble finding someone to help out behind the bar. To his surprise, she volunteered her services, adding that she would like to work on Tuesdays because, says Wojas, 'that was the night when most of the galleries held their private views, and she hated private views'.

What happened next, as many things in the club do, started as a joke. Lucas and fellow artist Abigail Lane hatched an idea that each would work behind the bar for one night with their respective boyfriends - the artist Angus Fairhurst and the singer/composer/DJ Paul Fryer. Then, when Hirst and his wife, Maia, decided to follow suit, the idea really took off with celebrity art-world couples queuing up to offer their services. From November 1998 until March the following year, Wednesday night became party night at the Colony as art dealer Jay Jopling and his wife, video artist Sam Taylor-Wood, Tracey Emin and boyfriend Matt Collishaw, Jane and Louise Wilson and even Suggs from Madness and his wife took a turn behind the bar.

Artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster worked behind the bar on one of those nights. 'You don't join the club,' says Webster, 'you just fall in. It's like a secret drinking hole. Not anyone can go there so it is sort of exclusive, but not in a snobby way. The night we worked there, we dressed up as Fred and Rosemary West. A lot of our friends came expecting free drinks, but they had to pay. The hardest part was working the till. It's like one of those saloon bar tills you see in westerns with big buttons. Instead of ringing up £10, you have to ring up £1 - 10 times.'

Since then, that till has finally expired and Wojas has acquired an old customised National Cash Registers till which is being cased in chrome. On the front a panel has been made in etched glass, and the keys are being decorated with coloured spots to match a Damien Hirst spot painting behind the bar. It will be unveiled at Wojas's upcoming exhibition.

Unlike most curated exhibitions of contemporary art nowadays, where an apparently disparate group of works is held together by the curator's underlying concept, this one holds no such pretensions. As Paul Fryer says, 'It's a bit like Peter Blake at the RA this summer. When asked how he had selected the artists he invited to show there he replied, "They are just basically people I like." '

Angus Fairhurst describes Wojas as 'a drinking curator', but while some of the work in the exhibition may have been inspired by drink, references to the Colony itself are not necessarily intentional. Dan Macmillan's photograph, Adolf Hilfiger, for instance, is 'about America and Tommy Hilfiger', he explains. 'It's part of an ongoing series I'm doing about Nazi imagery in graphic design work and the power of graphic designers in establishing corporate identities.' In the context, one is faintly reminded of Muriel Belcher's repeated references to the Nazi leader as 'Miss Hitler'.

Abigail Lane's inkjet print, The Inspirator, is something that could just have been inspired by an all-night session at the Colony, but apparently wasn't. In it, a panda (actually a busker she met on the Underground dressed in a panda suit) plays the trumpet in a forest. It's a slightly surreal vision of a fairground event swathed in the same Buckingham green colours in which the club itself is painted. Sarah Lucas has made a sculpture for the show that seems more specific. Smoked, 20 cigarette butts on wire coils extending from the neck of a hammer like the arms of an octopus, is not about drink but another of the pursuits of the Colony's members and 'the price you pay for it'. Gary Hume has chosen to show a previously unexhibited painting of Michael Jackson taken from a photograph in the Guardian during the singer's visit to Oxford earlier this year. Somehow Hume captures something of the essence of the club in describing the subject of his painting as 'both brilliant and tragic at the same time'.

Angus Fairhurst's collage, Proposal for a Monument can be read as a reflection on how the attitudes of the new generation towards the history of the club have changed. Without reference to anything specific, Fairhurst made a series of collages three months ago about the way things collapse under the weight of their own history. On the top of a building a sign reads: 'Delete All Memories'. Although the club still looks much the same as it always did, cluttered with memorabilia and gifts from artists, 'it is not a shrine' says Fairhurst.

'One thing that could have been a problem with the club is that Bacon's shadow hangs too heavily over it,' says Matt Collishaw. 'Michael [Wojas] gives people the freedom to get on with the present without getting tied into some heavy mythology.' The ghosts of Francis Bacon and Muriel Belcher may still linger, but they are rapidly being exorcised.

  • '2001 - A Space Oddity' runs from October 28 to November 16 at James Birch's A22 Gallery, 22 Laystall St, London EC1R 4PA



Absolute Arts

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"Francis Bacon"
2001-01-27 until 2001-05-13
Den Haag, , NL Netherlands


 Francis Bacon's work was first shown at the Gemeentemuseum during the 1964 New Realists exhibition. It was controversial, partly because it was deliberately figurative at a period dominated by abstract art. The exhibition led the Gemeentemuseum to purchase Paralytic Child (1961) with help from the Vereniging Rembrandt. Now the Gemeentemuseum is putting on a retrospective including all the most important works of this most fascinating of all post-war painters.

The paintings on view will include the famous series of Popes, his works based on Van Gogh, portraits of his friend and companion George Dyer and a large number of monumental triptychs, including one - Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion ('44) - which hasn't previously been lent out by the Tate Gallery.

Francis Bacon (Dublin 1909 - Madrid 1992) produced paintings which are neither abstract nor purely figurative. Interested as he was in the ability of bodily movement to express underlying emotions, he based his approach on film and photography. The work of Muybridge was a favourite source, but others included x-rays, portraits and self-portraits, photographs of dictators and books about diseases of the mouth. When painting portraits, he liked to have photographs of wild animals to hand, because one image can suggest many ideas for the other. Because of its rawness, Bacon's work is sometimes seen as violent. However, violence was neither his starting-point nor his goal. He wanted to reveal the deformed nature of the individual. By turning people inside out and literally getting under their skin, he tried to penetrate their individual personalities, to reveal their weaknesses and to make their mortality not just visible but actually tangible. He deliberately chose to do this in a hard-hitting, confrontational way in order to achieve an intensity which would shock the viewer and touch a nerve. His recurrent themes are the vulnerability of the human body, mental laceration and incarceration.

