Francis Bacon News
Francis Bacon News
Paul Johnson was a man who never wrote a dull
sentence – or had a dull thought
BY STEPHEN GLOVER | OBITUARY | THE DAILY MAIL | THURSDAY 12 JANUARY 2023
With his Promethean energies and strong convictions, he might have walked out of the Victorian age. For more than two decades Paul Johnson, who has died aged 94, was a regular columnist on The Daily Mail, where he displayed the extraordinary breadth of his knowledge, as well as trenchant opinion, on all manner of subjects.
He was an exceptional columnist who created a sense of excitement whatever he wrote. Even readers who thought they might disagree with him looked forward to his next offering. He never penned a dull sentence, or had a dull thought. As well as being an intellectual pillar of the Mail, he wrote for many publications including The Spectator (where he had a regular column for many years); Forbes, the American magazine; and the Wall Street Journal.
He also produced more than 50 books. Nothing daunted him. He wrote, with equal authority, a history of the Jews and a history of the world. Biographical subjects ranged from Socrates to Charles Darwin to Napoleon to Jesus Christ. In a world of increasing specialisation, Paul Johnson’s fearless and restless intellect respected no bounds.
He was not always a man of the Right. As a young journalist he revered Aneurin Bevan, the firebrand of the Labour Left. Only in middle age, disgusted by the selfish behaviour of the trade unions, did he abandon the Left. Margaret Thatcher became his heroine.
Paul Johnson was born in Manchester into a devout Roman Catholic family, and remained loyal to his faith all his life. He was educated at Stonyhurst College, where Jesuits taught him the difference between right and wrong, and Oxford, where he read history. His father was an artist and the principal of an art school in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.
Johnson himself became a prolific watercolourist. He deplored most modern art, recalling that when he met Picasso the famous artist described himself as a ‘joker’. When the avant-garde Francis Bacon offered Johnson a free painting, he declined.
After Oxford he joined the Left-wing New Statesman, where he was a foreign correspondent, leader writer, deputy editor and, from 1965 to 1970, editor. During his editorship the magazine, then at the high-water mark of its influence, achieved record sales.
The political journalist Alan Watkins, who worked for Johnson at the New Statesman, described him in his book Brief Lives as the outstanding polemicist of his age. Watkins noted that, notwithstanding his ‘irascible manner’, he was a ‘kind man’ who ‘had a personal concern for anyone in trouble’.
Johnson’s iconoclasm was as much in evidence when on the Left as it later was on the Right. He railed against many aspects of the modern age, and in 1964 warned of ‘The Menace of Beatlism’.
Once he had embraced the Right with the enthusiasm of a convert, his many preoccupations included the importance of the Anglo-American relationship, standing up for the state of Israel, and championing Mrs Thatcher and her values. There was a strong moral quality to all his writing, informed by his religious belief.
He was probably more celebrated as an intellectual in the United States than in his own country, where some on the Left could never forgive him for being what they regarded as a political turncoat. In 2006 he received a personal medal from President George W. Bush for services to freedom.
In the scope of his interests, the strength of his beliefs and the energy of his intellect, Paul Johnson was in many ways an old-fashioned figure. His death leaves a vacuum in British life which may never be filled.
Paul Johnson, 1928–2023
‘Drawn from life: biography in British art history’
– a talk at London Art Fair
LONDON ART FAIR | APOLLO EVENTS | APOLLO MAGAZINE | THURSDAY 12 JANUARY 2023
On Thursday 19 January at 4pm, Apollo assistant editor Samuel Reilly will chair a panel discussion at London Art Fair, Islington, on the theme of British art and the environment – with panellists Peter Parker (writer), and Florence Evans (art historian, curator and director of Florence Evans Fine Art). Read more about the talk below.
Recent years have seen a proliferation of biographies published and monographical exhibitions staged on modern British artists. These have come both as a means of reassessing well-known figures such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon or Walter Sickert, and of returning attention to forgotten figures.
To an extent, this reflects a global trend towards the return of the biographical method in art history. But is there something in modern British art – with its neo-romantic tendencies and continued celebration of the figurative in the face of abstraction – that is peculiarly open to being read through the lives of its artists? How does it change our appreciation of the course of modern British art to think and write of Sickert, rather than the Camden Town Group, or Hepworth and not the St Ives School? How far does an emphasis on personality risk entrenching particular ways of looking at the work of artists like Freud or Bacon – and how far can it enable the possibility of broadening out the story of modern British art to encompass neglected voices?
Group portrait of painters (left to right) Timothy Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon,
Frank Auerbach, and Michael Andrews at Wheelers Restaurant in Soho, London (1963).
The makings of Francis Bacon – inside The Outsider
DOCUMENTARIES | VISUAL ARTS | CULTURE | RTÉ IRELAND | WEDNESDAY, 14 DECEMBER, 2022
Producer and Director Karen McGrath introduces The Outsider, her revealing new documentary about iconic painter Francis Bacon, hosted by U2’s Adam Clayton and premiering on RTÉ One this December. Not much was known about Francis Bacon’s early years in Ireland, bar he had a difficult relationship with his father, he lived largely in Kildare and he left the country at sixteen. Ireland was little more than a footnote in Bacon’s life.
In 2020, however, Dr Margarita Cappock, art historian, contacted me about a book she reviewed, released by the estate of Francis Bacon which published diary extracts by his friend and early patron Eric Allden. She realised the significance these diaries had to understanding Bacon’s time in Ireland – and that became the concept for our documentary Francis Bacon: The Outsider.
Having successfully pitched the idea to RTÉ’s Executive Producer for Arts & Culture, Aifric Ni Chianáin and the BAI, we set about producing a documentary which would go some way towards exploring the relationship Bacon had with Ireland, the land of his birth, thirty years after his death.
Given the importance of Francis Bacon’s legacy and the cultural influence he continues to wield, I felt that U2’s Adam Clayton – a man with an understanding of art and an admiration for Bacon since his early years – was the right person to present our findings.
Adam started the road trip from 7 Reece Mews in London, Bacon’s home and studio for his last thirty years (and now home to the Estate of Francis Bacon) before travelling to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and then to the West of Ireland, via Straffan Lodge in Kildare, and finally to Monaco where the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation gave permission to film their unique and extensive collection of Bacon’s early work.
Once we went into production, the journey used the diary as our guide and supported the theory that the relationship Francis Bacon had with Ireland was far more nuanced than previously written. As a filmmaker nothing can be more exciting than making a story that is a genuine journey of discovery. so well evident in the enthusiasm of our presenter, Adam Clayton.
Kevin Cooney edited the story, with brooding landscape and atmospheric shots by John Fay to reflect the themes of darkness and light. Original music from Gavin Friday and Michael Heffernan create an undercurrent of tension and pain redolent of Bacon’s work to cut with our footage of Francis Bacon’s work from the recent Man and Beast Exhibition at the Royal Academy, London and Tate Britain.
The documentary reveals how the Allden diaries cast a new light on Bacon’s early years. They offer an intimate account of Bacon’s 1929 tour across Ireland and unveil details of family dynamics, previously unknown work and glimpses into Anglo-Irish relations at the time.
Shrouded in mystery, partly of his own making, these diaries uncover an alternative account of Bacon’s relationship with his family and his childhood home.
The Outsider, RTÉ 1, Thursday 15th December at 10.15 pm – catch up afterwards via RTÉ Player
Francis Bacon, pictured on the streets of his adopted hometown of London
Lucian Freud at the National Gallery and
Friends and Relations at Gagosian
Nicholas Cranfield sees exhibitions for Lucian Freud’s centenary
NICHOLAS CRANFIELD | ART REVIEW | BOOKS & ARTS | CHURCH TIMES | 09 DECEMBER 2022
UNDOUBTEDLY the two greatest artists of the last century who came to dominate artistic representation in England and to reclaim figurative painting were rank outsiders.
Born to English parents in Dublin in 1909, Francis Bacon, like the younger German Lucian Freud from Berlin, was subject to a range of indifferent English boarding schools. Both men survived schooling, art college, and a succession of scandals and sexual adventures, although neither really fitted in, and both preferred to live and love along the boundaries.
In the second room of the National Gallery exhibition, which offers new perspectives on the younger of the two in his centenary year, we are privileged to come face to face with both, side by side. The self-portrait (fragment) of 1956 is larger (measuring 61 × 61cm) than the oil and charcoal sketch of Francis Bacon from the same period (35.5 × 35.5 cm). It is the very nature of the unfinished state which makes such a powerful statement. These could be fragments from the early Italian Renaissance or the wooden remains of Fayum portraits.
Freud has chosen to depict himself with his hands scratching his cheeks or maybe holding his face up. Bacon looks down, not addressing the artist and perhaps intentionally avoiding his interlocutor. It was never finished. Bacon shot off to travel abroad, but Freud may have intended to leave it non finito.
The Bacon may have served as sketch for the portrait that was owned by the Tate and stolen when it was exhibited in a British Council exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1988. Both painters had friends in common, many of whom were crooks and aristocrats. No doubt that hampered any attempt at finding the missing portrait long before the Berlin Wall came down.
At Grosvenor Hill, in Richard Calvocoressi’s staggering show for Gagosian, Freud and Bacon are reunited, together with Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews. They fell in and out of friendships, drank deeply at the Colony Room in 1960s Soho, and variously inspired, and sparred with, one another.
Two other portraits, which are in fact not paired together at Trafalgar Square but will be subconsciously linked by the viewer there, are much more widely known.
The first was the royal commission for a Diamond Jubilee portrait of Her Late Majesty the Queen in 2001. She made no secret that she did not enjoy being painted by Freud with honesty and invasive intelligence over nine sittings. While many of her opinions remain private, we understand that she quipped that at least he had not painted her in the nude.
The diminutive portrait of her head (23.5 × 15.2 cm) is simply about flesh. It is her face that commands, as the spectacular crown, rendered more directly, her earrings, and three ropes of pearls become accessories of little value. It is a profoundly intimate portrait of the unknowable and unknown monarch, and a hundred times better than so many commissioned daubs from her 70-year reign.
In the same Jubilee year of 2002, that other national treasure David Hockney (private collection) sat to the artist for more than 100 hours. His portrait head is hung next to that of the Queen. Instantly recognisable (even with his clothes on, unlike his earlier forays into film), it shows how Freud painstakingly worked to let all his subjects live and breathe.
The other portrait that will receive, if nothing more, a moment of esteem from a nation still obsessed with Diana, Princess of Wales, is simply entitled The Brigadier (private collection). It is in the final room at the National Gallery and commands the enfilade as visitors walk towards it through the seven galleries that, broadly chronological, cover seven decades.
Painted in 2003 or 2004, this depicts Andrew Parker Bowles with rather more on his mind than simply sitting for a portrait. The first husband of the Queen Consort is barely able to hold his military stance. He is seated in a chair, placed some four feet below the artist’s brush. Although he is wearing full dress uniform, it is unbuttoned, and he appears as if he is a roué, recovering after a night out drinking to console himself in the collapse of his marriage.
Freud is an artist who frequently came into the National Gallery, often outside opening hours, saying that it was “rather like going to doctor for help”.
He never acknowledged the debt that he paid to previous artists, although, in a wonderfully back-handed joking remark made to the then director of the National Gallery, after long looking at a landscape painting by Constable, he remarked that he had failed to appreciate how much Constable was indebted to Max Ernst. Constable died in 1837; Ernst, who inspired the young Freud in Berlin, was not born until 1891.
The 1993 self-portrait Reflection shows him standing in his studio full length. He is naked and brandishes a palette knife in his right hand and a palette is held in his left. The pose echoes Michelangelo’s Saint Bartholomew in the Sistine Chapel, where the martyr holds his attributes of a knife and his own skin. Freud never used a palette knife in his own painting, so this deliberately makes us look at flesh as life.
Although there are works on paper, including two early self-portraits of 1948, in which fronds of his hair are depicted like foliage in watercolour in the first room, and the graphite and pencil drawings of his mother, alive in 1983 and dead in 1989, hanging in sepulchral gloom in a shrine-like side room, the National exhibition of 64 works is principally one that is given over to oil paintings.
Thank goodness, as this is where Freud excels. The head of his friend Frank Auerbach, painted in 1975-76, or of one of his mistresses with a whippet in her arms (Double Portrait, 1985-86) speak volumes of paint and of flesh on a monumental scale, long before he began painting his oversized models, one the performance artist Leigh Bowery and the other a benefits supervisor, Sue Tilley.
It was Freud’s profound wish that a retrospective might be held in the nation’s premier gallery. The curator, his long-term friend and associate David Dawson, finally brings this to bear in the year marking the centenary.
There are many bons mots in what he claimed to be his inspiration, but he picked up on a line of W. B. Yeats, “Only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mind — sex and death,” a line he apparently used repeatedly.
There is a great deal of flesh as the oft-married artist took up with mistresses. Latterly, he enjoyed painting gay men and their lovers, but all are portrayed with the same generosity of observation which he had brought to his study of the Queen. We see, and indeed feel, the mischief behind much of Lucian Freud’s painting, but also the dedicated and deep introspective sense of an artist who engaged with his sitters.
Is Man in a Blue Shirt from 1965 (private collection, courtesy of Ordovas), his troubled portrait of Bacon’s lover George Dyer (1934-71), who took his own life, evading our glance? Are the studies of Leigh Bowery confrontational or redemptive?
In Bowery’s case, he had stripped naked when he entered the studio before Freud had even discussed how he might portray him. Certainly, there is a brashness of depiction; maybe that is what our late Sovereign Lady did not like. This National offers a majestic exhibition, and, if not all the essays offer new perspectives on Freud, it is the art of the century, and will show well in Madrid.
Seven other London galleries host significant centenary shows: Gagosian, Ordovas, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, and Lyndsey Ingram, as well as the Freud Museum and the Garden Museum, housed in the former church of St Mary at the gatehouse of Lambeth Palace, long since secularised, which gives visitors to the Archbishop one view of what the Church of England thinks of its built heritage.
At Gagosian, the sheer power of Freud comes out by comparison; his 1952 nude study of Henrietta Morales sitting in a Paddington window faces a Bacon triptych of the same model painted in 1969, each vying for our attention as we leave the first great room that holds Freud’s portrait of the owner of Wheeler’s restaurant, who brazenly knows he is successful, his studio window view painted 20 years later (1970-72) over a run-down Paddington mews, and the naked self-portrait, Interior with Plant, Reflection Listening (1967-68), canvases that each provoke an intense response and attention from the view.
Each show is a fitting tribute to this extraordinary artist who kept painting to the very end; the unfinished Portrait of the Hound is a sober reminder that ‘Art is long, life is short’.
“Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” is at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2, until 22 January 2023. Phone 020 7747 2885.
“Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews” is at Gagosian, 20 Grosvenor Hill, London W1, until 28 January 2023. Phone 020 7495 1500.
Francis Bacon, Head of a Man, 1960, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of Anglia, Norwich, in the Gagosian exhibition
Lucian Freud And His Circle Surveyed
In Two London Exhibitions
REVEREND JONATHAN EVENS | REVIEWS | ARTLYST | 1 DECEMBER 2022
In Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends and in a noted John Deakin photograph of Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in Soho in 1963, we see the group conviviality which underpinned the angst typically depicted in the work of these foundational School of London painters. While often discussed in terms of figuration versus abstraction, their work is also resolutely existential, with the mood engendered by much of Bacon’s work, in particular, being, in the words of the writer Sue Hubbard, “one of bleak isolation and violent angst … a paean to existential despair.”
While the Deakin photograph was posed and was rejected for publication at the time, it does, nevertheless, capture something of the depth of friendship enjoyed initially by these four, when, for example, Auerbach would see Bacon twice a week, and Bacon and Freud would be together all day when they weren’t working. Auerbach has described their conversations about painting, literature, gossip, and all things under the sun. Bernard’s images of Freud, Bella Freud, and Celia Paul show them playing the fool together in the studio in refreshing contrast to the intensity found in paintings such as ‘Painter and Model’, 1986-7, and ‘Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa’, 1989 – 1991. It’s worth noting that, in recent years, Paul has emerged as a Gwen John to Freud’s Augustus and that there’s a lightness in the photographs which is rarely seen in the artist’s work, perhaps appearing most fully in some works by Andrews. ‘The Colony Room I’, 1962, and ‘The Colony Room II’, 1962, however, while showing members of the group relaxing through their intense colours, distortions and expressive brushstrokes, inhabit the existential in ways not shared by the photographs.
The group also painted one another, while Freud, in particular, collected the work of each of his friends. At various times throughout his life, he owned paintings by Bacon. At his death, he owned sixteen by Auerbach and one small oil by Andrews. Portraiture sat at the heart of all their practices with images of each other and self-portraits found in Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews and Lucian Freud: New Perspectives. The National Gallery exhibition, for example, has ‘Michael Andrews and June 1965–6 and ‘Frank Auerbach, 1975-6, while the Gagosian show has two studies of Freud by Bacon. The exhibitions explore aspects of the camaraderie and interrelationships of these four painters whilst also highlighting the intimate relationships between artist and sitter, including artist and lover, partner, and offspring.
While figuration, existentialism, and portraiture remain significant strands within their work, the critical debate between them, within their works, seems to have been about distortion versus clarity and fine versus broad brushstrokes. Freud moves from his crisp, clear early style, which shows a debt to Neo-Romanticism, to a much more expressive use of broad brushstrokes, presumably somewhat influenced by Bacon’s distortions, Auerbach’s layers and Andrews’ mix of loose and tight passages of paint.
Bacon distorts his portraits to reveal the underlying existential angst found within, while Auerbach’s layers serve to suggest the subject’s presence more than their features. Both operate primarily in the liminal hinterland between figuration and abstraction. Andrews and Freud, while using abstract passages, remain more fundamentally figurative artists. Andrews’ use of looser and more tightly painted passages within the same painting is a way of indicating focus and creating atmosphere. Freud, who spoke of “wanting the paint to work as flesh does,” increasingly comes to paint flesh and how flesh forms and fails us as human beings.
The National Gallery’s exhibition is structured in five chronological sections, which are also thematic. In ‘Becoming Freud’ we see a move from an initially naïve expressionism to the crisp objective acuity, which led Herbert Read to describe Freud as the “Ingres of Existentialism.” The Gagosian exhibition ‘Girl in a Dark Jacket’, 1947, exemplifies this early style depicting Kitty Garman, Freud’s first wife and the daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman.
‘Portraying Intimacy’ frames his artistic development within the context of relationships with family and friends, covering similar ground to that explored in Friends and Relations. ‘Power and Death’ contrast Freud’s portraits of powerful individuals with his delicate and poignant chronicling of frailty in his own mother’s death, such as ‘The Painter’s Mother Dead’, 1989. Again, the two exhibitions overlap as, in the Gagosian show, we find ‘The Painter’s Mother Resting III’, 1977, an early entry in the series of portraits of Lucie Freud, which he began after the death of his father, Ernst Freud, in 1970. ‘Art and the Studio’ then focuses on Freud’s keen awareness of artistic predecessors and the role of the studio in his practice, with it presented both as stage and subject matter. His awareness of his predecessors enables his paintings to reflect aspects of the history of art astutely; couples hold hands in ways that remind of Renaissance friendship portraits; sitters clutch flowers in the manner of Hans Holbein, and interiors are informed by Surrealism.