Bacon decided to become a painter at the age of eighteen, after visiting a Picasso exhibition in Paris. At first, his shows attracted few buyers and unanimously poor reviews. In disgust, he destroyed almost everything he made in this early period. His breakthrough came only in 1944, when he exhibited the first of his triptychs in London. By the time the MoMa bought one of his works in 1949 his star was already rising and his show the following year was a sell-out. Thereafter, his career really took off and the prices paid for his work sky-rocketed. His notoriously turbulent life alternated between 'the gutter and the Ritz' and was filled with hard drinking, heavy gambling and promiscuous homosexuality. At one point, his studio served as an illegal gambling den. He was engaged in a perpetual search for sensation, a constant high with no subsequent low.

Bacon's London studio in Reece Mews has recently been moved to Dublin by the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, leading to the discovery of a wealth of valuable documentary material. The photographs, background documents and drawings found there will now be exhibited for the first time. They provide an insight into the creative process underlying Bacon's paintings. Also two paintings previously thought lost and these will be displayed here for the first time ever. Particularly notable features of the exhibition will include items on loan from the Francis Bacon Estate, the Tate Gallery and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. The owners have announced that these works will not be loaned out again for some time because of their fragile state and high insurance value.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-colour 144-page catalogue published by Waanders at a price of NLG 39.95 (hardcover NLG 55).

Francis Bacon
Study for Portrait of Van Gogh IV, 1957


The show must go on


Critics may accuse the South Bank Show of sycophancy, but as it begins its 25th series, Rupert Smith finds Melvyn Bragg in buoyant mood


Rupert Smith, ,The Guardian, Monday October 1st, 2001    

Melvyn Bragg, or Lord Bragg of Wigton to his peers across the river, rules the LWT arts and features department from a modest office on the 22nd floor of the London Television Centre. From his desk he can see the House of Lords (where, perhaps, he should be sitting) through the spokes of the London Eye. For a man consumed with the idea of viewing high culture and popular culture through the same critical lens, it's an appropriate vista.

To prove a point, Bragg's back with a South Bank Show season that includes profiles of Norman Foster, Rachel Whiteread and Pedro Almodovar, and boasts commissioned work by Tony Harrison and Ken Russell. The showreel that accompanied the series launch features SBS highlights with Paul McCartney (composing a song called Melvyn Bragg in the first show in 1978), Francis Bacon, Woody Allen, Tracey Emin and Steven Spielberg.

Even more taxing was Bragg's encounter with Francis Bacon in 1985. "I'd known Francis since the early 60s, and I always wanted to make a film on him, but he wouldn't play. But then he went and made a film with an American director, which was not good at all. I went to see Francis and I read him the riot act. 'We make good films. This is not a good film! I'm outraged that you went with anyone else and you ended up looking like a pillock!' He just shrugged and said  'OK, do a bloody film then.' ..."

"Unfortunately, when it came to shooting the interview I'd just come back from a period of writing and not drinking at all up in Cumberland. I arrived at Francis's flat in Soho and he was pouring champagne for everyone. We drank that, then we went and had a proper lunch, then we reset the restaurant to do the interview and drank some more, then on to the Colony Club and then to a casino - my liver was like a trout leaping up stream. When I sobered up I watched the rushes and I thought he said some very good things. I knew I'd get slammed for doing an interview when drunk, but I decided to leave it in. Francis just said 'Oh, bugger them. Show it all.'..."



Burn, Bacon, Burn

Art Review: Letters

September 2001


Art critic William Feaver ("Should it stay or should it go?" Art Review, May 2001) is right to argue that we should torch Francis Bacon's studio and its contents. Reconstructing Bacon's studio in Dublin is like displaying Tut's Tomb sans cadaver. Bacon would have despised the idea of turning his chaotic studio into a peeping Tom's cabinet of curiosities.

In accordance with Bacon's wishes: "When I'm dead, put me in a plastic bag and throw me in the gutter" (Bacon in conversation with Ian Board from The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson) - it would have been more appropriate for the Dubliners to have placed empty champagne bottles, oyster shells, gambling chips, £50 notes and Bacon's bones in a black plastic rubbish bag. However, even in this respect, Bacon's last wishes were thwarted because he was cremated.

Alex Russell, London



  Peter Pollock: Obituary


     The Independent, 12 September 2001



                       Francis Bacon with Peter Pollock in Tangier in the 1950s


Peter William Pollock, restaurateur: born London 19 November 1919; died Tangier 28 July 2001.

Peter Pollock was a friend and supporter of Francis Bacon who in his fifties moved to Morocco and bought a restaurant, the Pergola, which became famed for serving the finest plate of swordfish and chips on the North African coast. Thirty-five of the art-works given him by Bacon formed, with four drawings given to Sir Stephen Spender, the bulk of the Tate Gallery's exhibition "Francis Bacon: works on paper and paintings" earlier this year.

Born in 1919, Pollock was part-heir to the Accles & Pollock empire – a Midlands-based and highly successful light engineering company co-founded in 1901 by his grandfather Thomas Pollock. In the 1950s the names Accles & Pollock were juxtaposed nationwide on massive hoardings, suggesting all manner of interesting spoonerisms – an innovative form of advertising considered quite racy in its day.

Spurning a possible "reserved occupation" career in light engineering, the young Peter Pollock was an eager volunteer for military service at the start of the Second World War. He gained a commission in the Gordon Highlanders and served, as a captain, both in North Africa and in Italy, where he was taken prisoner.