His interest in the representation and materiality of paint also comes to the fore in this section. It is carried over into the final section, ‘The Flesh’, which brings some of Freud’s most famous large-scale naked portraits into this retrospective, among them ‘Painter Working, Reflection, 1993. Tessa Lord has explained that it was, in part, under Francis Bacon’s influence that “Freud adopted a more painterly approach, producing bigger and bolder brushstrokes as a result.” This change in style leads Freud to focus on flesh more than likeness and fuels his continuous examination of the surface of the human body, including his own, in old age. The Gagosian show, ‘Sleeping Head’, 1962, gives us a portrait that is more a depiction of the individual’s skin than of their likeness. Interestingly, this returns us to the ripples or waves of paint that non-realistically cross his face in an early ‘Self-portrait’, 1940.
Freud—in the centenary year of his birth—emerges as the group’s central figure in terms of maintaining relationships, painting group members, and collecting their works. Each painter was aware of the others’ practices to the extent of occasionally competing with one another. In his interview with Richard Calvocoressi for Gagosian, Auerbach said, “the basis of the association was a feeling that the others were worth contending with”, and yet he also “found Lucian quite exceptionally nice, an exceptionally sweet man, and a good friend, and very frank and honest and everything one could wish for in a friend.” Influence, he suggests, was more in terms of lifestyle and behaviour than painting. Yet, affect one another they did, whether reacting against aspects of each other’s styles as Auerbach says he initially did with Freud’s fine sable brush style or more positively as Freud when influenced by Bacon towards the use of more extensive and bolder brushstrokes. While their talk was about all things under the sun, their primary effect, one on the other, was on the marks that their brushes made on canvas.
Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends and Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, 17 November 2022 – 28 January 2023, Gagosian Gallery Grosvenor Hill
Queer icon and Francis Bacon confidante:
an interview with Maggi Hambling
She tells Art Basel about sharing a muse with the legendry artist and painting the dead
SKYE SHERWIN | INTERVIEW | LATEST STORIES | ART BASEL | THURSDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2022
When Maggi Hambling was an art student in 1960s London, visiting Francis Bacon’s exhibitions at Marlborough gallery was, she chuckles, ‘regarded as a bit of a dirty habit.’ The master of existential dread and tortured human meat was a ‘figurative painter when everything going on was Abstract Expressionism.’ ‘Of course,’ she adds, ‘it was fantastic paint.’
Hambling, famously, is not an artist who has ever toed the line when it comes to art world dictums. A Queer icon who lit up old Soho’s drinking dens and gay clubs, her five-decade career has been dedicated to expressionist renderings of people and places. She and Bacon were in many ways kindred spirits, both as bastions of figurative painting and in the social scene they sometimes shared. For Hambling, the connection is first and foremost material. ‘It’s the physicality of his paint,’ she says. ‘You can feel the sweat of his bodies and you can feel that they’re breathing. Mine is a very physical painting too.’
At Art Basel Miami Beach, Marlborough’s presentation of a selection of Hambling’s portraits of loved ones, animals, and seascapes alongside Bacon’s Man at a Washbasin (1989–1990), throws the crossovers and departure points for their projects into relief. They both speak to big, timeless themes like death and loss. The hulking nude before a skeletal sink against a grey void in Bacon’s painting revisits his first works of the 1950s depicting his former lover, Peter Lacy. A twist on art history’s many women at their toilettes, the bruised pink, disturbingly swollen flesh of this animalistic figure suggests both masculine energy and vulnerability, sex and violence. It’s less a painting of a person than angst made flesh.
Hambling’s portraits also conjure ghosts, but what fuels them is empathy. A case in point is Double Portrait (2001–2002), in which the face of her late lover Henrietta Moraes materializes from swirling serpentine brushstrokes. Though her skin is an uncertain tumult of smoky hues, her gaze is strong. ‘I try to paint the spirit of the person,’ says Hambling.
Moraes was herself a bridge between the two artists: this ‘Queen of Soho’ had been one of Bacon’s key muses in the 1960s. When Hambling first met her at a Boxing Day lunch in the late-1990s she says, ‘it was like being with a Bacon painting, but alive.’ In the nine months leading up to her death from liver disease, Hambling made many portraits of the woman she describes as ‘One hundred times more alive than anyone else in the room.’ These works continued after Moraes had died too, including a portrait of her in her coffin. ‘She looked absolutely furious,’ Hambling recalls warmly. ‘She was still very much “there”.’
While Bacon was concerned with death as a brutal reality, Hambling has painted actual deceased loved ones, beginning with her mother to whom death gave a ‘serenity […] It’s the last time you’re going to see them so it’s obvious to make drawings or paintings.’ The posthumous portraits in Marlborough’s presentation however have been created from memory. ‘They just come, years after the person has died,’ she says.
As a Queer woman Hambling has made her own alternative family, and its members are the subjects of these works. They include Arthur Lett-Haines, her friend and mentor who, with Cedric Morris, ran the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, a rural Suffolk art school, where the teenage Hambling first encountered Bacon in person. ‘People ironically called Lett “father” because he was rather frightening, though not to me,’ she says. Sebastian Horsley, the artist and well-known dandy who died of a heroin overdose in 2010, appears in a chaotic Egon Schiele-esque sweep of black and purple: ‘He always called me “mother”, and I called him my “wicked son”.’
As with Bacon, Hambling’s work upends heteronormative structures, including the dichotomy of male artists and female muses. Yet she doesn’t see identity as a useful vector for thinking about her art. ‘It’s a question of whether it’s any good or not,’ she says. ‘I agree with Picasso who said we are all partly male and partly female and you have to bring the whole thing together to make a work of art.’
Furthermore, she considers her paintings of animals and nature to be in the same vein as those depicting friends or famous faces. Her most recent subjects include the waves crashing on the Suffolk beach near her rural home, captured in paintings like Wall of Water VI (2011) – an ecstatic crescendo of icy spatters and churning darkness. ‘Every wave is different from the last,’ she says. ‘My paintings of them are portraits just as much as those of people.’
She recalls some crucial advice that her school art teacher once gave her: ‘The subject chooses you, you don’t choose the subject.’ Whether it’s Henrietta sitting for me or the waves, the subject has to dictate every mark that I make. It’s all a question of being a channel for the truth to come through me into the paint. The subject is in charge.’
‘Friends and Relations: Freud, Bacon, Auerbach, Andrews’
WRITTEN BY EDDY FRANKEL | LATEST LONDON ART REVIEWS | ART | TIME OUT | FRIDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2022
A bunch of lads getting pissed in Soho isn’t unusual, it happens every day. But the boozed-up fellas in the photo as you walk into this gallery aren’t your average louts, they’re some of the most important British painters of the modern era: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews, all chowing down, lighting up and getting the drinks in at Wheeler’s restaurant in 1963.
They were friends, drinking buddies and colleagues in art. The works in this exhibition show how they painted each other, themselves, their city and their world, carving four different paths through the artistic landscape of twentieth-century London art.
There are some stunning Bacons here. The triptych studies are gorgeous, especially the three visions of Henrietta Moraes as a mound of twisted flesh and jet-black hair. His image of Freud is all blurred, swirling chaos; John Hewett is pure abstract psychedelia. These little works are intimate, intense. The bigger works, including a splashy, splodgy reclining Freud, are more restrained, calmer.
If Bacon is all inner turmoil, heaving flesh and psychological intensity, then Freud is all skin, surface and full-frontal reality. His works are so much lighter and physically attractive than Bacon’s. He looms over his sitters, reducing them down to folds of skin and shellshocked eyes. His portrait of petty criminal Ted is an act of total domination, but his portrait of Moraes is all flat, light, foreboding sensuality.
So Bacon is inner life, Freud is all surface, and then there’s Auerbach and his endless tonnage of gooped paint. His portrait of a woman and her kids is caught in a haze of thick static beige. Gerda Boehm is like a pile of cream waiting to sludge off the canvas. It’s like he’s trying so desperately to hold on to these people, these places and memories, that he’s buried them in paint.
And then there’s poor Michael Andrews, who just can’t compete with his mates, not even close. He paints evenings at the Colony Rooms and a portrait of a woman in front of some steps, but his faces are a mess: they feel rushed, unfinished, poorly executed. He just can’t stand up to the painterly prowess of Bacon, Freud and Auerbach. That said, his painting of him teaching his daughter to swim in ink-black water is fantastic, as is the ghostly nude portrait of his wife, but they really are the exceptions here.
How lucky was London to have these lads doing their thing here for so long though? Decades of friendship, drinking, partying, and a little bit of changing the course of art history chucked in for good measure. Incredible.
Friends & Relations, Gagosian Gallery Grosvenor Hill, November 2022 Photo: Lucy Dawkins
The British painter who was bullied into obscurity
PETER PARKER | REVIEWS | APOLLO MAGAZINE | THURSDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2022
The name Denis Wirth-Miller is invariably coupled with that of his lifelong partner, Richard Chopping, and their close friend of many years, Francis Bacon. While Chopping achieved success and fame with the dust-jackets he designed for Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, and Bacon is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, the work of Wirth-Miller (1915–2010) has until recently remained little known. It has not helped his reputation that he and Bacon often worked closely together, at times pursued similar subjects and in a few cases, even seem to have worked on each other’s paintings. Instead, Wirth-Miller has been unfairly dismissed as a pale imitation of his sometime collaborator. It is good to report that a major survey at Firstsite in Colchester conclusively demonstrates that Wirth-Miller was not only an artist in his own right, but also a very fine one who deserves to be much better known.
Born in Folkestone, Kent, to an impoverished German hotelier and his English wife, Wirth-Miller showed an early talent for drawing and painting. He left school at the age of 15 and got a job in the design department of the Manchester textile manufacturer Tootal, Broadhurst and Lee. After a year he asked to be transferred to the company’s London office and set about joining the capital’s artistic and sexual bohemia. He moved into Walter Sickert’s old studio in Fitzrovia and dedicated his spare time to improving his skills as a painter. In 1937 he met Richard Chopping, who had worked for an interior design magazine, then embarked on a course in stage design. The two men entered a lifelong and notoriously combative relationship and became part of the Fitzrovian set alongside other queer painters such as John Minton and the Roberts Colquhoun and MacBryde. When war broke out they decamped to a small cottage in the Stour Valley, where they were befriended by John and Christine Nash. Among the earliest paintings in the Firstsite exhibition is Watercolour After John Nash (undated), while Stour Valley Landscape (1939) bears some resemblance to the work of Nash’s brother Paul.
Wirth-Miller then decided that both he and Chopping should enrol at Cedric Morris’s East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, where they did odd jobs in exchange for tuition and met Lucian Freud, with whom they briefly became close before experiencing the kind of major falling out that characterised the lives of all three artists. After leaving the school they became temporary house-sitters in a huge, run-down manor in Essex, ideally situated for Wirth-Miller to develop his skills as a landscape painter. While there they collaborated on a children’s book, Heads, Bodies and Legs, which became a huge success when it was published in 1946. They made frequent excursions to London, where in late 1944 Wirth-Miller (who always maintained he was set up by the police) was arrested for gross indecency and sentenced to nine weeks’ imprisonment.
The two men had meanwhile bought the Storehouse, a dilapidated but beautifully situated property on the banks of the River Colne at Wivenhoe. They moved in a few months after Wirth-Miller emerged from Wormwood Scrubs and lived there for the rest of their lives. The Storehouse provided Wirth-Miller with inspiring views to paint and their friends with a riparian Fitzrovia where they could carry on the kind of drunken revels they enjoyed in London. The most regular visitor was Bacon, to whom they had been introduced by the Roberts, and he more or less became part of the household, often working in the studio there. Wirth-Miller had by now begun exhibiting his paintings in London galleries with some success, and by the 1950s would shake off the influences of the Nashes, and of the Neo-Romantics, seen in the paintings he did of Welsh landscapes during the previous decade, to produce something entirely new both in vision and technique.
His landscape paintings are almost entirely devoid of human or animal figures, but at the same time he was also making intensely dynamic studies of dogs and other ‘beasts’, including crouching or wrestling men. Inevitably, these paintings have been compared with those of Bacon, notably by David Sylvester who in a review in the Listener declared that ‘an idea of Francis Bacon had been re-stated in a rather neon-lit way’. Though Wirth-Miller is often characterised as a disciple of Bacon, Andrew Wilson in his contribution to the excellent exhibition catalogue convincingly argues that the relationship between the two painters was more mutually dependent. Bacon frequently worked alongside his friend and discussed work-in-progress with him. Crucially, it was Wirth-Miller who first ‘discovered’ Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of humans and animals in motion, and who in 1949 introduced Bacon to images that had a profound influence on the work of both artists.
The two painters were also clearly drawn to the bestial nature of animals and human beings – the exhibition at Firstsite devotes a whole wall to Wirth-Miller’s studies from around 1953–54 of solidly muscular dogs, any one of which looks capable of seeing off Bill Sikes’ fearsome Bull’s Eye. Although some of these studies are derived from Muybridge, one wonders whether Wirth-Miller was also familiar with the many drawings of ferocious or down-at-heel dogs by Honoré Daumier, who was one of Bacon’s favourite artists. In a separate room Wirth-Miller’s paintings are hung alongside several by Bacon. Wirth-Miller emerges very well indeed from this juxtaposition – though it should be admitted that his case is helped by the inclusion of one of Bacon’s very worst paintings, the garish and slovenly Study for Portrait of Van Gogh VI (1957). While Wirth-Miller’s Study of a Dog in Movement: Leaping (1953–54) could at first glance be mistaken for a work by his fellow artist, not least because of its blue and buff background, the overall composition is very different from Bacon’s celebrated Dog (1952), which hangs near it. As with his caged monkeys, Bacon’s canines seem trapped – pacing a green circle in Dog, while cars speed by in the distance, or attached by a leash to a shadowy owner in Man with Dog (1953) – whereas Wirth-Miller’s freely walk, trot or bound along, their tails whisking behind them, apparently captured just as they are about to leap out of the picture plane. These paintings are all about movement, swirling brushstrokes skilfully mimetic of sheer animal energy. In Shaking Dog (1954), for example, white lines dashed all over the dark outline of the dog not only suggest water flying from a violently agitated pelt, but also the precarious stance and instability of the animal’s legs as it performs this action.
In the article already quoted, Sylvester stated that even in Wirth-Miller’s landscapes ‘a broad hint has been taken from Francis Bacon’, a suggestion that he does not elaborate upon and seems inexplicable unless motivated by simple malice. Small wonder that Wirth-Miller slapped the critic when he next encountered him, whereupon Sylvester punched him back, breaking the artist’s nose. Wirth-Miller was inclined to such confrontations, particularly when drunk (as he frequently was), but one can see why he was infuriated, especially because Sylvester’s summing-up on him as ‘an essentially derivative painter’ would stick.
In fact the landscapes to which Wirth-Miller largely devoted the rest of his career are not in the least derivative of anyone but instead highly distinctive. Several of the paintings in the exhibition depict the estuarine countryside of Essex, a local landscape of marshes and reed-beds to which he often returned as a subject, but he also painted other parts of East Anglia and made excursions to Dartmoor. Many of the Essex paintings show a flat landscape stretching away in layers of colour to a distant and largely featureless horizon, with the contrasting vertical stripes of reeds taking up the foreground. The occasional line of trees can be seen – bare-branched and painted with an etching-like delicacy in the beautiful Estuary Landscape Winter (1967–68), or in leaf and created from seemingly casual swirls of khaki paint in the bravura Reedbed with Small Wood (1959). The Dartmoor paintings similarly emphasise a wide horizon, with thin lines of carefully graded colour painted across the entire width of the canvas.
To appreciate the quality of these paintings, one really needs to stand before them, as they do not reproduce well. Photographs flatten their complex textures, fail to pick out their painterly detail and freeze the sense of movement that often characterises them. In Reedbed with Small Wood, for example, the background is painted in earthern colours so thinly that the texture of the canvas is visible, while the reeds are vertical lines that, though narrow, are made three-dimensional by the thick application of paint, so that they look like slivers of gathered fabric. A similar technique ingeniously and convincingly creates the lines and layout of the fields beyond. As for movement, Wirth-Miller based many of his landscapes on photographs he took at random through the car window while being driven by Chopping through the countryside. Three paintings of a country lane from the early 1970s give a remarkably vivid impression of speeding towards a bend in a road lined with high hedges and an overhanging canopy of trees, while lines smeared across Wet Evening Landscape (1962) evoke not only a heavy downpour but the ineffective sweep of windscreen-wipers. Weather plays a significant role in most of Wirth-Miller’s landscapes, which tend to be darkly brooding or subject to pelting rain and howling winds, beautifully conveyed. Thin, horizontal slashes of paint blur the dark green outlines of trees to suggest a gusty day, while dashed vertical lines all curving in the same direction become wind-bent grasses and reeds. The energy that has gone into such pictures is palpable, giving them an extraordinary immediacy. These landscapes do not belong to any gentle English pastoral tradition of painting but are instead thrillingly elemental.
While by the mid 1970s Wirth-Miller’s reputation as a painter had remained steady, that of Francis Bacon had reached giddy heights. Success had not improved Bacon’s bad behaviour, and in 1977 he drunkenly mocked and condemned as ‘rubbish’ the work his friend had assembled for an exhibition at the Wivenhoe Arts Club. Wirth-Miller decided that his career was over: he closed the exhibition, destroyed most of the work and hardly ever painted thereafter, though some pictures were included in a group show the following year. His paintings were never exhibited again until the year after his death, when the Minories in Colchester held a retrospective. Without his painting, Wirth-Miller found it hard to fill his days and he increasingly turned to drink. He and Chopping became famed less for their art than for their furious rows, which often took place at other people’s houses, making them unwelcome dinner guests.
Their declining years were increasingly grand guignol, but none of this should detract from their considerable achievement as artists. Chopping was given his due in an exhibition at the Salisbury Museum last year, and now it is his partner’s turn. Firstsite has mounted a survey of more than 100 works that more than justifies its size and makes Lucian Freud’s characteristically vindictive habit of referring to the artist as ‘Denis Worth-Nothing’ look very silly indeed. Most of these outstanding paintings and drawings are in private hands, and so this beautifully mounted exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see them – an opportunity that no-one who is interested in 20th-century British art should miss.
‘Denis Wirth-Miller: Landscapes and Beasts’ is at Firstsite, Colchester, until 22 January 2023.
Crouching Figure (1955–56), Denis Wirth-Miller. © the Estate of Denis Wirth-Miller
A Hack Has Revealed What Many Long Suspected: The Owners
of Auction Houses Are Also Some of Their Best Customers
After a leak revealed Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi’s extensive art purchases,
some say he should have disclosed them earlier.
KATYA KAZAKINA | MARKET | LATEST NEWS | ARTNET NEWS | WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2022
Sotheby’s sale of Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus for $84.6 million was a big deal in the art world in June 2020.
The pandemic lockdowns had just started getting lifted, but the state of the art market remained uncertain. Sotheby’s first-ever livestreamed auction—a masterful cinematic production viewed by thousands of people—sent a clear message.
“Tonight we redefined the boundaries of what is possible,” said Oliver Barker, the event’s auctioneer. The Bacon, the night’s top lot, was key to its success, accounting for almost a quarter of the sale’s total. It was the subject of a 10-minute “dramatic” bidding war between a “determined” telephone client of Gregoire Billault and an online bidder from China, Sotheby’s said at the time.
Artnet News reported last year that the winner was none other than Sotheby’s billionaire owner Patrick Drahi. Sotheby’s declined to comment at the time.
Any ambiguity surrounding that sale came to rest last week after The Art Newspaper revealed it was part of Drahi’s $750 million art collection, based on a cache of leaked documents that surfaced as the result of a hacking incident. Sotheby’s owner amassed more than 200 works of art, with at least 25 of them bought from the auction house between 2015 and 2022. (Drahi paid $3.7 billion for Sotheby’s in 2019 and took it private.)
Another significant work in his collection is Alberto Giacometti’s 9-foot-tall bronze, Grand Femme I (1960), that was consigned to Sotheby’s by billionaire Ron Perelman for a private sale in 2020. Estimated at $90 million it was offered in a “sealed bid” process, with submitted bids reviewed by Sotheby’s general counsel and an outside auditor.
“This is the bespoke sale for a very special work by one of the greatest 20th century artists, designed to both embrace the vast potential field of interest, but also to maintain the privacy that people desire,” Brooke Lampley, then Sotheby’s vice chairman of global fine arts, said at the time.
News of the hack tore through the art market like fire. One market player compared the situation to getting caught dancing naked in the middle of Art Basel Miami Beach. Another said “it was like eating popcorn at the movie theater.”
According to TAN, the French website Reflets published 10 articles in September based on the leaked documents, providing details on Drahi’s collecting and manoeuvres to pay lower taxes on acquisitions. The hackers demanded a €5 million ransom from Drahi not to leak at least 140 GB of data, TAN said. Drahi sued the publication, according to the newspaper.
“Mr. Drahi and his family have always paid all taxes due in respect of each related regulation,” Arthur Dreyfuss, CEO of Altice France, told Artnet News in a statement. “The documents that you reference are in the public because of criminal theft. We’re working closely with authorities on this matter.”
Aside from the curiosity and the gawking—and cringing at the hacking and blackmail—the revelation sparked a question. Is buying from your own business at publicly high prices tantamount to market manipulation?
“Nobody should be shocked by this,” said Todd Levin, an art advisor in New York. “If you own a sandbox, you can play anyway you want in it.”
A. Alfred Taubman notoriously bought at Sotheby’s when he owned it privately and later when he became the majority shareholder of the public company. This became evident when his estate was sold at Sotheby’s in 2015, with works by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, and many others previously purchased at the house.
Christie’s owner Francois Pinault is known for guaranteeing art at Christie’s, whether to build his collection or prop up a high-value artwork that may have no other buyers. One of these is said to be Roy Lichtenstein’s Nurse, which fetched $95 million in 2015 and remains the Pop artist’s auction record. The Russian owners of Phillips have done the same, according to people familiar with the company.
“To me, an auction house owner anonymously buying from their auction house can be market manipulation as it creates the appearance of more market appetite than there actually is,” said Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “But it’s not so dissimilar to guarantees. Both help prop up prices and project success to external audiences, mainly the public and the media.”
Not everyone agrees.
We find nothing wrong with auction house owners collecting art, in fact, we applaud it!” Josh Baer wrote in the Baer Faxt newsletter on November 14. “They ‘walk the walk and not just talk the talk’ about collecting art. However, as we have advised for years, we think when they succeed at auction (or in sealed bids, such as for the Giacometti), they should immediately reveal themselves as the buyer.”
Baer said that “the transparency would benefit both showing the truer market of the artists they bought, as well as be more honest as to the actual business viabilities of the auction companies.”
Francis Bacon, Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981). Image courtesy of Sotheby’s
Cache of leaked documents reveal Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi’s
$750m art collection—and his tax affairs
Billionaire businessman has amassed a treasure trove of more than 200 prime works of art,
many bought through his auction house
ANTOINE HARARI & GEORGINA ADAM | ART MARKET NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | FRIDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2022
In 2019 the French telecommunications billionaire Patrick Drahi stunned the art world by buying Sotheby’s for $3.7bn (Sotheby’s was sold to Bidfair USA, a company wholly owned by Drahi) and taking it private. Now Drahi is the focus of something equally headline grabbing—the surfacing of a cache of leaked documents concerning his art collection, following a ransom demand by hackers.
The documents provide details not only of Drahi’s collection, but also of the arrangements around his tax affairs, and the extent to which he and his advisors were optimising these. The Swiss online publication, Heidi News, has seen the documents and is publishing an investigation, as is the French newspaper Le Monde.
In September this year the French site Reflets initially published ten articles based on the hacked emails. HIVE, the name of the hackers, were demanding €5m as a ransom from Drahi not to publish at least 140GB of data about his collection and various communications from his tax advisors.
Three of Drahi’s companies brought a complaint against Reflet’s company Rebuild.sh in the Commercial Tribunal of Nanterre, France, in September, alleging breach of commercial secrecy and “troubling public order”. The tribunal ordered Reflets not to publish any new information but allowed the existing articles to remain online. An appeal is scheduled for the 23 November.
While Drahi was described as a collector at the time of his acquisition of Sotheby’s, very little was known about what he collected nor the extent of his holdings. However, the leaked documents reveal the extraordinary quantity of prime quality art he has amassed, over the last seven years, much of it bought through Sotheby’s. Picasso, Magritte, Bacon, Marc Chagall, Dubuffet, Giacometti, Léger, Vasarely and Kandinsky are just some of the authors of works he owns. The prices range from €76.6m for Alberto Giacometti’s Grand Femme I, 1960,to €6,700 for a ceramic piece by Suzanne Ramié. Estimates of the value of the holdings are well over €750m.
Among the major pieces belonging to Drahi are Pablo Picasso’s Femme Turc au costume dans un fauteuil (1955), valued at €27m, Amadeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne sitting in an armchair (1918), €71m, and Francis Bacon’s Triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschyluss (1981), €75.2m. There is another Giacometti, Femme de Venise II (1956-57), valued at €13.3m, and René Magritte’s Le domaine enchanté (V) (1953) acquired by private sale from Sotheby’s New York for $8.9m in 2020. Jean Dubuffet’s, La tasse de thé V (1966) was bought in June 2015 for $1.1m. Then there were two Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild paintings, one yellow, one red, with their prices given as $2.9m and $3.9m. Other works cited by Heidi News are Marc Chagall’s Crépuscule ou la maison rouge (1948), bought for $5m, and Fernand Léger’s Le corsage rouge (1922), $17m.
From Asia comes a Ye Liu, Leave me in the dark (2008), for €5.5m, and a large longquan celadon vase bought for €842,183.40. There is also a Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Madonna of the rosary with angels (1735) that cost €15.7m. But the vast majority of the collection consists of Modern and Impressionist art, from Barbara Hepworth The family of man, 12, purchased for €4.8m, to Egon Schiele’s Dammernde Stadt (1913), bought for €25m.
At least 25 works of art were bought from Sotheby’s between 2015 and 2020, according to another inventory, which contains handwritten notes in blue pen, noting where they could be placed in Drahi’s Swiss residences.
As a private company, Sotheby’s only publishes its sale results but not profits, but for the year 2020 its top lot was the Francis Bacon triptych bought at auction for $84.5m. It carried an in-house guarantee; until now the buyer had not been identified. The record price raises questions about how this price was achieved, and whether the buyer benefited from the terms of the guarantee. Such sales inevitably boost the firm’s reported sales figures.
Much of the collection was stored in the armoured warehouse of the Geneva freeport, in Grand-Lancy, beside the airport. While in the freeport they would not attract 7.7% Swiss VAT, but should they be moved into Drahi’s multiple homes this would be payable. For example, in the case of Drahi’s Zermatt chalet, works worth €65m were destined (according to what are thought to be Drahi’s handwritten notes) to be hung there, which would have attracted €5m VAT. His two Cologny houses were noted as possible destinations, too, for another €312m worth of art, potentially attracting €24m VAT.
He was advised by the Geneva tax advisors Oberson and Abel that he could rent the works from Before SA, which would enable him to get a refund of VAT. Another solution they suggested was a “temporary import”—permitted for two years, which could be prolonged for a third.
Oberson and Abel proposed to write to the Geneva customs authorities requesting exemption from VAT. Heidi News asked the Swiss authorities whether this proposal was accepted, but has not received a reply. The documents show Drahi’s advisors exploring the possibilities of his home being used regularly for business purposes, with works of art displayed as potentially for sale, or the creation of an adjoining gallery annex with some measure of public access, in order to reduce the VAT burden. There is no documentary evidence that Drahi took the Geneva firm’s advice, although they did write to the tax authorities along these lines.
According to Heidi and Le Monde, Drahi initially owned some 200 works of art through his Luxembourg-registered company Before SA, and because of this would not be liable for capital gains tax when he resold them or gave them to his children. However, this possibility changed in January 2022 when the European Union adopted a new directive, ATAD2 (Anti Tax Avoidance Directive), notably targeting Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Perhaps in anticipation of this change in regulations, a few months before, on 29 October 2021, ownership of the collection had been transferred to two companies in St Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean tax-haven, called Angelheart Ltd and Forever Ltd. The group was initially valued at €764m, but in order not to attract capital gains tax, the valuations were subsequently reduced. In March 2022 the valuations were revised and lowered to €717,023,825. When existing losses on other items were taken into account, no capital gains tax was due on the transfer. It is unusual for such a valuation to be carried out in-house, rather than by an outside, accredited expert. Professor Roman Kräussl, from the department of finance at the University of Luxembourg, commented: “You just cannot do this sort of evaluation internally, you need an independent, external specialist and preferably more than one. Otherwise there is such a risk of underevaluation which could lead to problems with tax.”
At the time of publishing, Drahi had not responded to questions from The Art Newspaper. He and his advisors did not respond to 31 precise questions sent by Heidi. However they did say: “Mr Drahi does not comment, confirm or reject allegations relative to his private life, to his children or his religion,” adding: “Mr Drahi and his family have always paid taxes which were due, in conformity with the applicable regulations in the countries concerned.”
The Francis Bacon triptych bought at auction for $84.5m. It carried an in-house guarantee; until now the buyer had not been identified. The record price raises questions about how this price was achieved, and whether the buyer benefited from the terms of the guarantee. Such sales inevitably boost the firm’s reported sales figures.
Astronomic total defies economic downturn
MELANIE GERLIS | THE ART MARKET | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | THURSDAY NOVEMBER 10 2022
Auction records tumbled at Christie’s New York on Wednesday night as the first 60 works from the collection of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen sold for $1.3bn ($1.5bn including fees). It was the biggest single auction haul ever and the first to break the $1bn barrier. All but one work hammered above $1mn — the cheapest was a 1922 oil by Paul Klee at $850,000 ($1.1mn with fees) — while three works hammered for more than $100mn, five once the auction house’s premium was added, in another auction first.
Top of the lots was Georges Seurat’s 1888 work “Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version)”, which sold for an artist record of $130mn ($149.2mn) over the phone to Xin Li-Cohen, Christie’s deputy chair and its liaison with China’s billionaires. Buying in the busy saleroom was dominated by high-power art advisers picking up works on behalf of their wealthiest clients. Overall, 20 artist records were made on the night.
Wednesday’s cream-of-the-crop auction — with hammer proceeds all going to charities — beats the likes of Peggy and David Rockefeller’s, whose collection totalled $835.1mn with fees in 2018. Much of the excitement of the Paul Allen auction was inevitable. Presale estimates had been set to at least $1.1bn and Christie’s had guaranteed to buy all the works, with 39 of the 60 subsequently backed by third parties who promise to buy at a minimum agreed level. Nonetheless, the astronomic totals will add more confidence to a market that still seems to defy the ongoing economic and political uncertainty outside of its bubble.
The works in the Christie’s sales, which by no means include everything that Allen owned, characterise him as a scattergun collector. The Microsoft executive, who died in 2018 aged 65, voraciously bought a broad range of artists rather than favouring any one style or period. He had a sentimental streak, and Christie’s catalogue notes some themes, including a penchant for Venice, where Allen’s yacht was often spotted. His Venice-based works on Wednesday included two Canalettos — one from around 1730, which sold for $8.8mn ($10.5mn with fees, est $5mn-$7mn) and a slightly later work that soared to $10mn ($11.8mn with fees, est $2.5mn-$3.5mn). Manet’s uncharacteristic, light-filled 1874 painting “Le Grand Canal à Venise” went for $45mn ($51.9mn with fees, est $45mn-$65mn) while Giacometti’s “Femme de Venise III” sculpture (cast 1958) sold for an above-estimate $21.5mn ($25mn with fees).
Most striking is the revelation of Allen’s dominance in London and New York auction rooms in the last 20 years of his life. He apparently bought directly and often picked up more than one work in a sale. On December 8, 1999, he bought three paintings from an auction at Christie’s in London. These sold well: Paul Klee’s “Bunte Landschaft” (1928), bought by Allen for £991,500, sold on Wednesday for $4mn ($4.9mn with fees, est $1.2mn-$1.8mn); Yves Tanguy’s “Un grand tableau qui représente un paysage” (1927), bought for £1.5mn — an artist record at the time — sold on Wednesday for $2.8mn ($3.4mn with fees, est $2.5mn-$3.5mn); while Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for Self-Portrait” (1979), bought for a mere £1.2mn in 1999, proved the best investment of the day, selling this week for $25mn ($29mn with fees, est $25mn-$35mn).
Lovers’ drunken brawl nearly cost Francis Bacon
an eye, diaries reveal
The spat and injury inspired Bacon to paint his violent
expressionist canvas Self-Portrait with Injured Eye
DALYA ALBERGE | CULTURE | ART & DESIGN | THE OBSERVER | SUNDAY 30 OCTOBER 2022
Francis Bacon feared for his sight in one eye and how it would affect his future as a painter after he was seriously injured in a drunken brawl with a lover in 1972, it has emerged.
Part of the evidence comes from the previously unpublished diaries of the late Denis Wirth-Miller, who was Bacon’s friend for 45 years, although their relationship was famously turbulent.
In April 1972, Bacon was holidaying in France with Wirth-Miller and his partner, Richard Chopping. In one diary entry, Wirth-Miller wrote: “F very neurotic, concerned over his left eye and a tendency to double vision.” In another passage, he added: “Francis strangely quiet and low, worried about his eye.”
The fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes, who was a close friend of Chopping and Wirth-Miller, through whom she met Bacon several times, confirmed details of the brawl in Bacon’s London home and studio.
Speaking to The Observer, she said she had been told the story by a friend who knew Bacon’s doctor: “[My friend] told me that Francis had had a drunken fight in his studio with a lover. Francis phoned the doctor because his eye was out. The doctor said, ‘you must go to hospital to have your eye put back’. Francis refused point-blank to go to the hospital because he didn’t want the publicity.
“The doctor went to his studio and, despite the filthy environment, sewed the eye back, saying ‘you must come to my surgery the next morning so that I can clean your eye properly’. Francis did that, and the doctor gave him a lecture that he shouldn’t drink so much. When Francis was just leaving, the doctor said, ‘you’ve left a package there’. Francis said, ‘No, that’s for you’. It was a painting.”
The incident inspired Bacon to paint the violent expressionist Self-Portrait with Injured Eye, 1972, which is said to reflect the desperation and loneliness he felt at the time.
Designer Jon Lys Turner revealed the contents of the diaries to the Observer. He has been transcribing them, slowly but surely, as they are part of a vast archive that Wirth-Miller bequeathed to him following his death in 2010.
Turner completed his masters degree at the Royal College of Art, where he was taught by Chopping. Both became his mentors and close friends. He recalls many drunken evenings with Bacon, who would drink his friends under the table in Soho’s pubs and clubs, painted his masterpieces while hungover and, late in life, claimed to have been “drunk since the age of 15”.
While Bacon is revered today as one of Britain’s foremost painters, Wirth-Miller is relatively unknown, although his paintings are in public institutions, including the Royal Collection.
Turner said: “Bacon would often open up to these two friends as they drove across Europe, or walked along the Essex coast, or painted together.”
But, in 1977, after a public spat with Bacon, Wirth-Miller destroyed some of his own pictures and virtually gave up painting. The friendship continued on and off until Bacon’s death in 1992, but it was never as close again.
Francis Bacon, Self-Portrait with Injured Eye, 1972
VISIONARY: THE PAUL G. ALLEN COLLECTION
PART I | 9 NOVEMBER | LIVE AUCTION 22010 | LOT 52
FRANCIS BACON (1909-1992)
Three Studies for
Three Studies for Self-Portrait
signed, titled and dated ‘ Three
Studies for Self-Portrait
Three Studies for Self-Portrait’
(on the reverse of each canvas)
triptych—oil on canvas
Each: 14 x 12 in. 35.6 x 30.5cm.)
Executed in 1979
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London.
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above, 1979, then by descent).
Anon. sale, Christie’s, London, 8 December 1999, lot 72.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
M. Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, 1971-1992, London, 2016, vol. IV, pp. 1174-1175 (illustrated in color, p. 1174, no. 79-02
Palma de Mallorca, Pelaires Centre Cultural Contemporani, Marlborough
in Pelaires, August-October 1990 (illustrated in color, p. 37).
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, The Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor 1955-2015, December 2015-February 2016, pp. 11 and 23.
Seattle, Pivot Art + Culture, A Closer Look: Portraits from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, December 2016-March 2017
Staging a triple encounter with his own visage, Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Self-Portrait is a vivid and visceral example of the artist’s celebrated self-portrait triptychs. Painted in 1979, its rich skeins of color and texture writhe and shimmer against a blazing orange backdrop, articulated in near-cinematic sequence. The work takes its place within the extraordinary, career-defining sequence of self-portraits that Bacon produced during the 1970s and 1980s: a period of tragedy and triumph that saw him push the genre into profound new territory. Following the devastating death of his great love and muse George Dyer in 1971, the artist had begun to stare his own mortality directly in the eye, pouring his grief and sorrow into powerful confrontations with his own likeness. Flickering with the spirit of Rembrandt, Picasso and others who charted the passage of life across their features, the present work is one of only seven self-portrait triptychs of this size painted in the 1970s: another from 1979 is held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with later examples held in the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Far from slowing down as he entered his eighth decade, Bacon continued to breathe new life into his practice. The present work’s rich and complex surface, in particular, bears witness to the thrilling array of techniques that the artist brought to bear upon his own countenance during this period. The spectral pallor of his flesh is layered with electric veils of blue and pink, their ribbed textures demonstrating Bacon’s use of his corduroy jacket as a printing material. In places, the paint is chalky like pastel; elsewhere, it is thick with tactile impasto. Amid the painting’s abstract strata and schisms, moments of clarity emerge: a strand of hair, perfectly defined; an ear, rendered in intricate detail; the curve of a lip or nostril; an eye, staring directly at the viewer. Though Bacon typically worked from photographs, he would also study his own face in the mirror, letting his stubble grow for several days and using pots of Max Factor pancake make-up to practise swirls and distortions upon his features. Here, this approach breeds three images charged with the very feeling of flesh itself, each arrested in living motion.