After demob, and despite his spending four humdrum years in a German POW camp, the idea of a career in Midlands light engineering seemed no more exciting to Pollock than it had done at the start of hostilities. Instead, he bought a farm in Flaunden, Hertfordshire, and took up the life of a gentleman farmer, combining a dairy herd with pig-farming, greyhound breeding and, in the lazy summer afternoons, idling through the leafy Hertfordshire lanes in his vintage Rolls.

Continually frustrated at what he considered to be his own lack of creative achievement, Pollock had an unquenchable passion both for the arts and the company of artists. Sundays provided open house at the Flaunden farm for painters, writers, actors and actresses.

A constant visitor was the then little-recognised painter Francis Bacon. Lacking a home of his own, Bacon enjoyed a come-and-go-as-he-pleased existence, both at the Flaunden farm and at a flat, overlooking Battersea Park in London, which Pollock also owned. Pollock allowed the young Bacon a rent-free life over the years 1955-61– a kindness which the painter acknowledged by leaving behind the occasional picture in unspoken payment.

Another young man whom Pollock took pity on and befriended – and who was destined to become his lifetime companion – was Paul Danquah. Danquah's father, J.B. Danquah, had been a minister in Kwame Nkrumah's government in Ghana, but a change in regimes had resulted in his temporary imprisonment. Paul Danquah, at that time studying for the Bar at the Inner Temple, was left unfunded. Pollock's generosity enabled Danquah to complete and pass his Bar studies – but the young Danquah, inspired perhaps by Pollock's artistic leanings, was temporarily to abandon his legal career when he was cast opposite Rita Tushingham in the Tony Richardson directed film of Shelagh Delaney's stage success A Taste of Honey (1961). (He was also to have parts in the Morecambe and Wise vehicle That Riviera Touch, 1966, and, as "2nd Exquisite", in the satire Smashing Time, 1967, written by George Melly.)

The fast life at Flaunden, slow greyhounds and an over-generous nature finally resulted in Pollock's selling up the farmstead and moving on. It was in the Colony Club in Soho, presided over by the redoubtable Muriel Belcher, that, with his artistic friends including Bacon and John Minton, Pollock had first heard tales of the exciting and exotic life that beckoned in Morocco. Upping sticks in the late 1970s, Pollock and Danquah set up home in Tangier, where notoriety was fast making Morocco fashionable.

Pollock acquired the Pergola, a bar and restaurant on the Tangier seafront, where word of the new owner's culinary skills soon spread. The "Flaunden set" of friends remained ever-faithful and followed Pollock and Danquah out to Tangier at holiday-times. John Lahr's 1978 biography of Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears, includes a photograph of the playwright with the Kenneths Halliwell and Williams enjoying themselves at the Pergola. Pollock's expertise in the kitchen was overshadowed only by his generosity of spirit. "No, my dear, I absolutely insist – this one's on me" might provide a fitting memorial.

Peter Pollock suffered a severe stroke in 1999, which left him an invalid. A second stroke, in July, ended his life.

The extent of Francis Bacon's gratitude for his mentor's hospitality came to light only a couple of years ago, when a suitcase, which had gathered dust for decades underneath a bed in a spare room at the Pollock and Danquah home in Tangier, was found to contain a hoard of the painter's early work. It was Peter Pollock's innate patriotism which ensured that those paintings were acquired by the Tate Gallery, rather than offered on the open market.


Tate Issue 26 Autumn 2001


Tribute:  David Sylvester


“Vermeer to bowl legbreaks,” said a gruff, deep voice at the end of the ’phone. It was around midnight one Sunday and it took all of a second to realise that it was David Sylvester completing a Great Artists’ cricket XI that we’d devised earlier in the week on a flight back from Edinburgh. The day in Scotland was spent looking long and hard at Giacometti’s work, for a radio piece; the telephone call was to discuss two tricky sentences in an article for tate about Cy Twombly, one of which likened a work by the American painter to a “soiled sheet after a wild night”. Vivid, visceral and succinct, as I told him, and perfectly judged, but you’re wrong about Vermeer. The argument continued for the best part of an hour. He cursed me a couple of times and then conceded that he’d think about it again. Here, it seems to me, is the essence of the man who was perhaps the most influential critic and curator in post-war British art: passionate, playful, profound, an individual who pondered everything deeply but was always prepared to reconsider.

Over the past decade, David wrote frequently for tate on a variety of subjects, from his masterly ‘Notes on Installing Art’ (which should form the basis of a handbook given to all young curators) to an interview with Rachel Whiteread considered by the artist as far and away the best she ever did. He also, of course, wrote about Francis Bacon, whose work he knew better than anyone but which he constantly re-evaluated. This February, four months before David died, I interviewed him about his new book on Bacon. He was still wrestling with the painter’s methods as well as how he ranked with other major figures in European art – less a cricket team than a wry cultural Olympiad. This all-too brief interview is published on page 80, while below are tributes sent to tate from some of David’s friends and rivals; critics, curators and artists whose understanding of his achievements are infinitely more profound than mine.

Five years ago now, in an early issue of the magazine, David experimented with the idea of re-reading Bacon’s work as if through the eyes of Matisse. Ultimately, he decided that it was a fascinating but flawed concept. His concluding sentences about Bacon’s broader creative approach, though, might well have been written about David Sylvester himself: “Bacon takes a variety of things and incorporates them into a mixture in which their separate identities are glimpsed, more or less changed, sometimes changed hardly at all, but which has a perfectly individual style. It is very like what Eliot did and a consummation that could have happened only in our own age because it depends on our unprecedented breadth of reference. Fragmentary memories of many times and places, of many myths and styles, are brought to mind, some clearly, some vaguely as we look. It seems that all human history is present. The poignancy is that those echoes from the store of common experience are brought to us by a voice that is utterly personal and singular.”