Far from slowing down as he entered his eighth decade, Bacon continued to breathe new life into his practice. The present work’s rich and complex surface, in particular, bears witness to the thrilling array of techniques that the artist brought to bear upon his own countenance during this period. The spectral pallor of his flesh is layered with electric veils of blue and pink, their ribbed textures demonstrating Bacon’s use of his corduroy jacket as a printing material. In places, the paint is chalky like pastel; elsewhere, it is thick with tactile impasto. Amid the painting’s abstract strata and schisms, moments of clarity emerge: a strand of hair, perfectly defined; an ear, rendered in intricate detail; the curve of a lip or nostril; an eye, staring directly at the viewer. Though Bacon typically worked from photographs, he would also study his own face in the mirror, letting his stubble grow for several days and using pots of Max Factor pancake make-up to practise swirls and distortions upon his features. Here, this approach breeds three images charged with the very feeling of flesh itself, each arrested in living motion.
Bacon’s self-portraits of the 1970s stand among the twentieth century’s most daring and poignant explorations of the human condition. Cathartic, mournful and near-obsessive in their spiraling iterations, they witness a giant of his time coming to terms with his own mortal transience. The decade saw Bacon acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest living painters, with major retrospectives at the Grand Palais in 1971 and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1975, as well as the publication of his landmark interviews with the critic David Sylvester. At the same time, however, it was a period of overwhelming loss. Though the artist had long been sanguine about life’s fleeting nature—declaring the earth a “vast lump of compost” and its inhabitants “potential carcasses”—Dyer’s death had plunged him into turmoil. The tragedy, which took place on the eve of Bacon’s Grand Palais exhibition, was a haunting reminder of the death of his previous lover, Peter Lacy, who had passed away shortly before the opening of the artist’s Tate retrospective in 1962. Around the time of the present work, moreover, Bacon had been deeply affected by the death of his close comrade and muse Muriel Belcher—founder of The Colony Room—whose passing marked the end of an era at his beloved Soho haunt. The deaths of his great friend Sonia Orwell, and his sister Ianthe, would follow in quick succession.
After years of painting his social circle, it was within this context that Bacon truly began to turn inwards. Self-portraiture had not been entirely absent from his earlier practice: his first attempt, dating from 1956, resides in the Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth, with other notable examples including a 1958 canvas held in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D. C., and an impressive large single panel of 1963 housed in the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff. In the aftermath of Dyer’s death, however, the act of painting himself became something akin to a compulsion: of the 53 named self-portraits within Bacon’s oeuvre, 29 were painted in the 1970s, many in tandem with the harrowing “black triptychs” produced in his lover’s memory. “I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’ve had nobody else left to paint but myself,” he explained. “… One of the nicest things that Cocteau said was: ‘Each day in the mirror I watch death at work.’ This is what one does oneself” (quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1975, pp. 129-133).
The present work takes its place within this remarkable outpouring. Among its companions are magnificent single heads held in the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the Musée Cantini, Marseilles, as well as large-scale canvases held in the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal. A profound sequence of works from 1973 depicts Bacon with a watch: a poignant memento mori, and a rare example of an illustrational device within his practice. In certain works, his form looms like a ghostly beacon in the darkness; elsewhere, he houses his body within a space frame or windowless interior, as if tormented by the trappings of the world. On occasion, Bacon would insert his self-portrait into just one triptych panel, featuring alongside Dyer and Lucian Freud in 1973, and as a painting within a painting in the late 1991 masterwork Triptych (The Museum of Modern Art, New York). The range of his self-representations was—and remains—staggering in ambition. “Feeling less constrained about pulling apart and recreating his own looks than he did with those of his friends and lovers,” writes Michael Peppiatt, “Bacon was at his freest and most inventive in his self-portraits” (Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait, London, 2021, p. 156).
Within this diverse output, the self-portrait triptychs occupied a particularly notable place. As a format, the triptych had fueled Bacon’s practice for more than three decades, aspiring less to the condition of grand narrative altarpieces than to the aesthetics of cinema. The triptychs “are the things I like doing most,” said Bacon, “and I think this may be related to the thought I’ve sometimes had of making a film. I like the juxtaposition of the images separated on three different canvases. So far as my work has any quality, I often feel perhaps it is the triptychs that have the best quality” (quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 232). Bacon famously described his visual imagination as a “grinding machine” into which images fell like slides: a process that found affinity with the films of Sergei Eisenstein and Luis Buñuel—among others—as well as the sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge. The present work, with its three shifted stances, offers a vivid demonstration of this tendency, capturing Bacon’s enduring aspiration to trap his subjects alive. Light flickers in his eyes; words seem to strain at his lips. “The rest”—as his beloved Shakespeare once wrote—“is silence.”
The fourteen-by-twelve inch portrait, too, was similarly significant for Bacon. Since the 1960s, wrote the critic John Russell, these intimate, concentrated heads had been “the scene of some of Bacon’s most ferocious investigations,” their impact comparable to the “after-echo” left by a fired gun (Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 99). As the artist grew older, this effect intensified, in concert with a broader sense of clarity and distillation that came to define his later practice. Arriving at the realization that reality can be “summed up with so much less”, the artist began to reduce his gestures and palette to their bare essentials, using defined strokes, saturated colors and often cropping his subjects—here losing an entire eye. The present work, notes Martin Harrison, is the first smaller-format painting to employ the searing cadmium orange backdrop that Bacon typically reserved for his larger canvases—among them his seminal 1944 masterwork Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, 1971-1992, London, 2016, vol. IV, p. 1174). The addition of blue and pink overlayers, “printed” onto the surface with Bacon’s jacket, imbues the work with a striking, almost Pop-like intensity: Andy Warhol, notably, would produce his own electrifying series of late self-portraits just seven years after the present work.
Throughout history, painters have used their own image as a barometer for their art. Bacon’s idol Pablo Picasso painted himself from the ages of 15 to 90, completing his final haunting iteration in 1972. Vincent van Gogh, another of his great heroes, painted more than 35 self-portraits in his 37 years of life, while Bacon’s contemporary Lucian Freud charted his ageing form in everything from intimate portrait heads to full-frontal nudes. For Bacon, however, it was Rembrandt’s self-portraits that truly set the standard. “If you take the great late self-portraits of Rembrandt,” he stated, “you will find that the whole contour of the face has changed time after time; it’s a totally different face” (quoted in Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt, exh. cat., Ordovas Gallery, London, 2011, p. 7). Moreover, he explained, Rembrandt’s self-portraits went beyond mere facial likeness, offering instead microscopic insights into his hand. They were “almost completely anti-illustrational … a coagulation of non-representational marks”: a foreshadowing of Abstract Expressionism, he proposed, trained upon the recording of fact (quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, in ibid., p. 58). In Rembrandt’s self-portraits, Bacon believed, the artist ultimately dissolves into his art.
It is this, too, that fundamentally underpins the present work. It is not simply a record of appearance, but a record of process: a repository of action, feeling and intuition, channelled through the face that Bacon knew better than any other. For an artist who devoted his life to transferring the impulses of his nervous system onto canvas, it offers a vivid dramatization of the moment at which flesh ends and paint begins. “Bacon’s portraits are the interrogation on the limits of the self,” wrote Milan Kundera. “Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved still remain a beloved being? For how long does a cherished face growing remote through illness, through madness, through hatred, through death still become recognizable? Where lies the border beyond which a ‘self’ ceases to be a ‘self’?” (“The Painter’s Brutal Gesture,” in F. Borel, Bacon Portraits and Self-Portraits, London and New York, 1996, p. 12). In Three Studies for Self-Portrait, Bacon proposes that paint can give form to those boundaries, enacting the shift from figure to figment that defines how we come to know ourselves.
Inside the World of Francis Bacon
Provenant de la Collection Majid Boustany
24 OCTOBER 2022 | 18:30 CEST | PARIS | LOT 3
Private Collection, London
Acquired from the above
Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, London, 2016, pp. 214-215, no. 49-10, illustrated in colour
Majid Boustany, Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, Monaco, 2017, pp. 15, 40-41, illustrated in colour Perrine Le Querrec, Bacon Le Cannibale, Pérronas, 2018, pp. 31, 32, 36, illustrated in colour
Never before seen on the market, ‘Figure Crouching’ is an intriguing work of great art historical significance. Featuring a solitary and seemingly half-human, half-animal figure, isolated in a confined space which hangs mysteriously in a dark void, the present work brings together some of the most iconic motifs of Bacon’s oeuvre at their earliest conception. Executed in 1949, ‘Figure Crouching’ is the earliest surviving painting of Bacon’s long-lasting series of hunched subjects which he would continue into the 1970s. Featuring a vulnerable nude creature balancing precariously on a rail within a transparent and weightless cube, this image is also one of the first instances in which Bacon isolates his subject within a defined space of the canvas. The linear structure here, often referred to as a ‘space frame’, foreshadows the white structure which reappears in Bacon’s Pope paintings of 1951. Paradigmatic of the artist’s painterly bravura and pictorial authority, ‘Figure Crouching’ is a compelling evocation of beast and barrier, transmitting a palpable vulnerability through profound aesthetic concision.
Bacon believed that ‘our greatest obsession is with ourselves. Then possibly with animals, and then with landscapes.’ Growing up in the eastern midlands of Ireland, Bacon’s childhood was surrounded by animals. In the early 1950s, the artist made two visits to his family residing in South Africa where he was captivated by the dry, arid veld in which he observed wild creatures in their natural habitat. At the time, Bacon was already building a library of books by wildlife photographers from Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore to Marius Maxwell and was fascinated by the sequential photographic stills of human and animal bodies in motion which were produced by Eadweard Muybridge in the late nineteenth century. Photographs found among Bacon’s studio materials evidence that the posture of the figure in the present work was even prompted by Muybridge’s photographic studies of the human body in motion as well as Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculpture, The Thinker. Bacon would go on to paint his former lover George Dyer in a similar position in two of his paintings, George Dyer Crouching from 1966, and in one of his legendary so-called ‘Black Triptychs’ entitled May June 1973, in an evocation of his tragic death in a Parisian hotel.
Bacon was acutely aware of the animal in man. Animal-like humans, such as the one depicted in the present work, and humans transformed into beasts and back again proved to be the ideal surrogate through which the artist was able to explore human nature more accurately. As in the present work, the simian position his subjects assume echoes the evocative title of the recent anniversary exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, Francis Bacon: Man and Beast. Human and animal features are often interlinked in Bacon imagery, as Bacon himself stated: “I want to make the animal thing come through the human”. (David Sylvester, Looking back at Francis Bacon, p. 49, New York, 2000). In fact, the texture of elephant and rhinoceros’ epidermis was often filtered into his earlier translations of human skin into paint on canvas
However, far from the overarching sky and distant horizon he experienced in South Africa, the space of Bacon’s images extends from his cramped London studio, Soho streets and the dark corners of members-only bars. Bacon, a self-taught artist, was convinced that the problem of making a satisfactory image was a problem of technique. The artist experimented with a variety of methods through which to focus the attention of the viewer on his main subject: the human figure. Three-dimensional cages, pedestals, beds, couches, pleated curtains, Venetian blinds, and later such devices as magnified details, syringes and arrows narrow the space of the figure within the frame of the canvas, thus intensifying the presence of Bacon’s subject. A sort of pictorial cage, the ‘space-frame’ provided a most effective means through which Bacon could visually organize his composition. Friends and admirers of each other’s work, Bacon may have first identified the use of ‘space-frames’ in the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of Alberto Giacometti. The space-frame acted as a cage or a trapping device to imprison his figure. A feeling of anxiety, vulnerability and alienation is strongly present in his isolated figures. Confining the half-animal, half-human creature to the claustrophobic space of a narrow cell was a technique that Bacon described as ‘trapping the fact.’
“I think that the very great artists were not trying to express themselves. They were trying to trap the fact, because after all, artists are obsessed by life and by certain things that obsess them and that they want to record. And they’ve tried to find systems and construct the cages in which these things can be caught.” (The artist quoted in David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, 2000)
Adding to the sense of imprisonment, are the bare and unpainted ‘walls’ of the space. Indeed, the figure was executed on the ‘natural’ textures of the un-primed canvas. As Martin Harrison writes: “He found he preferred the coarser ‘tooth’ of the canvas, which was conducive to both his saturation of dilute paint and his thick impastoed textures – techniques he was developing at this time. Thereafter, while his canvases were invariably primed, he always painted on the unprimed side.” (Martin Harrison in ‘Bacon in Monaco and France’, Francis Bacon, France and Monaco, Monaco, 2016, p. 32)
After our eyes adjust to the darker tonalities of the painting, the viewer is suddenly made uncomfortably aware that they are not alone in observing this figure as they notice the shadow lurching into the lower edge of the painting. The half-length shadow of a figure at the bottom right could be seen as an observer, an attendant or even a voyeur. This anonymous presence emphasises the already palpable sense of anxiety in the painting. The painter Edgar Degas, a constant point of reference for Bacon, stated about viewers of his paintings of bathers: “It is as if you were looking through the keyhole”. The onlookers and intruders in Bacon’s works are witnesses to the tragedy, the intercourse or the captivity taking place within the intimacy of his spaces.
Bacon’s bodies disrupt the traditional tropes of nude painting. At once erotic and pitiful, the present figure suggests submission to a more powerful force. Moreover, against references to classical mythology and Christian iconography, Bacon’s figure calls viscerally into question the confines of existence. Distorting skin and bone, entrapped within a vague, narrow cell, Bacon reminds the viewer of their own fleshy limbs at the same time as he makes them aware of the defined space of the room surrounding them. Infusing pigment with a life of its own to fill cryptic scenes with unsettling implications, the present work stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of Bacon’s radical oeuvre.
A Francis Bacon series of paintings of legendary Soho 50s
beauty Henrietta Moraes sells for £24.3million.
The portraits come from the collection of US media executive William S Paley
BY TOM SCOTSON FOR MAIL ONLINE | NEWS | DAILY MAIL | SATURDAY 15 OCTOBER 2022
A Francis Bacon series of paintings of legendary Soho 50s beauty Henrietta Moraes sells for £24.3million. The paintings were the highest value work sold in a Frieze season auction in the last 10 years.
The three portraits come from the collection of American media executive William S Paley, who acquired the work from Marlborough Gallery months after it was finished in 1963. Moraes was a key figure in London’s post-war artistic landscape and acted as a muse for both Bacon and Lucian Freud.
The triptych made its auction debut at Sotheby’s in London during a contemporary evening sale on Monday. Until recently the work was kept under the stewardship of the Museum of Modern Art (Moma) in New York, where it stayed for more than 30 years following Mr Paley’s death in 1990.
Bacon, known for his bold and shocking figurative style, died aged 82 in 1992. His work focused on the human form in an often brutal manner and included a number of triptychs, religious images of crucifixions and popes, and self-portraits.
Sotheby’s said proceeds from the sale will support various charitable organisations, including The Paley Museum, the Greenpark Foundation, and a new endowment at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Further works will be sold at Sotheby’s to benefit charitable causes on Saturday.
Born in India in 1931, Henrietta was one of the stars of the demi-monde that drank in London’s Soho and bedded each other in the Fifties. The half-Indian model was brought to England as a small girl by her mother, after her father, who was in the Indian Air Force, walked out of the family home in the foothills of the Himalayas after a marital row.
The two of them went to live in Northamptonshire, with Henrietta sent to boarding school at the age of three. Her mother abandoned her after running away to South Africa and leaving her with her grandma who badly mistreated her.
She was shipped off to a convent in Reading and developed a crush on a girl called Valerie who slept with T.S. Eliot’s poems under her pillow. Henrietta Moraes drunk regularly in her teenage years and wined and dined at the Colony Room, the Gargoyle Club, the French House.
During this point she met Francis Bacon who was one of the few admirers she did not sleep with. But the famous artist did paint her at least 16 times over a period of some 20 years — the portrait sold for £21million was painted in 1963 — and he drank with her every night in the Soho clubs.
Henrietta, perhaps realising the potential profit to be made, continued to complain about this until the end of her life.
The half-Indian model, who died in 1999, was brought to England as a small
girl by her mother, after her father, who was in the Indian Air Force, walked
out of the family home in the foothills of the Himalayas after a marital row.
Francis Bacon triptych sells for £24.3m at auction
Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes was sold on Friday.
ISOBEL FRODSHAM | NEWS UK | THE INDEPENDENT | FRIDAY 14 OCTOBER 2022
A Francis Bacon triptych depicting his close friend has sold for £24.3 million – the highest value work sold in a Frieze season auction in the last 10 years.
The paintings, titled Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, come from the collection of American media executive William S Paley, who acquired the work from Marlborough Gallery months after it was finished in 1963.
Moraes was a key figure in London’s post-war artistic landscape and acted as a muse for both Bacon and Lucian Freud.
On Friday, the triptych made its auction debut at Sotheby’s in London during a contemporary evening sale, which totalled £96.1 million – highest frieze week evening sale at Sotheby’s since 2015.
Until recently it was kept under the stewardship of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York, where it stayed for more than 30 years following Mr Paley’s death in 1990.
Bacon, known for his bold and shocking figurative style, died aged 82 in 1992.
His work focused on the human form in an often brutal manner and included a number of triptychs, religious images of crucifixions and popes, and self-portraits.
Sotheby’s said proceeds from the sale will support various charitable organisations, including The Paley Museum, the Greenpark Foundation, and a new endowment at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art).
Further works will be sold at Sotheby’s to benefit charitable causes on Saturday.
Technicians handle ‘Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes’ by Francis Bacon
Jackdaw — a metafictional dive into the life of Francis Bacon
Tade Thompson deploys an alter ego for this disturbing immersion in darker aspects of the artist’s lifestyle
MICHAEL ARDITTI | REVIEW | FICTION | BOOKS | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER 2022
Tade Thompson enjoys a more charmed professional life than most novelists. An award-winning science-fiction writer and consultant psychiatrist, he relates at the start of Jackdaw that about twice a week someone contacts his agent “about me doing some work for a book or a television or radio show”. A commission from the Francis Bacon Estate to write about the artist’s work was, indeed, the genesis of this novella.
Of course, the Tade Thompson who is Jackdaw’s protagonist should not necessarily be identified with the Tade Thompson who is its author — and, given the appalling abuse that the fictional Tade suffers in childhood, one trusts that his naming is a device.
The real-life author plays various metafictional games, firstly around the writing of the book, and then around the editing of the finished text. But by putting either himself or his alter ego in the frame, Thompson both increases readers’ investment in the story and excites their curiosity about its truthfulness.
The fictional Thompson’s agent and patrons both give him books about Bacon, which he later ingests — literally — explaining that it takes 15 minutes to chew a glossy, high-quality sheet of paper into an edible pulp.
One of the books contains a series of explicit photographs by John Deakin of Bacon’s muse Henrietta Moraes, who comes to obsess Thompson, driving him to compulsive masturbation at home, in a restaurant, on a train and, most humiliatingly, at the hospital where he practises psychiatry.
More disturbing still is the silent apparition of Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon’s childhood nanny and adult partner-in-crime, who bought him drugs, organised his illegal gambling parties and, despite her rabid homophobia, vetted the replies he received when he advertised himself as a “gentleman’s companion” in The Times. Most disturbing of all is Thompson’s vision of an amorphous “flesh sculpture”, which — though never explicitly stated — resembles one of Bacon’s “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion”. When Thompson succeeds in destroying it, it is punningly found to consist of pork.
Thompson strives to understand Bacon’s masochism, first by hiring a dominatrix prostitute, the Destroyer, whose previous incarnations as an actress and a nurse turn out to be useful for both fuelling his fantasies and stitching his wounds. She penetrates him anally, but when he decides that he is “still clinging to my heterosexual schema for safety”, he pays a violent rent boy, the denizen of a crack den.