Tim Marlow


Nicholas Serota
David Sylvester was singular in his ability to focus with great intensity on whatever issue was at hand. He was always deliberate in his judgment and gave equal weight to the choice of a painting for an exhibition, a word in a sentence, the juxtaposition of one work against another, or the right wine for his guests. Nothing apparently minor escaped his attention.

Rachel Whiteread
He was an extraordinary interviewer, the best I have ever encountered. He was charming, a little flirtatious and was a great enabler. He led the conversation in a wholly direct way, but picked up on things that others didn’t see. He had the ability to generate an intimacy that made the whole process of talking about art a great pleasure.

Anthony Caro
He was a person of gravitas and authority. You felt that everything he said and wrote had been seriously considered. For me, his genius lay in the shows he curated and hung. For example, after seeing a show of Picasso’s late work at the Guggenheim, I had concluded that in his last days Picasso had lost it, but the “Late Picasso” that David presented at the Tate (1988) completely changed my view. His Bacon exhibition in Venice was superb. David had a point of view with his shows; he was saying something and made them work visually and intellectually. In a way he was like an artist; putting up a great show is an art.

John Berger
David Sylvester considered me his bête noire. I think that is an oversimplification. It is quite important to consider there were quite a number of things we agreed about. We were both among the first newspaper critics to recognise Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. We both greatly admired Giacometti but wrote different things about him. We disagreed about Francis Bacon, but disagreements are healthy.

I thought he was an extraordinary curator. He had a precision and care for detail, and had a sense of the whole œuvre of an artist’s work. His installations were almost like landscapes. He was a good writer. He struggled towards maximum precision and clarity and succeeded. He also had the spirit of a great collector; his attitude was that of the connoisseur who believed in the act of collecting as helping the artist.

Grey Gowrie
David was above all a writer rather than a critic. His subject was art. Like Ruskin or Henry James, he explored the way in which a visceral response to things seen translate into language. It is an impossible task. As Beckett might have said, David failed better than anyone else. He was a man easily elated and easily downcast but always an enchanting companion. He was one of my closest friends, and where the visual arts were concerned, my guru. My celestial dinner party would include Francis Bacon, Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor as well as David. Thanks to him I have enjoyed it on earth.

Anthony David Bernard Sylvester,
art critic and curator, born 21 September 1924, died 19 June 2001



"Bacon's got the guts"


Damien Hirst on Francis Bacon


In the final extracts from his new book of interviews with Damien Hirst, Gordon Burn asks the bad boy of British art what he really thinks about the other major talents of his time. These conversations between Burn and Hirst are extracted from interviews that took place over a period of eight years, beginning before Francis Bacon's death in 1992:


Gordon Burn  The Guardian  Monday October 8, 2001 


Gordon Burn: Why do you think Francis Bacon is good?

Damien Hirst: He's the best. There's these two different things, painters and sculptors. And Bacon is a painter. He doesn't... It's not about your ability; it's about your guts, on some level. And Bacon's got the guts to fuck in hell.

You see it in the 1940s paintings. I remember looking at a newsreader painting at that exhibition he had in Venice. It was just a head, like a newsreader. You go up to it and it's, like, the ear is made of oil paint, but it's almost like a relief. It's almost three-dimensional. You've only got to get oil paint and do an ear, and you paint over it three or four times and it starts to be raised off the canvas. It's like you managed to stick a fucking ear on.

There's a painting he's done of a guy cross-legged, and he can't paint baseball boots. But he doesn't pretend he can. That's why he's brilliant. He paints a baseball boot to the best of his ability, and it's totally naked and clean, and it's right there in your face, and you go, "This is a painting by a geezer who totally believes, and it's everything he says it is, and whatever his aim is, he's achieving much more than that." It's totally laid out in front of you: no lies, no doubt, nothing. And he's a different kind of painter, and he came from nowhere.

Is it just a story that he [Bacon] went to see the fly piece at the Saatchi Gallery before he died?

No, I know he went. He mentions it in a letter [he wrote]. It just goes, "Hi, blah blah I'm not feeling well blah blah it was great to see you the other day. Just went to the Saatchi Gallery and saw this show of new British artists. Bit creepy blah blah. There's a piece by this new artist" - I don't think he mentions my name - "and it's got a cow's head in it and a fly-killer and loads of flies and they fly around. It kind of works." It kind of works! Like: "Nice toilet upstairs. It kind of works." Fantastic.

When he was there I got a call from Jenny [Blyth] at the gallery. And she said, "I don't know if this is interesting to you, but Francis Bacon's here, and he's been in front of your piece for an hour." Honestly, I got a phone call that said that. It was a bit embarrassing. I didn't know what the fuck to say. I dismissed it, but I understand why he could have liked it - dead fucking flies. So I dissociated myself from it as an artist and just thought of it as a spectacle, and quite liked it.

In the interviews with [David] Sylvester, he talks about killing cattle in a slaughterhouse being like crucifixions - the closest you could get to a crucifixion. It would be possible to put forward the view that you are systematically going through Bacon's images and obsessions and giving them a concrete existence.

I am definitely. I am definitely systematically going through it.

How do you rate Freud against Bacon?

You look at Lucian Freud, and Lucian Freud's an infinitely better painter. But you can just see why he shits himself while Bacon's alive. Because he represents something just so fucking enormous that Lucian's incapable of.

You mean that Freud's technically the better painter?