Jackdaw is an original and compelling account of a writer so desperate not to short-change his subject that he descends into a cycle of degradation and madness. It is therefore something of a disappointment when, after he is finally committed to a mental institution, his troubles are found to stem from a frontal lobe injury that can be surgically cured. Nevertheless, while this may account for the perversity of the fictional Thompson’s behaviour, it cannot explain the mystery of Bacon’s art.
Jackdaw by Tade Thompson, Profile Books £15, 160 pages
Battle of the Francis Bacons: two multi-million-dollar
paintings face off at Frieze Masters
Marlborough is offering work by the artist for $30m, while
Skarstedt has earlier painting available for $15m
KABIR JHALA | ART MARKET | NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER 2022
Two paintings by Francis Bacon are among the most expensive works offered at this year’s Frieze Masters. The first, Study from the Human Body—Figure in Movement (1982), from Marlborough Gallery, shows a contorted naked male torso wearing cricket leg pads, a decision Bacon said he made to make the image look “more real”. The work was bought by a private collector directly from the artist in 1984.
It comes from a two-part series, the first of which is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Priced at $30m, it is the most expensive work at the fair with a disclosed price. It was placed “on reserve” prior to the fair’s opening, gallery director Joe Balfour says.
For Bacon collectors with exactly half that budget, Skarstedt is offering an earlier work by the British artist, Seated Figure on a Couch (1959), for $15m. An abstracted portrait of Bacon’s one-time lover, the fighter pilot Peter Lacy, the work comes from a private collection and was purchased from Bacon’s first show at Marlborough.
It was made the year after the artist switched representation from Hanover Gallery to Marlborough, which represented him until his death, famously advancing the artist money to pay off his gambling debts. At the end of preview day, this work was still available. Neither Skarstedt nor Marlborough represents Bacon’s estate.
Francis Bacon’s Study for the Human Body—Figure in Movement (1982)
20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale
LONDON | 13 OCTOBER 2022 | LIVE AUCTION | LOT 27
PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
FRANCIS BACON (1909-1992)
oil on canvas
78 x 58 ⅛in.
M. Harrison and R. Daniels (eds.), Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné: Volume IV 1971-92, p. 1376, no. 90-04 (illustrated in colour, p. 1377).
London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., The Marlborough Gallery Re-Opening Exhibition, 1991.
Berlin, Galerie Sander, Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Auerbach: Gemälde und Arbeiten auf Papier / Paintings and works on paper, 2003, p. 14 (illustrated in colour on the front cover; illustrated in colour, p. 15).
Painted just over a year before Francis Bacon’s death, Painting 1990 is a poignant and majestic work that stands among the artist’s last great canvases. Rendered in the stark, distilled painterly language that came to define his extraordinary late output, it is a radiant tribute to the vitality of the human form, its central figure aglow with the visceral dynamism of living flesh. According to Martin Harrison, author of the artist’s catalogue raisonné, Bacon’s subject is a hybrid vision. The face, framed like a portrait within a portrait, resembles José Capelo: the artist’s last significant love and muse, and the man he was visiting in Madrid when he died. The figure’s cross-legged pose, meanwhile, is hauntingly reminiscent of the artist’s former lover George Dyer—who tragically died in 1971—as well as his subsequent companion John Edwards. Both their forms populated Bacon’s art throughout the 1970s and 1980s: the present work, indeed, is the last in his oeuvre to feature this iconic posture. It is a powerful testament to those he loved—and had loved—and a vivid summation of his art.
Dyer’s death had shaken Bacon to the core. On the eve of the artist’s career-defining retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, the man who had been the very lifeblood of his art had been wrenched from his world. The distinctive cross-legged pose, immortalised in John Deakin’s photographs of Dyer half-naked in Bacon’s studio, had fuelled his paintings throughout the 1960s. In the immediate aftermath of Dyer’s death, it resurfaced in the harrowing ‘black triptych’ Triptych—August, 1972 (Tate, London), made in memory of his lover. As the 1970s wore on, new light came to Bacon’s life in the form of his beloved, steadfast partner John Edwards; yet, even in his tender, luminous portraits, the ghosts of Dyer lingered still. Edwards, too, would assume the cross-legged pose, notably in the left-hand panel of the celebrated 1984 triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, whose sky-blue backdrop and compositional structure shares much in common with the present work. The truncated shadow that quivers below the figure’s left foot—a frequent motif in Bacon’s late works—seems to conjure the ever-present spectre of death. The artist, indeed, was all too aware that time was running out.
Capelo—a young Spaniard who deeply admired Bacon’s work—had entered his life towards the very end. The pair first met two years after Capelo attended the artist’s 1985 retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London: Bacon, incidentally, had selected Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards to feature as the grand finale to the exhibition. Their relationship flourished, buoyed by a shared love of art, music, travel and Spanish culture. Capelo’s likeness featured in four portraits, including the left-hand panel of the celebrated late Triptych (1991, Museum of Modern Art, New York). While the present work is the only one of these examples to feature a full-length seated figure, Bacon nonetheless seems to focus his attention on Capelo’s head, encasing it in the manner of his celebrated fourteen-by-twelve-inch portrait heads. Deriving from a fascination with the Chinagraph markings used in photography, and the analytical diagrams in medical textbooks, Bacon had long used cubic and circular structures to spotlight his subjects. Here, in tandem with the picture’s sparse setting, these seemingly clinical devices serve to amplify the vivacity of the flesh contained within them: the figure’s limbs, muscles and facial features seem to glisten with life and movement, even in the knowledge of their impermanence.
Bacon’s love life had long intersected with his art. Almost four decades earlier, in the 1950s, his complex, troubled relationship with former fighter pilot Peter Lacy had launched his portrait practice in earnest, instilling within Bacon a predilection for painting those he knew intimately. In 1963, the year after Lacy’s devastating death, he had met Dyer in a Soho bar, embarking upon an intense love affair that etched itself into some of his greatest canvases. Around fifteen years Bacon’s junior, Dyer was a handsome, well-groomed individual, whose lithe physique and chiselled features reminded the artist of Michelangelo’s drawings and sculptures. At the same time, a deep vulnerability flickered behind his eyes, born of a wasted youth of petty crime and a life that frequently seemed to lack direction and purpose. His relationship with Bacon was passionate and tumultuous in equal measure: a dynamic that gave rise to some of the artist’s most profound observations of the human condition. As Michael Peppiatt has observed, ‘however great the liberties Bacon had taken in pulling apart and remaking the appearance of his other friends, with Dyer he reached a maximum intensity’ (M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p. 261).
In 1964, Deakin took a seminal series of photographs of Dyer seated in his underwear in Bacon’s studio. The dynamic cross-legged pose, captured from multiple angles, would go on to inspire major works such as Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966), Portrait of George Dyer (1967), Portrait of George Dyer and Lucian Freud (1967), Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1968, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere) and Two Studies of George Dyer with Dog (1968). It would also come to inflect portraits of other muses: notably Bacon’s seminal triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), as well as the 1968 work Two Figures Lying on Beds with Attendants (Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran). For Bacon, photographs such as Deakin’s were an essential part of his working process, allowing him to distance himself physically from his subjects and—in doing so—to channel his raw, sensory impressions of them onto canvas. A vast repository of printed source imagery littered Bacon’s Reece Mews studio: the artist famously described himself as a ‘grinding machine’, into which residual traces of these pictures dropped repeatedly ‘like slides’.
In the years following Dyer’s death, this process would take on new meaning. Echoes of his form continued to haunt Bacon’s art, with Deakin’s photographs never far from his mind. ‘People say you forget about death, but you don’t’, he explained; ‘… you don’t stop thinking about them; time doesn’t heal’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975, p. 76). Edwards—an East End pub manager whom Bacon met at the Colony Room in 1974—provided some degree of comfort, becoming a trusted, son-like companion. As his likeness began to appear on canvas, however, the memory of Dyer refused to subside, his poses and features infused with reminders of the crumpled 1964 snapshots that lay among the detritus of Bacon’s studio. As well as the 1984 triptych, works such as Portrait of John Edwards (1988) and the central panel of Triptych 1986-7 would all invoke Dyer’s cross-legged form. Interestingly, not long before the present work, Bacon had stood once again in front of the mournful Triptych— August, 1972 at his Tate Liverpool retrospective. ‘… It goes on having power … for me anyway’, he observed. ‘Maybe I’ll do another one day’ (F. Bacon, quoted in M. Stevens and A. Swan, Francis Bacon: Revelations, London 2022, p. 724).
If these words rang in Bacon’s ears as he began to paint the present work, it was perhaps with a third figure in mind. On 12 December—the day before the work was first photographed—the artist had waited excitedly at Sloane Square Station to greet Capelo, who had just returned to London from a solo trip to Asia. His hair had been cut newly short, and Bacon greatly admired the look. By this stage, the two had known each other properly for three years: though Capelo had met Bacon briefly at his Tate retrospective, and had written to him afterwards, it was not until 1987 that the two were formally introduced at a dinner hosted by their mutual friend Barry Joule. Serendipity played its part: the singer Freddie Mercury, who had long wanted to meet the artist, had been taken ill on the day of the dinner, prompting Joule to extend the invitation to Capelo instead. Aged thirty-one at the time, Capelo had trained as an aeronautical engineer in America before taking a position as a business analyst in London. He was well-travelled and multi-lingual: an intellectual with deep interests in art and culture. Though somewhat different to Bacon’s former flames, the two connected straight away, and began what was to become the artist’s last significant love affair.
Capelo accompanied Bacon through the highs and lows of his final few years: from the triumph of his 1989 Hirshhorn retrospective, to his last days in hospital in Madrid, where his ailing health eventually gave way to cardiac arrest. With Capelo, Bacon had felt young once again, and—though their romantic relationship remained largely private—the two deeply enriched one another’s lives. They travelled widely in France, Italy and Madrid: Bacon’s second favourite city after Paris, where he nourished his long-standing fascination with Velázquez at the Prado and relished the thrills of Spanish nightlife. They dined out regularly in London and mingled with the intellectual elite; they absorbed art and music across Europe, notably attending the Seurat retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, as well as the premiere of Pierre Boulez’s …explosante-fixe… at IRCAM. During Capelo’s solo travels, Bacon feared the prospect of growing distance between them, perhaps accounting for his decision to commit his likeness to canvas. A diptych and a single portrait head would follow the present work, as well as the 1991 triptych. In the latter, the figure of Capelo is counterbalanced by a self-portrait in the right-hand panel: a bold move for Bacon, who rarely depicted himself alongside his lovers in his work.
Aside from its subject matter, Painting 1990 bears witness to the restless creative spirit that surged through Bacon’s oeuvre during its final years. For the artist, the urge to paint never dimmed; if anything, he explained in a BBC radio interview in 1991, ‘the nearer to death I am, the stronger it gets’ (F. Bacon in conversation with R. Cork, Kaleidoscope, BBC Radio 4, broadcast 17 August 1991). Over the course of his final decade, Bacon had begun to distil and clarify his vision, declaring that ‘nine tenths of everything is inessential’ and vowing to ‘abbreviate to intensity’. His colours became brighter, his lines sharper and his settings ever-more abstract, often near-Minimalist in their diagrammatic rigour. Richard Calvocoressi draws parallels with Colour Field painting and Pop Art, noting that it was ironically within these contexts that many of Bacon’s early works were initially received. It was, he writes, a period of ‘astonishingly inventive’ output, ‘as if the artist’s imagination, far from drying up, had been stimulated by create new and ever more intense combinations of colour, structure and form’ (R. Calvocoressi, Francis Bacon: Late Paintings, exh. cat. Gagosian Gallery, New York 2015, p. 9).
For all their elemental clarity, however, Bacon’s figures continued to live and breathe with the same carnal vitality. Renaissance sculpture, the motion photography of Eadweard Muybridge and the Old Masters’ exacting observations of human flesh remained potent sources of inspiration, while the 1920s beach scenes of Pablo Picasso—some of his earliest and most profound influences—continued to inhabit his thoughts. Indeed, the present work’s planes of sandy ochre and crystal clear blue seem to conjure the shores of Dinard, where Picasso’s bathers had first revealed to him what he would later describe as the ‘brutality of fact’. Other early infatuations, too, linger in the present work’s composition: the sharp, angular lines and planes invoke the sleek, Modernist aesthetic of Bacon’s formative ventures in furniture design, while the ovular arena that houses the figure—by now a signature motif within his practice—conjures his youthful encounters with Surrealism, and the imagery of eyes that laced the work of Buñuel, Dalí, Magritte and Bataille. Seen in another light, this form invokes the vortex of the bullfighting ring: a subject whose dance of life and death had repulsed and entranced Bacon in equal measure, and which he took the opportunity to witness with Capelo during visits to Madrid.
Since his obsessive, unflinching series of self-portraits of the 1970s, many of which saw Bacon raise a ticking pocket watch to his face, the artist had been keenly aware of his own mortality. Yet, sanguine to the core, Bacon saw death as an essential part of existence: ‘if life excites you, its shadow, death, must excite you too’, he claimed. An avid reader of literature—from ancient Greek mythology to the poems of T. S. Eliot—Bacon would increasingly find solace in the great poets, novelists and playwrights who had sought to make sense of this duality. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth remained a particular favourite: ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,’ declares the protagonist, ‘That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more.’ In Painting 1990, the figure’s shadow is severed at his feet, his identity never fully disclosed. He is at once a living reality, and a spectre consigned to memory: a portrait of the thin, wavering precipice upon which our existence is eternally hinged.
20 pieces from Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation
in Monaco, to be auctioned soon in Paris
The sale will take place on 24 October at Sotheby’s, the prestigious auction house.
CAMILLE ESTEVE | CULTURE | NEWS | MONACO TRIBUNE | MONDAY 10 OCTOBER 2022
The Majid Boustany Foundation in Monaco is organising an auction of twenty exceptional pieces on 24 October to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the British painter Francis Bacon, The sale will take place at Sotheby’s in Paris.
Called “Inside the World of Francis Bacon”, the sale will include a number of different items, including a major 1949 painting, “Figure Crouching”, estimated at 3.5-5 million euros.
Bidders will also be vying to acquire a very rare rug, signed by the artist in 1929 (estimated at 90,000 – 140,000 euros), two magnificent works on paper, or historical objects, such as a plate that the painter used as a palette (estimated at 20,000 – 30,000 euros), as well as other pieces from Bacon’s Parisian studio.
The collection also includes works by friends of Francis Bacon, such as painters Graham Sutherland, Louis Le Brocquy and Roy de Maistre, as well as an original letter from Francis Bacon to the writer Michel Leiris and portraits of the artist by photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Don McCullin and Peter Beard. All proceeds from the sales will be donated to the Foundation.
The painter will be honoured on Saturday 8 October, at the Mouans-Sartoux Book Festival. The film Francis Bacon / Ernest Pignon-Ernest : Échanges, by Alain Amiel and produced by the Foundation, will be screened free of charge at 5.15 pm at the La Strada cinema.
The film deals with the written correspondence between the two artists, who never met. Francis Bacon is said to have asked Ernest Pignon-Ernest, an emblematic figure of the Mouans-Sartoux Book Festival, to send him several enlargements of his drawings. The screening will be followed by a discussion between the artist from Nice, the film’s director, and the writer Gérard Mordillat.
« Figure Crouching » – Francis Bacon
CONTEMPORARY EVENING AUCTION
LOT 112 | 14 OCTOBER 2022 | 7:00 PM BST | LONDON
A Legacy of Innovation: Works From The Collection of William S. Paley Sold
to Benefit the Museum of Modern Art and other Charitable Organizations
Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes
Executed in 1963
Estimate Upon Request
LOT SOLD: £24,300,000
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc., New York
William S. Paley, New York (acquired directly from the above in 1963)
Acquired by bequest in 1990 by the William S. Paley Foundation
Painted in 1963, Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is unequivocally one of the finest and most accomplished small portrait triptychs ever created by Francis Bacon. The first named portrait of Henrietta Moraes in Bacon’s oeuvre, and the second ever triptych executed in the iconic 14 by 12 inch canvas format, this is a work of great historical importance and unrivalled execution. Delivering a seamless interlocking of paint and image, these three canvases epitomise the consummate painterly virtuosity and uncompromising power of their creator. In his Catalogue Raisonné entry for this painting, Bacon scholar Martin Harrison praises this very work, identifying it as the artist’s “consummation” of the small portrait triptych, in which “Bacon’s execution has a power, skill and confidence that he scarcely ever surpassed in this format” (Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III 1958-71, London 2016, p. 733). In a manner unparalleled by any before or since, Bacon had an ability to capture beauty, pathos and violence in a flick of paint, a talent that surpassed a translation of mere form and likeness to deliver something closer to the raw fact of existence. The present work delivers this with aplomb: here we bear witness to a portrait of a legendary Soho Bohemian, a subject whose unconventional, uninhibited lifestyle and gregarious nature is writ large across each canvas. Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes was the last picture included in Bacon’s early Catalogue Raisonné, to which its editor Ronald Alley wrote that it was “painted partly from life”; a positing that situates it as one of the final works Bacon executed in this manner, as from 1962 Bacon began principally to rely on photographs of his friends/subjects taken by John Deakin (Ronald Alley and John Rothenstein, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London and New York, 1964, p. 155) Reinforced by Bacon’s own proclivity for the peril of life’s roulette wheel, Moraes’s very essence projects forth through a confluence of daring brushwork and imagination: a powerful coalescence of colour, texture and form that radiates sheer vitality. Hung upon an armature of disfigured facial features contained by the focussed proportions of these three canvases, the present triptych harnesses chaos, chance, beauty, and violence to deliver images of astonishing intensity and carnal grace.
Created during an extraordinary decade buttressed by two major retrospectives – the first at London’s Tate Gallery in 1962 and the other at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971 (the present work was prestigiously included in the latter) – Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes was acquired by William S. Paley from Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York, almost immediately following its execution in 1963. Indeed, only months prior, Paley had also acquired Bacon’s first triptych in this format, Study for Three Heads of 1962 – a painting in which Bacon’s recently departed lover, Peter Lacy, flanks a contorted self-portrait of fraught emotion. Considered one of the most forward-thinking, generous, and influential collectors of the Twentieth Century, William S. Paley played a key role in the development of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Beginning in 1937, Paley was instrumental in defining an institution only established 8 years previously and over the next five decades he would take on major roles within the organisation including trustee, president, and chairman. Today, many of the museum’s most treasured works are those donated from Paley’s collection, including Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse (1905-06) and The Architect’s Table (1912), Cézanne’s L’Estaque (1882-83), and Redon’s Vase of Flowers (circa 1912-14). Following his death in 1990, Paley’s two important Bacon triptychs would go to MoMA on long-term loan, with Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes coming to Sotheby’s directly from the museum where it has resided for over thirty years.
As a debut work in Bacon’s newly forged small-triptych format, Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes announced a sea-change in Bacon’s practice. The motifs and tropes of the previous decade were abandoned in favour of unadorned and focussed portrayals of the human form in closely cropped and consistent proportions. Alongside the small 14 by 12inch canvas format, Bacon would also standardise his larger production in panels measuring 78 by 58 inches: from 1962 onwards these two formats provided the structural basis for the rest of Bacon’s career. Where the large panels acted as arenas for Bacon’s operatic musings on the human condition, the smaller canvases were to become, in the words of esteemed art historian John Russell, “the scene of some of the artist’s most ferocious investigations” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 2001, p. 99). With Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes Bacon powerfully laid down the harrowing introspective quality and unadorned immediacy that would become intrinsic to the small portrait triptychs.