I'm not saying that. But I am in a way. But it's a sigh of relief from Freud when the cunt dies. I mean, Lucian Freud, without Bacon, would be the best painter we've got. But he's not. He's shit next to Bacon. And Bacon can't paint, and Freud can. What's going on?

So what makes Bacon the better artist?

Because he'll go right out there on the edge of the cliff and he'll stand there and he'll put his arms in the air with his shirt off in India without his passport and go, "Come and get me, you cunts!" D'you know what I mean? And no one can get him because of it. He doesn't falter. He doesn't fail. And it doesn't matter he's a homosexual. Everybody wants to do that, and can't. All everybody ever wants is somebody to represent that, that "come-and-kill-me".

The Hockney-Caulfield generation of English painters grew up reacting against what they saw as the horrible dull greys and sludgy browns of Sickert, and against everything Sickert stood for. The references were always painters and painting, weren't they, until about 25 years ago? Have you always reacted against a painter?

Well, you're always reacting against something. I grew up in a situation where painting was considered dead. But I had a massive desire to be a painter. Not an artist. Not a sculptor. I wanted to be a painter. Not a collagist. The idea of a painter is so much greater than the idea of a sculptor or an artist. You know: "I'm a painter." It's one on one, mano a mano, you on yourself. But the thing is, painting is dead. It didn't work. For me, Bacon is the last result of the great painters. He's the last painter. It's all sculpture after that.

Hirst on Jackson Pollock

Pollock's greatness is supposed to lie in his naked display of angst and emotion.

Yeh, but he covered it up with that whole fucking charade as well. The Americans, they always do that, don't they? It was guaranteed it was going to look pretty, do you know what I mean? Whatever he did. He didn't go up there and wriggle. He wasn't a worm on a hook. He admitted he hid behind his work. And he was the best of the gestural Americans. The great big Americans. But Bacon does it better, because he smashes right through.

When you compare Bacon to Pollock, Pollock starts to look like he's producing logos. When what's really happening is he's scrabbling about in this void which has been created by photography, between abstraction and figuration. That's the truth of it. But the moment he gets there, it starts to look like logos.

© Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn
These are edited extracts from On The Way To Work, by Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, published by Faber and Faber on October 22, priced £25. To order a copy for the special price of £21, plus first-class p&p, call 0870 066 7979.



Twisted Sister




Friday 17 August 2001



                               Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion   1944  Francis Bacon                        


Francis Bacon was one of those brave artists who dared to use the raw materials the twisted and beautiful dark parts of his imagination. Consequently his paintings of fractured faces and dissolving flesh haunt and cause parts of our own, usually dominant, conscience to stir.

The new exhibition of his work, at Sheffield's Millennium Galleries, comprises paintings and drawings loaned from the Tate and other UK Galleries, and has as its focal point three triptyches  painted in 1944, 72 and  88.  The savage imagery depicted in the earliest, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, sparked outrage when it was first displayed after the Second World War. The exhibition runs until September 23 at Millennium Galleries, Sheffield. Tel: 0114  278  2600



Francis Bacon Millenium Galleries
Rating: ****

Robert Clark, The Guardian,
Monday July 23, 2001

Sheffield's new Millennium Galleries do Francis Bacon proud. Here, just as the artist intended, his cast of naked wrestlers, drunken contortionists and lop-headed harpies look perfectly well-groomed and dandified in their miserable predicaments. Despite the studied squalor of his studio, and the voyeuristic bent of popular opinion to view the artist as a purely impulsive genius, Bacon's existentialist angst was in fact tempered by the immaculate good taste of a highly sophisticated aesthete.

This selection from the artist's work looks its best set off against the gallery's polished marble floors, elegant scalloped ceilings and subtle, blind-filtered daylight.

Bacon was such an idiosyncratic painter that one can easily develop a tolerance to his initially breathtaking images. Yet it is an undeniable fact that he created some of the most memorable figurative pictures of the 20th century. And, in this setting, the formal transgressions of his images are easily as evident as their tendency towards expressionist sensationalism.

The flicks and slurs of white pigment that obliquely distort his portraits might be based on cum-shot porno stills, but they also serve to set off the delicate and vulnerable bloom of the pinkness of his unfortunate subjects' all too bruisable flesh. His Study of a Dog is a giant of entrapped wildness, spinning endlessly on its roundabout pedestal as miniature cars flash by in the distant background. The 1944 Crucifixion triptych, together with the Second Version remake of 1988, is perhaps the only really serious and convincing image on a Christian theme created in any medium over the past 100 years.

It's true that Bacon might not have finally achieved his ambition of equalling the transvestite grandeur of Velasquez's Pope Innocent X. His rabid dog might not approach the poignant quicksand of loneliness into which Goya's Black Period dog eternally sinks. Yet give Bacon his due: what other painter of our times could we even begin to compare to such epoch-defining names?

Until 23 September. Details: 0114 278 2600.



Francis Bacon's studio materializes in Dublin

An exact reconstruction of the artist Francis Bacon's London studio was unveiled today at Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery.    


By Eoin Burke Kennedy,  The Irish Times, Tuesday, May 22, 2001

The exhibit is the fruit of three years' work and is described as the most detailed and technically advanced archive of any artist's studio in the world.

The studio was donated to the gallery by Bacon's heir Mr John Edwards and cost some £3 million to relocate: this is not bad value when you consider a museum offered $3 million just for the studio door.

The studio on show has over 7,000 items including 80 works on paper, more than 1,500 photographs as well as books and some dramatically slashed canvases.

The newly designed gallery space housing the studio was the work of prominent British architect David Chipperfield. As well as the studio itself it also has an audio-visual room, an exhibition gallery and a "micro gallery" (or electronic tour).

The project involved cataloguing and removing the entire contents of the studio. It took a team of 10 archaeologists and conservators over three years. The original walls, floor, ceiling and shelves - as well as the famous wooden staircase - can be experienced.

The studio's original address, 7 Reece Mews, south Kensington, was Bacon's home and working space for the last 30 years of his life. The Dublin-born artist produced some of his most famous work in the studio.

The Gallery's director Ms Barbara Dawson said: "The acquisition of Francis Bacon's studio was a great coup and its retrieval and documentation has confirmed our suspicions - we have the definitive archive on Francis Bacon."

"The Gallery's innovative approach to retrieving and documenting the contents has resulted in the database of information which will be crucial in the critical analysis of Francis Bacon's work."

Dublin's Lord Mayor Mr Maurice Ahern who officially opened the studio said: "This remarkable cultural donation is the most important received by the gallery since it was established by Sir Hugh Lane in 1908."

Bacon was born in 63 Lower Baggot Street on October 28th in 1909 and is considered by many the most famous "English artist" of the 20th century.



Freudian quest for Bacon


A poster campaign has been launched to recover the stolen portrait


By Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper, 22 June 2001


LONDON. Berlin is being plastered with “WANTED” posters designed by Lucian Freud in an attempt to recover the Tate’s stolen portrait of Francis Bacon, taken 13 years ago. A reward of up to DM 300,000 (£100,000) is being offered and the hope is that massive international publicity may lead to the recovery of the Freud painting, which was seized from a British Council exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Although a very private person, Freud is personally backing the campaign because he wants this key work to be shown in his forthcoming retrospective. In his only comment to the press, he posed a polite request: “Would the person who now has possession kindly consider allowing me to show the painting in my exhibition at the Tate next June?”

Freud’s poster has a very simple design. Below the “WANTED” word in red is a black-and-white reproduction of the painting, since Freud does not want it depicted in colour until it is recovered, as a sign of mourning. Below is the main text in German: “For information leading to the recovery of this small painting, a reward of up to DM300,000 is offered. Please telephone +49 30 3110 9940. Calls will be treated in absolute confidence.” Nowhere do the names of Freud or Bacon appear on the poster.

The British Council’s publicity campaign was launched in Berlin on 22 June by visual arts director Andrea Rose, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and Peter-Klaus Schuster, director of the Berlin museums (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz). Posters are being placed on 2,200 sites and on 30 large circular kiosks in the German capital. The considerable cost of these sites and underwriting the reward is being met by two private donors (we understand that originally the scheme was to have been quietly funded by Gilbert de Botton, a former Tate trustee and Bacon collector, but he died last August).

Freud’s portrait of his friend Bacon is a very small work (18 x 13 cm), not much larger than a post card, and, unusually, it is on copper. It was painted in 1952, and was bought later that year by the Tate, making it a far-sighted purchase. The portrait was one of the star exhibits in Freud’s first foreign retrospective, organised by the British Council in 1987-88 and shown at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Hayward Gallery in London, with Berlin as the final venue.

The Freud was stolen on Friday 27 May 1988 from the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie in Potsdamer Strasse, in what was then West Berlin. It was taken when the gallery was open to visitors. Security that day was virtually non-existent, and we can reveal that between 11 in the morning and four in the afternoon there was not a single guard on duty. This astonishing situation suggests that either the crime was an inside job (with the thief receiving a tip-off) or it was an opportunist theft by a casual visitor who realised that the gallery had been left unguarded. The size of the Bacon portrait made this work particularly vulnerable.

Security at the Neue Nationalgalerie was at that time contracted to an outside firm and the gallery privately admitted liability to the British Council. The theft was briefly reported in the international press, but the Berlin museum, the Tate and the British Council made little effort to publicise the loss, mainly because of the embarrassment of the German side. An immediate decision was made to close the exhibition.






Obituary: David Sylvester  


DAVID SYLVESTER, who has died aged 76, was generally reckoned to be the greatest critic of modern art writing in English.


The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 20 June 2001


A notable scholar and organiser of exhibitions, Sylvester was also the author of the Magritte catalogue raisonne, which was to occupy him for more than a quarter of a century, and of the standard monograph on Giacometti. He was a leading authority on Francis Bacon and on Henry Moore.

Sylvester's extraordinarily smooth voice and polished literary style belied a waspish temperament. He could be as devastatingly critical about people as he was shrewd in his judgments on art. This led him into memorable confrontations, such as when Norman Rosenthal, the exhibitions secretary of the Royal Academy, spat at him and then burst into tears following an altercation over the hanging of the American Art in the 20th Century exhibition in 1993 - which Sylvester had condemned as "scandalous".

A man who provoked violent dislikes in some whom he crossed, Sylvester was also capable of inspiring great loyalty in those who worked alongside him. They admired his dedication and utter perfectionism and respected his formidable eye. A large bear-like man with a great presence, he could be a charming and witty companion, and, despite his rather prickly nature, an inspiring teacher at the Royal College of Art from 1960-70, the Slade (where he was Visiting Lecturer from 1953-57), and Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (1967-68).

A writer who could turn his hand to film reviewing or sports commentary, Sylvester had the gift, rare among art critics, of being able to explain the most difficult modern art in the most down-to-earth, comprehensible language.

One article which illustrated this vividly was Art of the Coke Culture which first appeared in 1963 in the Sunday Times Colour Magazine and was republished in his anthology of collected essays, About Modern Art (1996). Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs, wine and Coca-Cola, were brilliantly contrasted to highlight differences between contemporary European and American art, between the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein and what Sylvester called the "folk" art of Peter Blake.