The second small scale triptych ever created by Francis Bacon and arguably his finest, Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is a tour-de-force of visceral technique and painterly invention. Tightly focussed and with nowhere to hide, three head-and-shoulders images of Moraes play out as a sequence of superimposed states. Here we see Bacon truly define the power and impact possible within the confines of three 14 by 12 inch canvases. Across a bituminous, tar-like ground of thick texture, Moraes’s likeness emerges in swipes of crimson and white. The more refined silhouette of the left-hand canvas – a form that exudes the influence of Picasso’s Dora Maar – gives way to two gnarled and contorted images accented with tones of green, blue, and purple. In his Catalogue Raisonné entry Martin Harrison further expounds upon the virtuosity of this very work: “The restricted palette of mainly crimson and white on a textured black ground is masterly, as are the energy and motion of the brushstrokes and smearing of the wet pigment.” (Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III 1958-71, London 2016, p. 733). Even when making the comparison to Bacon’s other great small triptychs of this period – notably Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963) and Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964) which share the same bituminous ground and dominant red/black colour palette respectively – it is clear that Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes embodies his greatest achievement in this format. The artist clearly thought as much; in John Russell’s monograph he recalls Bacon comparing this triptych to Giorgione’s self-portrait in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Brunswick, stating that both seem to say “the most that can be said in paint at this time about human beauty” (Francis Bacon quoted in: Ibid., p. 100).
This triptych announces Moraes’s first named presence in Bacon’s oeuvre; however, as noted by Martin Harrison, her bodily form had already found expression as early as 1961 in works such as Crouching Nude (1961). By 1963, Moraes had become the locus of some of Bacon’s most powerful full figure paintings and expressions of the nude such as the extraordinary Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (1963). Though her face is entirely obliterated in this work, this prophetic image (it eerily prophesised Moraes’s later intravenous methamphetamine addiction) is the first in a series of large-scale reclining nudes that Bacon would paint based on nude photographs taken by John Deakin. Across Bacon’s oeuvre, the number of paintings after Moraes clearly demonstrate the great depth of invention sparked by her likeness and personality. Indeed, where male subjects – friends, lovers and fellow artists – feature heavily in Bacon’s work, Moraes recurs with a frequency that reflects his fascination with her. In sum there are 4 named small head triptychs of Moraes, 2 single small portraits, 5 large format portraits, and 9 unnamed figure paintings, all of which pulsate with animal vitality and unchecked verve.
In comparison to depictions of Bacon’s other great female muse, Isabel Rawsthorne, whose portrayals are generally less distorted, Moraes’s visage and bodily countenance deliver an unadorned corporeal vitality and charged bestial energy; closer perhaps to the ‘brutality of fact’ which drove Bacon’s artistic impetus. Where Rawsthorne – friend of the Parisian cultural elite – represents nobility and an almost masculine heroic spirit in Bacon’s work, Moraes embodies fleshiness, femininity, unvarnished vivacity and instinctual carnality. As in the present triptych, and as played out across the many outstanding large figure studies depicting her form, the extreme facial and corporal distortions of Moraes’s likeness cast her as a remarkable vehicle for Bacon. In a photograph of the artist taken by Derek Bayes in October 1963, the centre and right-hand canvas of the present work appear on Bacon’s easel positioned at the artist’s head height. With one hand raised in an expression of intensity and focus, Bacon seems to complete the triptych. In this photograph as in the fully finished Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, painter and subject form an indelible confluence. Moraes was the ultimate female subject for Bacon. A notorious bonne vivante, sexually uninhibited, unconventional and a serious drinker, she captivated Bacon both physically and spiritually; in many ways she held a mirror up to his own untamed character which yearned for the unvarnished underbelly of life.
Born Audrey Wendy Abbott in India in 1931, Henrietta Moraes had a challenging and unconventional childhood. Her family returned to England when she was still very young, and after many years living with her fearsome, often violent grandmother and having attended various schools in different parts of the country, Moraes came to London at age eighteen to begin Secretarial College. With a spirited character, restless nature and little talent for shorthand, she abandoned her education and started work as a life model in art schools across London. Three marriages later and Audrey Abbott had become Henrietta Moraes: her final and most well-known moniker given to her by husband number three, the poet Dom Moraes. It was through her first husband however, the documentary filmmaker Michael Law, that she would become a stalwart feature of the Soho set, among whose notorious troop was of course Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. In her autobiography published in 1994 – a book that is both a wonderful memoire of 1950s/60s Soho Bohemia and a vivid account of a life less ordinary – Moraes records her first impressions of both artists:
“Two other people that I was determined to make friends with because I felt so drawn to them were Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. They were both young, not particularly well-known painters, but Lucian’s hypnotic eyes and Francis’s ebullience and charming habit of buying bottles of champagne proved irresistible…”
(HENRIETTA MORAES, HENRIETTA, LONDON, 1994, P. 30).
FRANCIS BACON WITH CENTER AND RIGHT PANELS OF THREE STUDIES
FOR PORTRAIT OF HENRIETTA MORAES, 1963 PHOTO BY DEREK BAYES
Though married at the time, Moraes would have an affair with Freud during this period and was painted for the wonderfully tender portrait Girl in a Blanket of 1952 in which Moraes sits partially covered on the edge of Freud’s unmade bed in his Paddington studio. This work presages Bacon’s own portrayals by almost a decade. Of Bacon, Moraes fondly recalls:
“When I was eighteen, I had spent almost all my mornings, afternoons and evenings with him, dined along with him at Wheeler’s, oysters and Chablis, gone with him to the Gargoyle, listened to the wit and wisdom which flowed almost continuously from his lips. Sometimes I was aghast at the scathing sarcasm which bubbled out of him, but it was never directed at me. At every meeting I had learned something new from him, been captivated, spellbound. Wherever he appeared, the air brightened, groups of people were animated, electricity hummed and buzzed and bottles of champagne arrived. I had learned so much of the ways of the world from him and, though at the time I had not properly understood half of his teaching, it had nevertheless, willy-nilly been assimilated.” (Ibid., pp. 72-73).
Indeed, by the time Bacon came to paint Moraes, ten years had passed; aged 30 or 31 at the time, Moraes recalls Bacon’s suggestion that she pose for him:
“One night I was having a drink in the French Pub with Francis Bacon and Deakin and others. Francis said, ‘I’m thinking of painting some of my friends and I’d like to do you but I can really only work from photographs, so, if it’s OK, Deakin will come round to your house and take them. I’ll tell him what I want. You are beautiful, darling, and you always will be, you mustn’t worry about that.’” (Ibid., 71).
This would have been around 1962 and was the point at which Bacon began commissioning his drinking partner, friend, and Vogue photographer, John Deakin to capture Moraes and the protagonists of his Soho enclave. The resulting photographs formed a repository of visual aids for Bacon, whose lasting impact is plainly manifest across the host of astonishing paintings that followed; indeed, at the time of his death in 1992 over three hundred of these images were found scattered and strewn across Bacon’s studio. Among these, nude and clothed, full figure and head shot, interior and exterior, paint stained, crumpled and folded, Deakin’s photographs of Moraes feature heavily.
Moraes’s appearance in Bacon’s oeuvre thus illustrates a seismic shift at the beginning of the 1960s. Moving away from emblematic forms – such as those extrapolated from Velazquez’s Pope, Muybridge’s The Human Figure in Motion, motifs from Van Gogh and Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin – Bacon looked to capture the ‘fact’ of human behaviour in a more direct non-illustrational way. Realising the need for a physical armature upon which to hang this ‘energy’ and ‘living quality’, Bacon turned to his inner social circle, and specifically those with whom he shared a similar instinctual and risk-taking attitude towards life. Bacon’s principal subject thus became the people he knew best: combining memory with Deakin’s aide-memoires, alongside Moraes Bacon painted George Dyer, Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud, and Muriel Belcher, and in so doing, created some of the most astounding and inventive portrait studies of the Twentieth Century. Delivering an extraordinary coming together of familiarity and total originality, the small portrait studies signify the ultimate record of sensation in Bacon’s work. To quote art historian William Feaver: “‘Studies’ or exercises though they are, these small paintings are central to Bacon’s art. The scale of a bathroom mirror-image makes them one-to-one, and when they are paired, or grouped in threes, the differences animate them. No rooms, no thrones, no perfunctory landscape settings are needed. Without context or posture, the heads have nothing to do but look, sometimes at one another, and wait” (William Feaver, ‘That’s It’ in: Exh. Cat., London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909 - 1992 Small Portrait Studies, 1993, p. 6).
Bacon’s portraits are an enactment of his own thoughts on the nature of real friendship; the artist is famously quoted saying: "I’ve always thought of friendship as where two people really tear each other apart", indeed, in his portraits Bacon mercilessly pulls, rips and cleaves the intricacies of his friends’ likenesses until their flayed countenances distil some essential physical and pictorial truth (Francis Bacon quoted in: Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 2009, p. 257). Exploiting familiarity to his advantage, Bacon freely manipulated and wrestled with the physiognomy of those closest to him to engender an elemental painterly distillation in which facture and expression are resolutely interlocked. Representation is deconstructed to the point where features become indiscernible and physical states are superimposed. Nevertheless, the end result is unmistakable in subject. As outlined by John Russell: “although the features as we know them in everyday life may disappear from time to time in a chromatic swirl of paint or be blotted from view by an imperious wipe with a towel, individual aspects of the sitter are shown to us, by way of compensation, with an intensity not often encountered in life” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 2001, p. 124).
Emulating mug-shot proportions of a photobooth image or ‘police record’, the unadorned immediacy of Bacon’s small portraits radiate endurance, nervousness, and involuntary mannerisms: these heads truly embody Bacon’s desire to paint as close to the ‘nervous system’ as possible. Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes consummately epitomises the breathtaking power of these small triptychs, and indeed, Bacon’s unique ability to harness the essence of being – its chaos, the ludicrous chance of life itself, it’s terrible beauty – is nowhere more apposite. Beyond mere form and likeness, these are remarkable portraits as unrestrained and exuberant as Moraes’s uninhibited and extraordinary life.
Francis Bacon triptych could sell for more than £30m at auction debut
The work is being previewed at Sotheby’s in London.
BY ALEX GREEN | UK NEWS | THE INDEPENDENT | SATURDAY 8 OCTOBER 2022
Francis Bacon triptych depicting his close friend Henrietta Moraes is expected to sell for more than £30 million when it goes to auction this month.
Moraes was a key figure in London’s post-war artistic landscape and acted as a muse for both Bacon and Lucian Freud. The paintings, titled Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, come from the collection of American media executive William S Paley, who acquired the work months after it was finished in 1963.
The triptych will make its auction debut at Sotheby’s in London during a contemporary evening sale on October 14. Until recently it was kept under the stewardship of the Museum of Modern Art (Moma) in New York, where it stayed for more than 30 years following Mr Paley’s death in 1990.
Bacon, known for his bold and shocking figurative style, died aged 82 in 1992. His work focused on the human form in an often brutal manner and included a number of triptychs, religious images of crucifixions and popes, and self-portraits.
The sale also includes German artist Gerhard Richter’s 192 Farben, which has an estimated sale price of between £13 million and £18 million, the highest placed for a work from its series. Also featured are Frank Auerbach’s Head of JYM and a 1948 portrait by Jean Dubuffet in his signature art brut style.
A full preview of the series will be unveiled at Sotheby’s New Bond Street Galleries from October 8-14 ahead of the evening auctions on October 14. It will be followed by the contemporary day sale the following afternoon.
Denis Wirth-Miller | Bohemian in the Bullrushes
From louche Fitzrovia carouser to painting partner of Francis Bacon,
Denis Wirth-Miller confounds Alexander Adams.
ALEXANDER ADAMS | EXHIBITIONS | ART | WHY NOW | TUESDAY 4 OCTOBER 2022
What was going through Denis’s mind as he waited for his friend Francis Bacon to visit his solo exhibition? Trepidation, anticipation, pride? Bacon was an artistic superstar, a fierce wit and notoriously capricious. Denis had been his friend since the 1940s and had a hand in some of Bacon’s best early works. By 1977 Denis’s profile was dwarfed by Bacon’s, and the display of his landscape paintings (in a modest East Anglian venue) was only a small affair. Knowing Bacon’s volatility, Denis must have been a little apprehensive.
Bacon arrived and toured the display with Denis before the private view. His comments were so savage and contemptuous that Denis was distraught. Humiliated and shocked, Denis took all the canvases away and destroyed them. For the four decades that remained to him, he virtually ceased painting. It appeared the artist had lost inspiration and lost heart. Bacon, the painter who had inspired him, had also crushed and extinguished the pleasure he experienced from making art.
From Soho to East Anglia
The extraordinary life of British painter Denis Wirth-Miller (1915-2010) is like a history of the last century. The new exhibition Denis Wirth-Miller: Landscapes and Beasts (Firstsite, Colchester, 1 October until 22 January 2023) presents the best of his art and sheds light on three remarkable men: Denis Wirth-Miller, Francis Bacon and Richard “Dickie” Chopping, Wirth-Miller’s partner.
Born in the First World War, Denis worked in textiles and window dressing before following his vocation as a painter. The exhibition includes paintings in Cubist and Neo-Romantic styles from the 1930s and 1940s when he studied alongside Lucian Freud. (They did not get on, then or later.)
During the Second World War, Wirth-Miller met Chopping, and they became lovers. Despite constant rows – often fuelled by heavy drinking – “Dickie and Denis” remained devoted to each other for the next 60 years. In 2005, they became one of the first gay couples to enter a civil partnership. Chopping was a brilliant illustrator, beloved tutor at the Royal College and sometime novelist. His covers for James Bond novels are still hailed as classics. One layout for a Bond novel jacket is exhibited here
The couple moved to Essex to escape the frantic social life of Soho. They moved to the Storehouse, an old quayside house in Wivenhoe, which would become their long-term home. Artists, actors, authors, and socialites would travel by train to Wivenhoe’s tranquillity. Turner became heir to Chopping and Wirth-Miller’s art and archives.
Painter-partner of Bacon
Bacon and Wirth-Miller were best friends from the 1940s until Bacon died in 1992. Bacon was inspired by Eadweard Muybrodge’s photographs of figures in motion, and Denis’s paintings of the time, of nude boxers and dog-walking, are close to Bacon’s style
The pair collaborated, with Denis painting foliage in Bacon’s canvases. Wirth-Miller’s dog paintings are comprised of rough brushstrokes on dark backgrounds, causing the forms to flicker and surge out of the gloom. The animals have a raw muscular presence, and the pictures of crouching figures are animalistic, like beasts about to pounce.
The exhibition includes three Bacon paintings: the head of a screaming pope, a dog walking (from 1952) and a depiction of Van Gogh, where trees resemble Wirth-Miller’s views. That gallery shows Bacon and Wirth-Miller at their very best. Visitors will be tempted to see Bacon’s handiwork in some canvases attributed to Wirth-Miller. That’s how close the subjects and the technique are.
Wirth-Miller adulated Bacon the artist but drew away from him artistically in the 1960s, choosing to paint landscapes, while Bacon’s trajectory drew him closer to the figure. Wirth-Miller resented that his art never got more recognition than it did, though he did have good sales and even had his art bought by the Queen. Yet, if he is known today, it is as a friend of Bacon’s.
Brilliant and banal
Wirth-Miller’s landscapes are usually squarish in format, mainly of Essex and Suffolk, capturing the fenlands with level horizons and rushes. Broad stripes evoke furrowed soil, curving in slashes, brio, and tension. The thickly textured surfaces and repeated marks make paintings look like textile-wood-plaster decorative plaques from the 1950s and early 1960s. No wonder interior designers bought his landscapes for display rooms.
The best landscapes have energy and impact, but the worst verge on handicrafts, with dots of impasto (thick paint) speckling simple compositions. Unlike Chopping, who made detailed observations for his own botanical and animal illustrations, Wirth-Miller could be relatively casual and generic in nature paintings. One has trouble discerning species of trees or bushes in his landscapes. This absence of deep engagement (a degree of superficiality, maybe) prevents Wirth-Miller from being a great landscape painter.
Curator James Birch (author, collector and expert on Wirth-Miller) has been honest enough about Wirth-Miller’s limitations to include two paintings (of cows and ducks) that are lousy and lazy. These simple images of animals are flickered with diluted paint to animate them; they are painfully bland.
Time for reassessment
Wirth-Miller is a skilled and occasionally dazzling painter who deserves to be appreciated more. Long ignored by London’s commercial dealers, the exhibition should see the re-emergence of Wirth-Miller as a vital collaborator with Bacon and as a painter in his own right. Firstsite should be commended for exhibiting a local artist and calling in a knowledgeable curator whose passion shines through.
Well worth a trip to Colchester or picking up the handsome catalogue.
RELATIONS: LUCIAN FREUD, FRANCIS BACON,
FRANK AUERBACH, MICHAEL ANDREWS
MARK WESTALL | ART PREVIEWS | EXHIBITIONS | FAD MAGAZINE | MONDAY 3 OCTOBER 2022
Taking as its inspiration a famous John Deakin photograph from 1963 that shows the four painters in Soho (along with much younger painter Timothy Behrens, the subject of a portrait by Freud that is on view), the exhibition includes some of the artists’ portraits of each other, elucidating the connections between their respective practices.
Curated by art historian Richard Calvocoressi, Friends and Relations contextualizes key works by four era-defining artists. Featuring about forty paintings from private and public collections, it positions Freud—in the centenary year of his birth—as the grouping’s central figure. Each painter was aware of the others’ practice, to the extent of occasionally competing with one another, but of the four, Freud alone collected his friends’ work. At his death, he owned fifteen paintings and a large number of works on paper by Frank Auerbach. The exhibition includes two portraits by Auerbach formerly in Freud’s collection, on loan from British museums.
Portraiture was at the heart of Freud’s, Bacon’s, Auerbach’s, and, less directly, Andrews’s practices, and the exhibition’s title echoes not only the four artists’ camaraderie, but also intimate relationships between artist and sitter, which here includes artist and lover, partner, and offspring. Girl in a Dark Jacket (1947) exemplifies Freud’s early style and pictures Kitty Garman, the artist’s first wife and daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman. The Painter’s Mother Resting III (1977) is an early entry in a series of portraits of the artist’s mother, Lucie Freud, which he began after the death of his father, Ernst Freud, in 1970.
The intense friendship between Freud and Bacon is commemorated in the latter’s Three Studies for Portraits: Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud and J.H. (1966), in which Freud’s head is paired with those of John Hewitt, an antiquities dealer, and Rawsthorne, a close friend and fellow artist whom Bacon painted many times. Another highlight is Portrait of a Man Walking Down Steps (1972), a tribute by Bacon to his lover George Dyer, who committed suicide the year prior, the day before the opening of the artist’s 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris.
A selection of Auerbach’s work includes E.O.W., S.A.W. and J.J.W. in the Garden I (1963), a full-length portrait of his lover and frequent model, Stella West, and her family outdoors. Also included is Head of Gerda Boehm (1964), which depicts Auerbach’s cousin, who was, like him, a refugee from Nazi Germany. On loan from the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, in Norwich, the work’s dense accretion of paint epitomizes Auerbach’s approach during this era.
Michael Andrews’s ambitious group portrait The Colony Room I (1962) is on loan from Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Set in Soho’s storied drinking club, it pictures Andrews’s own mural in the background, with figures of Freud, Bacon, Bruce Bernard, artist’s model Henrietta Moraes, and the club’s proprietor, Muriel Belcher. Melanie and Me Swimming (1978–79), loaned to the exhibition by the Tate, depicts the artist teaching his daughter to swim in a river in Scotland.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by Martin Gayford and Florence Hallett, and an interview with Frank Auerbach by Richard Calvocoressi.
Also on view at Grosvenor Hill will be a selection of photographs of the four artists by their friend, the distinguished picture editor, writer, and photographer, Bruce Bernard (1928–2000). Complementing the paintings in Friends and Relations, Bernard’s portraits of the artists in their studios—some of which are exhibited publicly for the first time—are both direct and informal. The painter Virginia Verran, who represents Bernard’s estate, notes: “The link between painting and photography was a vital one throughout his life and the chance to bring his photographs together with paintings in this way is a profound one.”
Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends Opening reception: Thursday, November 17th, 6–8pm, November 17th, 2022–January 28th, 2023, Gagosian, 20 Grosvenor Hill, London
FRANCIS BACON Head of a Man (Self-Portrait), 1960
Together again: Gagosian exhibition celebrates Freud’s centenary
by reuniting the artist with his closest friends
The show will feature works by Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews
and the photographer Bruce Bernard
DANIEL CASSADY | EXHIBITIONS | NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 2022
If it is true that you can judge a man’s character by the company he keeps, then Gagosian’s forthcoming exhibition, Friends and Relations, has much to say about Lucian Freud. One of many shows across the UK that will mark the artist’s centenary this year, Friends and Relations will situate his works among those by three others with whom he was close: Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews.
The exhibition will feature around 40 paintings, roughly half of which are by Freud, loaned from both private collectors and institutions. The idea for the show, which opens on 18 November and was curated by the art historian Richard Calvocoressi (formerly of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Tate), came from a photograph of the four painters at Wheeler’s Restaurant in Soho, London, in 1963. The picture was taken by a friend and occasional subject of the group, the bohemian photographer John Deakin, who Bacon had commissioned to take photographs of his friends that he would later use as the basis for his paintings.
“For Freud’s centenary, The National Gallery in London is mounting a retrospective of his work, ” Calvocoressi says. “I thought rather than put on a complementary Freud exhibition, it would be more interesting to look at this group of friends and see how they reacted to each other’s work. ” The four painters shared many of their sitters and models, providing the exhibition with a great deal of common ground, Calvocoressi adds so “why not look at them as a sort of core. Not exactly a formalised group in any way, not a school or anything like that, but rather a group of friends who saw each other a lot and who sparked off each other?”
Freud and Bacon’s relationship is on full view in Three Studies for Portraits: Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud and J.H. (1966), while The Painter’s Mother Resting III (1977) is an early entry in a series of 18 portraits of the artist’s mother, Lucie Freud, which he began after the death of his father, Ernst Freud, in 1970. Andrews’s group portrait from 1962, The Colony Room I, features both Freud and Bacon, as well as the artist’s model Henrietta Moraes, and Muriel Belcher, who ran The Colony Room, one of the Soho haunts favoured by the group. Two portraits by Auerbach, formerly in Freud’s collection, will be lent to the exhibition from museums in Britain.
With a few exceptions the works are from the 1960s, when the four were closest. It was also a time “when figurative painting was very much going out of fashion,” Calvocoressi says. “With the rise of Minimalism, conceptual art and politicised art they stuck to the idea of paint on canvas and tried to represent the human presence in some sort of way.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by a smaller show: Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends. Bernard, a picture editor and writer, was a close friend of all four artists, and his photographs of the painters in their studios, some formal and some more candid, will further contextualise the relationships embedded in the paintings on view.
Friends and Relations: Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews and Bruce Bernard: Portraits of Friends, 17 November 2022-28 January 2023, Gagosian, 20 Grosvenor Hill, London
Group portrait of painters (left to right) Timothy Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon,
Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews at Wheelers Restaurant in Soho, London, 1963
Francis Bacon pulls the rug out
ALICE FISHER | DESIGN | THE GUARDIAN | MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 2022
While Francis Bacon’s art has been exhibited all over the world and he’s acknowledged as one of the most important painters of modern times, far less attention is paid to his time as an interior designer. But in the late 1920s, inspired by his European travels and the likes of Bauhaus and Le Corbusier, Bacon designed modernist rugs and furniture. His showroom – Francis Bacon Modern Decoration: Furniture in Metal, Glass and Wood; Rugs and Lights – contributed important works to British interior design and the rugs, in particular, are resonant of his early paintings.
Bacon often destroyed his work (his slashed and abandoned canvases are a headache for the authors of his catalogue raisonné) and, as his time as a furniture designer was so brief, little of his furniture remains – only seven of the 12 rugs he created still exist. One is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection, another is at the Château de Gourdon, France, one of the most exceptional collections of art deco works in the world.
But next month, one comes up for sale at a Sotheby’s auction to mark 30 years since Bacon’s death and to celebrate the artist’s love of France. Bacon was a Francophile, and he was deeply respected by the nation. He was honoured with an exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1971 – the first living artist to achieve this since his hero, Picasso, in 1966. He also lived in Paris from 1974 to 1987.
The rug features the string instrument and brickwork which also appear in one of his earliest paintings, Gouache (1929).
The auction at Sotheby’s will be held on 24 October at the end of Paris+ week – the first Parisian edition of the Art Basel fair.
Francis Bacon Triptych, August 1972
‘We cannot understand happiness before pain’
Francis Bacon and his Triptych August 1972 is next in Art Feeds The Soul, where we
examine several pieces of art in permanent collections around London that are not
necessarily easy to see, but that may be today’s medicine for our existential needs.
RAPHAEL TIFFOU | PAINTING | ART FEEDS THE SOUL | WHY NOW | THURSDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2022
“The emotionally intelligent person knows how to hope and be grateful while remaining steadfast before the essentially tragic structure of existence.” – Alain de Botton.
While discernible in ordinary life, there is no place in which de Botton’s words ring more accurate than in the art gallery – a place where even the most optimistic people are faced with questions of purpose. This leaves little space in a gallery for art that is comfortable and familiar and even less for art that is comforting.
But the challenges of art can themselves be comforting. In this vein, we look at several pieces in permanent collections around London that are not necessarily easy to see but that may be today’s apothecary for our existential needs.
Triptych August 1972 is not a life-affirming painting. It is not even a cheerful painting. It is a painting that defines the depths of survivor’s guilt, the pain of losing a close one even while acting as though nothing is the matter, but also one that represents the technical zenith of Bacon’s work.
We all know the overused epigram of great art borne from great pain, but it is difficult not to apply this cliché tracing paper over this painting.
It is a painting of Bacon’s lover and muse, George Dyer, a hardened East Ender from a criminal family. In a mythical but oft-repeated story, Bacon and Dyer met while the latter was burglarising Bacon’s studio – and they started a turbulent relationship. Withdrawn and reserved when sober, Dyer was highly animated and aggressive when drunk, and he became increasingly needy and dependent on his older caregiver.
By 1971, he was drinking alone and only in occasional contact with Bacon, who was more or less paying him to be drunk from dawn to dusk. Bacon’s most extensive retrospective in his career took place that October in Paris, and purely as a gesture of respect to the man who featured in so much of his work, Dyer was invited to Paris for the show. Although clean at the time, the pressure of being back in the fore entrained him into an evening of heavy pill and alcohol use.
Bacon and a friend discovered his body, sitting peacefully on the toilet the night before the opening. According to the critic John Russell, Bacon continued with the retrospective and displayed powers of self-control “to which few of us could aspire”. Bacon was deeply affected by the loss of Dyer; from this point, death haunted his life and work. Though outwardly stoic, he was inwardly broken.
The Tate gallery display caption for Triptych–August 1972 reads, “What death has not already consumed seeps incontinently out of the figures as their shadows.”
There are three highly regarded “Black Triptychs”, though two are in private collections, each of which details moments immediately before and after Dyer’s suicide.
Several other characteristics bind them. The shape of a black rendered doorway features centrally in all, and flat and shallow walls frame all. In many, Dyer is stalked by a broad shadow which takes the form of pools of blood or flesh in some panels or the wings of the angel of death in others.
Bacon was helped towards the irrationality of this amalgam by adapting the pose from one of his favourite photographic sources: ‘Some Phases in a Wrestling Match’ from Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of moving bodies published as The Human Figure in Motion.
The popular association of his work with anguish and debauchery was confirmed when the film director Bernardo Bertolucci used Bacon’s paintings in the opening credits of the controversial and sexually explicit Last Tango in Paris (1972). This film has taken on additional negative weight from the apparent treatment that Marlon Brando subjected his co-star too.
This may be a strange word for a series named ‘Art Feeds the Soul’. But art is as much a personal voyage for him, the artist, as it is a unique feeling for us, the viewer. This is perhaps the most striking example of pain objectified onto a canvas, which is why it is a piece that needs to be seen. We cannot understand true happiness until we understand real pain. This is undoubtedly an excellent place to start.
During the funeral, many of Dyer’s friends, including hardened East End criminals, broke down in tears. As the coffin was lowered into the grave, one friend was overcome and screamed, “you bloody fool!”
Triptych August 1972 , Francis Bacon Tate Gallery, London. Purchased 1980
‘A class of his own’: Sale of rare Bacon works
marks 30th anniversary of artist’s death
The auction will include rarely seen paintings, rugs, photographs and letters
KIM WILLSHER | CULTURE | THE GUARDIAN | WEDNESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2022
As a teenager, the artist, Francis Bacon, famously ran away to Paris to escape school and an authoritarian, homophobic father who had thrown him out of the family home.
Although his visit was brief, Bacon returned to the city two years later and became fascinated with the works of Picasso, Rodin, Degas and Monet. On seeing Picasso’s works at the famous Paul Rosenberg gallery, Bacon would later say: “At that moment I thought, well, I will try and paint too.”
Back in London, Bacon became an interior designer. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the French capital, however, to which he would often return, eventually setting up his studio in the newly trendy Marais district where he lived for more than a decade, from 1975 to 1987.
Now, to mark the anniversary of Bacon’s death 30 years ago on 28 October 1992, one of the artist’s most assiduous collectors, the Monaco-based philanthropist Majid Boustany, founder of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, is selling a number of rare pieces including paintings, photographs and letters.
The highlight of the sale is the 1949 painting Figure Crouching, the earliest surviving work from Bacon’s long-running series of hunched subjects, which he would continue until into the 1970s, valued at up to €5m. Another of the 20 lots is a hand-knotted carpet made while Bacon was working as an interior designer.
Guillaume Mallecot, who is overseeing the auction for Sotheby’s on 24 October, says the artist produced 20 rugs in the late 1920s and early 1930s, of which only seven are believed to exist today.
“We don’t know very well this side of Francis Bacon the interior designer, and very few of the items he produced in the 1930s exist, so this rug adds a touch of magic to the sale,” Mallecot told The Guardian.
A rare surviving painting from the 1930s (Bacon destroyed most of his early works), the Corner of the Studio, which reveals the extent of Picasso’s influence, is also being sold along with a hand-drawn postcard, a paint-covered plate palette from the artist’s Paris studio – one of only three from this time – and several black-and-white photographs, including one by Cecil Beaton and another by Don McCullin.
During his life, Bacon was equally parsimonious with details of his early years, censoring biographers and removing details he did not approve of. However, he admitted that he would not consider himself a success as an artist until he had achieved recognition in France.
“If the French like my work, then I shall feel that I have, to some extent, succeeded,” he said.
They did. A 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais is considered the zenith of his career – the only other living artist to have been given the honour until then was Picasso, though the event was marred by the suicide of Bacon’s companion, George Dyer, two days earlier in the Paris hotel they were staying in. David Hockney, then 34, and described by Le Monde as a “young rival” of Bacon’s, travelled from London to attend the opening.
“He always thought the English didn’t understand him, that his reception in Paris was decisive in a career, that it was the only place where an artist of his calibre could be recognised,” Didier Ottinger, curator of the 2019 exhibition Bacon en toutes lettres at the Centre Pompidou, told Le Monde at the time.
This was perfectly illustrated by the fact that the president, Georges Pompidou, opened the 1971 retrospective, while the then-prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, described Bacon as: “The man who paints dreadful creatures”.
The success of the Grand Palais exhibition prompted Bacon to buy a studio at rue de Birague in the Marais in 1974, which he kept until 1987.
To mark the sale, British art historian, Martin Harrison, an authority on Bacon’s work, wrote: “Arguably the most significant consequence of Bacon’s reception in Paris in the 1970s was that it reversed the injudicious and casual opinions of British critics who tended to glibly posit a visible decline in his later paintings. French critics ignored such subjectively inclined periodisation and responded with intelligence to major works that were often given their debut in Paris.”
Mallecot says despite the clear influences of other grand masters like Picasso, Bacon remains “in a class of his own”.
“There is no Francis Bacon movement, there is only Francis Bacon. He is a giant in the history of 21st-century art,” he said. “There is no Francis Bacon movement, there is only Francis Bacon. He is a giant in the history of 21st-century art,” he said.
All proceeds from the sale will go to Boustany’s Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation.
A portrait of Bacon by Don McCullin.
An Uncertain Image
A collector thought he had bought a painting by the celebrated British artist.
How far would he go to prove it?
BY SAM KNIGHT | ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS | THE NEW YORKER | SEPTEMBER 26, 2022
In the spring of 1997, an art collector in Geneva received a call from a contact at the city’s office of bankruptcies and legal proceedings. There was an auction coming up, of an estate that had gone unclaimed for nine years, and among the lots was a painting that the collector might want to take a look at: a canvas attributed to the British artist Lucian Freud. The collector was a businessman, originally from North Africa, who was used to picking up furniture and art works at competitive prices from Geneva’s plentiful array of galleries, antique dealers, and salesrooms. He is keen to preserve his privacy, so I will call him Omar.
Omar went to see the painting that day, at the auction house in Carouge, a suburb to the south of the city. The estate had belonged to a man named Adolfo di Camillo, who died in 1988. According to auction records, di Camillo appeared to have been a collector, too. In the seventies, he had sold a seventeenth-century painting of Pan, the Greek god of shepherds, that was once believed to be a Rubens.
The work attributed to Freud was a medium-sized, naturalistic oil portrait of a naked man, painted from the side and from behind. Parts of the background appeared unfinished, or hastily sketched, but the figure itself was skillfully captured, with a certain power. “Oh, it’s interesting, it’s strong,” Omar recalled saying to himself.
The bankruptcy office had attached an estimate of five hundred thousand Swiss francs (about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars) to the work. At the time, a recognized Freud portrait of a named sitter could fetch three times that amount. Omar asked his contact to hold it back, as one of the final lots of the sale, so that the room would be quieter. On the afternoon of March 7th, Omar bought the painting for less than a hundred thousand Swiss francs, or seventy thousand dollars. He also picked up one of di Camillo’s side tables, a lampshade, and a bronze sculpture in the style of Giacometti.
“After I bought the painting, I went home and put it in the rest of my collection and I forgot about it,” Omar told me in French when we met, earlier this year, at an expensive hotel on the lakefront in Geneva. He wore a Harrods baseball cap and was carrying a plastic bag. For years, Freud’s searching, candid portraits went against the overwhelming appetite of the contemporary art market, which was for abstraction. Although he was a famous painter in England, in part because of his surname (Sigmund, his grandfather, went to London as a refugee in 1938), Freud was a respected rather than a fashionable artist in Europe. In 2002, Omar watched a program about his career on Swiss television, which prompted him to learn more about the painting. So he put it on eBay.
Omar posted the ad on the evening of Saturday, November 30th. The item description read “Lucian Freud Painting.” Omar told me that he didn’t intend to sell the work; rather, he hoped to flush out information. “To do a reconnaissance,” he said. Four days later, Omar got a message from the auction site: his item had been blocked because of a copyright complaint. He called eBay’s office in France, and was told that the complaint had come from the artist.
According to Omar, a few days later the phone rang in his apartment. It was early in the afternoon. “I said, ‘Hello, hello,’ and after a long time I heard a voice: ‘I am Freud, Lucian Freud,’ ” Omar recalled. The voice, speaking in English, but with a Germanic rasp, said that he was the rightful owner of Omar’s painting and that he wanted it back. (Omar had put his phone number on the eBay ad.) Omar says that Freud offered him a hundred thousand Swiss francs, which he declined.
Three days later, the voice called back. This time, according to Omar, the man was angry. Freud was eighty years old at the time. The caller offered Omar twice what he had paid for the painting, but still the collector refused to sell. “ ‘No. Sorry,’ ” Omar remembered saying. “ ‘I am loving this painting. I am loving this.’ He said, ‘Fuck you.’ He said, I remember, ‘You will not sell the painting all your life.’ And he hung up.”
Omar has been trying to unravel the meaning of this call—and have his painting authenticated—for the past twenty years. Owning a disputed, possibly wildly valuable, art work is a cruel test of any person’s aesthetic values, basic reason, and innate (often well-disguised) capacity for greed. Close your eyes and there are millions of dollars hanging on the wall. Open them, and there is nothing to see. Hope flares, dies for years at a time, then sparks again, at odd moments. The question of authorship can be both maddeningly simple and frighteningly difficult to resolve. Laboratories and lawyers might tell you what you want to hear, and charge you by the hour. Omar always projected confidence when we spoke. “There is a beautiful story behind this painting,” he told me more than once. But there were days this year when I wished that I had never heard of it at all.
In July, 2005, Omar shipped the portrait to London, where it was examined by Freud’s longtime confidant and biographer, William Feaver. By this time, Omar was wondering if it could be a self-portrait, noting a similarity between the face of the figure and photographs of Freud from the fifties and sixties. In customs documents, he declared the value of the painting to be a million Swiss francs.
Feaver gave it the thumbs-down: the feet were unfinished, which was unlike Freud; the body was too heavily built for a self-portrait; the background was stylistically off. When I asked Feaver about the picture recently, almost seventeen years after the viewing, he had no memory of seeing it at all. But after consulting his diary he agreed with his initial assertion, which was recorded by a gallery assistant at the time. “If this spectral me had gone in, he would have said roundly that it wasn’t by Freud,” Feaver said. “There’s nothing like it in Lucian’s work ever, anywhere, to survive. . . . Every single certifiable one is fundamentally quite different from this rather careful, painstaking, correct thing.”
Freud was shown images of the painting several times, by his daughter Esther and by Pilar Ordovas, a former deputy chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, who is now a gallerist. Ordovas grew close to Freud in 2003, after she brought to market a rare urban scene of his, which he had not seen for thirty years. She became a regular visitor to his studio and handled his relationship with the auction house. “The artist was alive. I was doing my duty of showing him this work, slightly embarrassed,” she told me. “He said, ‘Pilar, absolutely not.’ There was not even a moment’s thought or question.” After Esther showed her father images of the painting, Freud asked for his name to be removed from the frame.