Anthony David Bernard Sylvester was born on September 21 1924 into a family of Russian-Jewish silver dealers. He was educated at University College School, where a fellow pupil was Alan Bowness, later Director of the Tate Gallery.

Sylvester's interest in art was awakened at the age of 17, by the discovery of a black and white illustration of Matisse's La Danse which gave him "an awareness of the music of form" and showed him that art did not always have to tell a story. Following this Damascene conversion, Sylvester tried his hand at painting, but, discouraged by his efforts, turned instead to writing about it. In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph's Martin Gayford, Sylvester claimed that the critical impulse had come even earlier. "I went to see a football match when I was 10 or 11, Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion at Highbury," he recalled. "I came home and I wrote a report on it."

His first review appeared in November 1942 in Tribune. For three years he enjoyed a charmed life as a regular reviewer for the literary pages edited by John Atkins and, later, George Orwell, but he was to fall foul of the editor, Aneurin Bevan. His swan-song - ironically, in view of his later fame as an authority on the sculptor - was a review of a picture book about Henry Moore which appeared in 1945.

When Sylvester telephoned to complain that he had been paid so poorly for the article, he was told, tartly, that how much he earned depended upon how good the article was. However, Moore clearly liked the article even if the magazine's editor did not, because Sylvester was invited to visit Moore's studio in Hertfordshire and later spent a few months as Moore's part-time secretary.

The working relationship was terminated, according to Sylvester, "because we spent too much time arguing about art" and his secretarial input would seem to have been minimal, given that there is no surviving written evidence of his tenure in the otherwise very extensive Henry Moore archives.

Having turned down a place at Cambridge to read Moral Sciences, Sylvester set out for Paris in 1947, supporting himself through reviews and translation work while frequenting the studios of Brancusi, Leger and, above all, Giacometti, for whom he sat and who came to represent to the young critic "the saintly knight without armour who had come to redeem art from facility and commercialism."

Another beacon of inspiration was the work of Paul Klee, whose major retrospective in Paris Sylvester reviewed for Sartre's existentialist monthly, Les Temps Modernes. But, despite his admiration for Klee, Sylvester at this period had little sympathy for abstract art which he regarded as "incomplete art", or for the work of the American Abstract Expressionists whom he was later to admire.

When he returned to figurative painting, it was in particular to the work of Francis Bacon, with whom he was to conduct a series of memorable television interviews culminating in his book Interviews with Francis Bacon (1975). While embracing Bacon's brutal realism, Sylvester was careful to dissociate himself from what he regarded as the banality of artists such as John Bratby, memorably branded as "The Kitchen Sink School", and from the ideas of the critic John Berger, who championed their work but "was too much of a boy scout not to find Bacon a monster of depravity".

In a lecture given at the Royal College of Art in 1951, Sylvester called upon the students to embrace a new, more subjective type of realism, reflecting the fact that "modern man occurs in the consciousness of each individual". It was his own ability to put these sensations so vividly into words which made him such a sensitive critic of Bacon's work.

The return to England had brought a revival of his interest in Henry Moore, culminating in the first of a series of major exhibitions on the sculptor organised by Sylvester at the Tate Gallery in 1951. Further exhibitions were to follow in 1968, also at the Tate (with Joanna Drew), and in 1978 at the Serpentine Gallery, very shortly before Moore's death. The Tate also played host to important shows which Sylvester organised on Soutine (1963), Giacometti (1965) and Magritte (1969).

The Magritte exhibition led to the most taxing undertaking of Sylvester's career when he was invited to write the catalogue raisonne of the artist, which was published in 1992. It was a project which was to occupy him for a quarter of a century and which he was later to regret, partly because it diverted him from other areas of criticism, and partly because, despite his unrivalled knowledge of Magritte, he was not wholeheartedly in sympathy with his subject.

"The fact is," he later wrote, "that I spent years of my life, like Swann, on someone who was not my type." Despite this, he wrote about Magritte with great insight, concluding one memorable essay with an inveterate analysis of art: "If one looks at anything with the intention of trying to discover what it means, one ends up no longer looking at the thing itself."

His involvement with Magritte made him also a natural choice to curate the 1978 Hayward Gallery exhibition Dada and Surrealism, but, despite his interest in Magritte, he had little respect for that other pillar of surrealism, Salvador Dali, comparing the experience of looking at his work to attending a performance by Liberace - "one of the unhappy few squirming in the midst of an audience revelling in this oily message".

Despite his lifelong admiration for Moore and Bacon, Sylvester was otherwise rather out of sympathy with most 20th-century British art, which he saw as bedevilled by vagueness and a tendency to compromise.

Sickert was one artist who attracted Sylvester's most vitriolic criticisms, and he also wrote a brilliantly acerbic essay on that genteel establishment painter Sir William Coldstream, which contains passages reminiscent of Lytton Strachey. "A list of the honorary positions he held reads like something out of Gilbert and Sullivan," he wrote. "As some people are accident prone, so is he prone to attract official handles." The article concludes: "Looking at what was painted during the hours between committee meetings, one is at a loss to know whether, had he painted more, the gain would be more than quantitative." Surprisingly, Sylvester remained on good terms with the painter.

Sylvester was also an expert and avid collector of oriental art, particularly Islamic carpets. This bore fruit in the exhibition The Eastern Carpet in the Western World at the Hayward Gallery in 1983.

Other great enthusiasms were music - particularly jazz - films and cricket. He captained a team called The Eclectics and wrote cricketing articles for the Observer, where fellow contributors were A J Ayer and John Sparrow. His film criticism, which he started to write first for the magazine Encounter, was sufficiently distinguished to earn him the Golden Lion of Venice award in 1993.

Among his many official duties he was a trustee of the Henry Moore Foundation and the Tate Gallery, an adviser to the Arts Council and a member of the Commission d'Acquisitions at the Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne in Paris.

Perhaps the remark which best sums up his career was that which he himself made in a brilliantly illuminating essay about Matisse, the painter who first kindled his interest in modern painting. "He was a dandy amongst painters . . . one who took infinite pains to get a casual look." Sylvester was also a dandy by this definition, one who took infinite pains to get a casual look and his gift was to make the most difficult art seem easy and accessible.

He was appointed CBE in 1983. Sylvester married, in 1950, Pamela Briddon; they had three daughters. The marriage was dissolved. He also had a daughter with the novelist Shena Mackay.



Attentive to every detail of presentation: David Sylvester during the hanging of the Soutine exhibition at the Tate Gallery, 1964

Obituary: David Sylvester


Supremely sensitive critic and exhibition organiser who for half a century was Britain’s most persuasive interpreter of modern art


The Times, Wednesday, June 20, 2001

A discriminating champion of new painting and sculpture in the decades after 1945, David Sylvester might be said to have occupied a position in postwar Britain not unlike that of Roger Fry half a century or so before. He was, in his prime, the country’s most influential critic of modern art.

He lacked Fry’s polemical zeal, however, and his relish for the bold schematic view. But perhaps that reflected the two critics’ different situations. For where Fry struggled to promote modern art in the face of a fierce conservative hostility extending far beyond the confines of the art world, Sylvester found himself defending it in a culture where the new had long since lost its power to shock. His whole career testified to a stubborn, humane (and often forlorn) insistence that great art and great criticism were ideals still worth pursuing.

Like Fry, Sylvester had a connoisseur’s eye — not just an ability to see, but a remarkable willingness to look. It made him an acute and attentive critic. It also made him a notable organiser of exhibitions, beyond doubt the supreme curator of his day. Rigorous in selection, he took equal pains with the details of presentation, mindful that art’s impact owes much to the ways in which it is encountered. No one could hang an exhibition quite as he could.

Sylvester’s sympathies were deeper than they were broad (though actually much broader than his published writings suggest). The art that engaged him engaged him utterly. The five-volume catalogue raisonné of René Magritte of which he was editor and co-author was a quarter of a century in the making. The book on Giacometti that he published in 1994 was the fragmentary record of a critical encounter begun more than forty years before. The hundred or so pages of his published Interviews with Francis Bacon were distilled from a decade’s worth of talk, and more than a thousand pages of transcripts.

His best work was done in close-up. He got in close to paintings and sculptures, for the art he admired demanded active involvement from the viewer, rather than passive contemplation. And he got in close to the artists he esteemed, winning their confidence, sometimes over many years. But he could be firm in defending his independence against the claims of friendship, always ready to quarrel, if he had to, rather than compromise; and proximity brought him insights which a more dispassionate critic could never hope to match.

Anthony David Bernard Sylvester was born in Hackney, to parents who owned an antique shop in Chancery Lane and another shop selling silver. He grew up in North London, attending a prep school in Brondesbury where he once claimed to have received his only education, before going at 13 to University College School. At least, that was where he was supposed to go, but afternoon double bills in the cinemas of Kilburn High Road, or the latest jazz discs at Selfridge’s and HMV, held more appeal than lessons, and after persistent absenteeism he left school at 15 without matriculating. He spent a year selling gold and silver to jewellers, then, six years later, was offered a place to read moral sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, on condition that he belatedly sat the school-leaving examination. He duly sat it, and failed.

By then he was beginning to establish himself as an art critic. He had begun, in fact, at the age of 17, when a black-and-white reproduction of Matisse’s La Danse had inspired the jazz-loving teenager to see for the first time “the music of form”. He took up painting and drawing, and for a year went at it almost non-stop “eight or ten hours a day”.

He was aware, however, that as an artist he had “neither ability nor originality”, and it was perhaps with some relief that he turned to writing instead. His first review, of a drawing show at a London dealer’s in November 1942, was submitted to the Labour weekly Tribune. The piece was accepted, and marked the beginning of a regular association, mostly under the patronage of George Orwell as literary editor. The young critic found Orwell “infinitely kind”, but failed to win the approval of Orwell’s boss, the paper’s editor Aneurin Bevan, who apparently thought his style “heavy with Latinisms”.

Sylvester’s last piece for Tribune, published early in 1945, was a review of a book on Henry Moore. On the strength of it, he was contacted by the artist. Sylvester began to visit Moore’s studio in Hertfordshire, studying his work closely, and for a time even serving as his part-time secretary (“this had to stop because we spent too much time arguing about art”).

The relationship with Moore was based on a mutual respect and empathy strong enough to withstand quite serious differences of opinion. It set the pattern for Sylvester’s subsequent close and productive associations with artists such as Bacon and Giacometti. It also gave him his first opportunity to curate and catalogue a major exhibition — Moore’s retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1951. He organised a second Moore retrospective there in 1968.

During and after the war, Sylvester had seized what opportunities there were to see modern European art in London. In June 1947 he made his first trip to Paris, and during the next three years he returned there many times. He visited the studios of artists such as Brancusi, Hans Hartung, and Léger, regarding the time thus spent as compensation for the university education he had missed.

An introduction to the Parisian art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler brought him into contact with the circles around the influential Existentialist review Les Temps Modernes, edited by Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau- Ponty. Among those he met in this way were the painter André Masson; the avant-garde psycho- analyst Jacques Lacan; the anthropologist and compulsive autobiographer Michel Leiris; Leiris’s well-connected gallerist wife, Louise; and Alberto Giacometti.

At the time Sylvester regarded Giacometti as “the key figure in the