Omar had more luck with independent experts. In the summer of 2006, Nicholas Eastaugh, a world authority on pigmentation analysis, travelled to Geneva. Eastaugh examined the painting, which was now being called “Standing Male Nude,” with a microscope, under UV light, and took sixteen tiny paint samples. Eastaugh found “a series of points of similarity and correspondence” between Omar’s painting and known Freud works: traces of charcoal in the paint, the use of hog-hair brushes, which Freud favored starting in the late fifties, and the presence of a loose preparatory drawing, in pencil. On the bottom edge of the canvas, Eastaugh also found a partial fingerprint, which could point to a more definitive connection with the artist.
In life, Freud was a keen guardian of his œuvre and of his privacy. He communicated mostly by phone but did not give out his number, and he changed it often. He was sensitive to the market for his work and hated signing his name. “He was prepared to do whatever was necessary in order to protect what he thought was his right to be able to project to the world what he wanted,” Geordie Greig, a former editor of The Daily Mail and a friend of Freud’s, who wrote a book about him, told me.
Most of Freud’s failed paintings never left the studio. “Lucian was an avid destroyer of works that went wrong,” Feaver wrote me, in an e-mail. “I can remember many awaiting the cull. Generally, these—portraits especially—would be stiff and, more often, disproportionate.” Freud also kept an eye on paintings long after he made them. Throughout his career, he became angry when substandard works found their way to the market or forgotten canvases resurfaced. In the early fifties, the house of Gerald Gardiner, Freud’s lawyer at the time, was broken into and a single picture was taken: a portrait of Carol, Gardiner’s daughter, which Freud had painted but didn’t think much of. The story gave rise to a legend, encouraged by Freud, that he paid criminals to get hold of paintings that displeased him or that he regretted seeing out in the world. Late in his life, one of Freud’s daughters, Rose Boyt, hesitated to send him a painting for authentication, for fear that he would punch a hole in it instead.
“Everything had to be remarkable,” Greig said. Freud was drawn to extremes, and to fights. In the early seventies, John Craxton, an artist and an intimate friend of Freud’s, sold some of his drawings to a collector. When a dealer asked Freud to sign the sketches, he was furious, writing, “John Craxton is a cunt” on one of them. Freud’s fight with Craxton—a mess of legal letters and injunctions—went on for years. At one point, according to Ian Collins, Craxton’s biographer, Freud managed to have a Craxton portrait called “Lucian” removed from an exhibition, by saying it was not of him. “They became an art form,” Collins said of Freud’s feuds. “He had this phenomenal energy. He actually needed this to get him fired up. He needed enemies.”
Freud died in 2011, at the age of eighty-eight. From then on, his estate, and his lawyers, took over the protection of his name. Omar felt that every attempt to have his painting authenticated, or even looked at, resulted in a mysterious dead end. Curiosity would turn to silence. A few months after Freud’s death, a French connoisseur named Hector Obalk agreed to go to Geneva. Obalk presents an art-history show on French television. In the preceding decade, he had filmed two hundred and fifty-eight Freud works, collecting hours of footage in collaboration with the artist’s studio. Obalk viewed the painting in Omar’s office. “He had a pipe. He stood for half an hour like this,” Omar recalled, striking a pose of contemplation.
Obalk had no doubt that the painting was by Freud. But he saw limitations, too. Like Feaver, he found the feet unconvincing. He thought the face showed poor technique. Moreover, he respected Freud’s right to reject the painting. “Authentication of an œuvre does not only depend on the reality of a piece of work, but also on an aesthetic decision sanctioned by a number of acts, such as its signature, the studio output, exhibition in the artist’s lifetime, etc.,” Obalk wrote, in a nine-page report.
But the painting didn’t look like a forgery, or a case of mistaken attribution. Obalk noted a patch of impasto on the figure’s flank—paint so thick that it stands out from the canvas, a characteristic of Freud’s work—and a handling of the flesh tones that recalled several of his other portraits. In Obalk’s analysis, the painting was by Freud but not a Freud. “In our opinion, Standing Male is a canvas which Lucian Freud painted, then abandoned and disowned,” he wrote. “It is always more delicate to authenticate an unfinished work (in which the artist has hit an impasse) than to authenticate a resounding masterpiece.”
Twelve days before he delivered his verdict to Omar, in the spring of 2012, Obalk received a warning from Goodman Derrick, L.L.P., the law firm that represented Freud’s estate. The letter reiterated Freud’s disavowal of the painting during his lifetime. “It seems unclear to us why you may be using your extensive knowledge of the work of Lucian Freud to back an attribution you must know makes no sense,” the letter said. The law firm asked Obalk not to authenticate the painting but “to deny it,” and appeared to threaten any future coöperation by the estate on Obalk’s television work.
Obalk authenticated the painting anyway. He declined to speak for this article. “I have nothing to add,” he said. For several years, he was the only connoisseur willing to study Omar’s portrait, let alone give a positive opinion. The trail went cold until January, 2016, when Omar mounted a private show of his collection at the Freeport, a huge storage facility for art works and other valuables, in Geneva. To his surprise, an acquaintance named Ignacio Moreno stopped in front of “Standing Male Nude,” and said that he had seen it before.
“It was a flashback,” Moreno told me recently. Moreno, who was born in Cuba, is in his mid-sixties. He remembered seeing the nude on the wall of the apartment of the previous owner, di Camillo, where he occasionally went as a young man, in the late seventies. Moreno described the apartment as a gay oasis in Geneva at the time. He showed me a photograph of himself sitting near a fireplace, with another canvas propped against the wall behind him. Curiously, Moreno said that the apartment was used by Francis Bacon when he stayed in the city: a place of mess and paint by day, and raucous gatherings by night.
The relationship between Freud and Bacon, two of Britain’s greatest twentieth-century artists, is one of the most exciting and complex stories in modern art. During the fifties, the two men saw each other almost every day. Bacon was thirteen years older: famous, more obviously transgressive, gregarious and rude, openly gay when homosexual activity was still illegal in Britain. Freud was, in many ways, an unlikely protégé. He was a social celebrity—the weekend guest of aristocrats, turning heads in grotty drinking dens in Soho—magnetic to an almost intolerable degree. People kept falling in love with him. But Freud was haunted by Bacon’s genius: the older artist’s willingness to embrace accident, his feel for paint itself. “Real imagination is technical imagination,” Bacon told Time, in 1952. “It is in the ways you think up to bring an event to life again.”
Each was entranced by the other. Bacon painted Freud at least seventeen times. The younger artist had access to Bacon’s cramped, image-strewn studio. (Bacon preferred to work alone, from photographs, often taken by the artists’ mutual friend John Deakin, which he first crumpled up and threw on the floor.) There was a fierce attraction. A Bacon painting, “Two Figures,” from 1953, which is based on an Eadweard Muybridge photograph of wrestlers but seems to show two men making love, hung opposite Freud’s bed for fifty years. He was reluctant to lend it for exhibitions.
Freud painted Bacon only twice (an exquisite, postcard-size portrait, on copper, from 1952, was stolen in Berlin in 1988 and has never been recovered), but, of the two men, he owed the greater artistic debt. “I got very impatient with the way I was working. It was limiting,” he told Feaver. “I think my admiration for Francis came into this.” In the late fifties, Freud moved away from his hyper-controlled, almost inert painting style to a looser, more baroque mode of portraiture, which he ultimately realized with his candid, sprawling nudes of the eighties and nineties. Freud painted from life, working on some pieces for years at a time. “My work is purely autobiographical,” he said. “It is about myself and my surroundings. It is an attempt at a record. I work from the people that interest me, and that I care about and think about, in rooms that I live in and know.”
As Freud fully matured as an artist, he and Bacon drifted apart, with occasional spats until Bacon’s death, in 1992. In 2008, Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” sold for $33.6 million, making him, for a time, the world’s most expensive living artist. Both painters are now highly collectible, but works that carry a charge of their early love and rivalry are in a category of their own. Earlier this year, a single panel of a Bacon triptych, “Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud,” from 1964, sold for fifty-two million dollars.
The possibility of a connection between Omar’s painting and Bacon was tantalizing. Had Bacon owned the work? What was he doing in Geneva?
In late 2018, Omar asked Thierry Navarro, a Swiss investigator, to get to the bottom of the authentication problem. An engineer by training, Navarro is an alert, quietly stubborn man in his early fifties, who wears half-rimmed glasses and walks extremely fast, as if he were slightly late, which he often is. His other jobs have included developing computer games and a new navigation system for motorcyclists. His father, Pedro, was a landscape artist, and Navarro himself is a self-taught painter. “I’m a multidimensional person, quite a complex one, I guess,” he told me. Nonetheless, Navarro saw the question of Freud’s authorship in binary, provable terms. “It has been denied. That is a fact. No question,” he said. “And there is another fact: the painting is on the table. I mean, it exists. And nothing is against the attribution to Lucian Freud.”
Studying Omar’s file, Navarro noticed that Obalk had flagged the academic, formal pose of the subject as extremely unusual for Freud. “Throw of discus?” Obalk had asked, in parentheses. One evening, as Navarro read up on Bacon, he found himself scrolling through an online copy of “The Human Figure in Motion,” a collection of Muybridge photographs from 1901. “Suddenly, I came to a series of images—then I went slowly,” he recalled. The series was called “athlete. catching at a ball.” Navarro stopped scrolling. “It was just, like, That’s it,” he said.
Navarro zoomed in. To his eye, the pose of Omar’s portrait matched a figure in the third row of the Muybridge series, down to the line of the wall and the floor in the background and a blemish on the figure’s left buttock. “My mind was, just, Wow,” Navarro said. The only difference was that the images were reversed—a discrepancy that could be explained if the artist had been painting in a mirror, which, if the work was a self-portrait, he might have been. “You get the dots and you start drawing a line,” Navarro said. “It’s probably not the entire line, but there are a lot of similarities and consistency, I would say, between all those dots.” If his theory was correct, and Freud had worked from a key Bacon reference, that would make the painting a remarkable artifact of the artists’ relationship. “I think this might have been a challenge requested by Bacon,” Navarro said. “ ‘Can you paint yourself from the back? For me?’ ”
In the spring of 2019, Omar and Navarro approached Art Recognition, a tech company outside Zurich, and asked it to evaluate the painting. Art Recognition uses artificial intelligence to detect the brushstrokes, color palette, compositional choices, and other barely definable mannerisms of individual artists. The C.E.O. is Carina Popovici, a theoretical physicist. She trained the first prototype of the system to recognize works by Max Pechstein, the German Expressionist, in order to weed out fakes by Wolfgang Beltracchi, a notorious forger, and has since worked with museums, galleries, and dozens of private collectors. In 2019, Art Recognition independently authenticated a van Gogh self-portrait at the Norwegian National Museum, in Oslo. When she started out, Popovici worried about giving owners bad news. It turns out that most people are relieved, either way. “They’re just glad to have an answer,” she said.
For Omar’s portrait, Art Recognition used data from two hundred and thirty-five known Freud paintings and more than three hundred paintings by other comparable artists from the same period. These were broken down into a total of some five thousand fragments, which were used to train the A.I. to identify patches of canvas painted by Freud, and those by other artists. For each art work examined by the A.I., Popovici explained, the model is run forty-five times, with slightly different calibrations, to make sure that the over-all result is representative. Popovici’s team found that “Standing Male Nude” had an eighty-nine-per-cent chance of being an original art work by Lucian Freud. “From our point of view, it’s a very, very solid result,” she told me. I asked if, to her knowledge, her A.I. system had ever been wrong. “No,” Popovici replied. Then she laughed for a long time, as though this was somehow an inappropriate question.
The A.I. report appeared to vindicate Navarro’s technical approach to proving that “Standing Male Nude” was by Freud. “There is no feeling,” he said. “It’s just facts.” Navarro came to perceive the rejections of the artist and his estate as a matter of intrigue, rather than facts with meaning of their own.
“Why would the painter have denied this? That is really, for me, the point,” he said. When I suggested that Freud may have denied the work because he didn’t paint it, Navarro shrugged off the idea. Both Omar and his investigator became deeply suspicious of what Navarro called “the Freud environment”—the close group of experts, former assistants, biographers, and lawyers who guard his work, and its value—in London. “Nobody’s going to move,” Navarro said. “There is this kind of secret rule. You don’t go against the will of someone like Freud.”
In time, Omar’s file of paperwork relating to the painting grew thick, becoming—in the eyes of many art-world insiders—a problem in its own right. A New York-based art lawyer told me that he tunes out whenever people start talking about scientific reports relating to disputed art works. “You can tell when something doesn’t feel right,” another dealer said, of similar situations, “when someone so desperately wants something.” The art market can’t stand doubt. Great art should be simple, agreed-upon, and expensive: visceral to the eye and to the wallet. Truth is more important than facts. “The moment the story is elaborated, the boredom sets in,” Bacon once said, of complicated paintings. “The story talks louder than the paint.”
It didn’t help that Omar and Navarro were relative outsiders, with no track record of owning or researching Freud’s work. Some of their attempts to make headway were touching in their naïveté. Navarro called Scotland Yard and the F.B.I., to see if they had copies of Freud’s fingerprints that they would be willing to share. (The authorities declined.) Navarro was offended when experts seemed to skim through a dossier that he had prepared on the painting, or didn’t engage with his Muybridge theory.
One prominent European dealer, who went to see the painting at a private bank in Geneva, told me that he had misgivings as soon as he walked through the door. “I’m not an expert in Freud,” the dealer told me. “But I am an expert in situations.” “Standing Male Nude” was on an easel, next to another work from Omar’s collection, which the dealer believed was a reproduction.
“It was just a farce,” the dealer said. “Everybody was talking about millions of dollars. . . . And I was, like, What are we talking about? We shouldn’t be talking about money when we don’t even know what we have.” According to the dealer, Navarro seemed to think that it was up to the Freud estate to disprove the attribution, rather than up to him to provide any proof that this could be a Freud in the first place. “There was nothing to substantiate anything,” the dealer said. “I’m not doubting the good faith of everyone. But, basically, when you’re outside of the art world, you put the chariot before the cattle. I don’t know how you say it in English, but you do things backwards.”
During the meeting, the dealer called Ordovas, the former Christie’s expert, whom he knew, for her opinion. She told him that Freud had denied the work during his lifetime, which the dealer said was the end of the matter. Navarro told me that he thought the call was staged—a stunt designed to humiliate him and Omar—and he lost his temper. “I was a bit upset,” he said. He reminded the dealer of Obalk’s verdict, the A.I. report, and Eastaugh’s positive pigmentation analysis. “How can you say that? Do you have no respect for those experts? Who are you?” Navarro recalled saying.
The dealer softened and, according to Navarro, acknowledged, “Ça pue de Freud.” “It stinks of Freud.” (The dealer disputes Navarro’s account of the meeting.) But to what end? “Even if it was the case, there’s nothing I can do about it,” the dealer told me. According to Navarro, the dealer offered to send the painting to London again, to other experts that he knew, but there was a risk that it might be destroyed, or disfigured, in the process. “Come on,” Navarro said. “It’s a joke.”
More than a hundred and fifty years after art historians began certifying Old Master paintings (for a fee, of course), the rules for authenticating art works are the same as the rules for the rest of the art market: strict, scholarly, and undermined by human sin.
People talk about three pillars, or a triangle, of authentication: connoisseurship (What does it look like?), technical analysis (What is it made of?), and provenance (Where did it come from?). But in truth every major artist’s output is a fiefdom unto itself, with august gatekeepers and unwritten rules. There is no single authentication process. Some artists’ estates have a committee, made up of scholars and hangers-on, to evaluate possible works. Others have disbanded theirs, in part because of the risk of litigation from rich collectors. (Since 2012, committees for Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat have all stopped authenticating works.) Some artists have a single catalogue raisonné—a definitive record of all their work, typically in chronological order—which acts as the reference for their œuvre. Others have none. Modigliani has five, and they are all different.
Money makes everything worse. “You can have good people at the beginning. And then, you know, they begin to be influenced for some reason,” a Swiss lawyer who works in the field told me. At the top end of the market, the power to authenticate a Picasso, a Rothko, a Hepworth, is a lambent, magical thing. Often it comes to rest—by chance or by careful plotting—in the hands of two or three people. Preparing a catalogue raisonné is a project with its own unique rewards, risks, and access to privileged information. Dealers have been known to fund the research, in order to find out who owns an artist’s œuvre. Deciding what to include, and what to leave out, can have huge financial implications. One dealer described the responsibility as a kind of curse.
But the lure of being an authenticator is strong. Since the late nineties, Marc Restellini, a French curator and connoisseur, has been attempting to sort out the Modigliani mess. He began work on a sixth (and presumably final) catalogue raisonné with a research institute in France, funded by the Wildenstein family, the legendary Parisian art dealers.
In 2001, Restellini paused his work on Modigliani’s drawings after receiving death threats. I asked him recently whether the threats had come because he had been willing to include previously unrecognized works (which can drive down prices) or because he had taken out existing Modiglianis. “Out. Out. Out!” Restellini replied. For the past twenty-five years, he explained, his problem has been a catalogue raisonné first published by Ambrogio Ceroni, in 1958. The Ceroni catalogue has come to define the market for Modigliani (the most expensive Modigliani nude sold for a hundred and seventy million dollars) despite containing obvious omissions. Restellini believes that Ceroni also included forgeries and even touched up Modigliani’s paintings himself. (The catalogue’s publisher did not respond to a request for comment.) “The market for me is just mad,” he said. “Because they are in negation of the truth for just private and financial interest.”
It is unclear whether Restellini will ever set the record straight. Since 2020, he has been in litigation with the Wildenstein Plattner Institute over intellectual-property rights relating to the latest catalogue raisonné. Restellini is himself an art-world player. He has been a curator and an entrepreneur, as well as a scholar. He lends his name to a high-end art-analysis laboratory, the Institut Restellini-Investigation, in Geneva. He promised that his Modigliani-paintings catalogue will be published next year. I said that the project sounded like a nightmare. “Not so much,” he replied. “I think I am the nightmare of many people.”
Overturning an artist’s own verdict on a work—during his lifetime or after his death—is a tough move in a tough game. In France, the moral right of an artist to withdraw or deny his work is perpetual, and passed on to his heirs. Discarding art is an aesthetic gesture in itself, the inverse of the creative act. “Cutting up the paintings was always an act of liberation,” Gerhard Richter, the German artist, told the magazine Der Spiegel a few years ago. Richter is thought to have destroyed about sixty works from the early sixties, when he began to paint from photographs, that would now have an estimated value of six hundred million dollars. If an artist detests something he makes, particularly an early work or an experiment that failed, then the market tends to reflect that. “You wouldn’t want to own that, would you?” one dealer said. “If you could buy anything?”
But what about when artists lie, or muddy the waters for their own reasons? “I often paint fakes,” Picasso is said to have said. In the sixties, he was shown a photograph of “La Douleur,” a painting that he supposedly made in 1902 or 1903. Picasso described the work as a “joke by friends,” and it was ignored for decades in a storage room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until it was definitively authenticated in 2010. In 1995, a New York appeals court overruled a judgment that a work by Balthus was a fake just because the artist said it was. At the age of eighty-three, Balthus had signed an affidavit saying that he was not blind and that “Colette de Profil,” a portrait from 1954, was a “faux manifeste.” But the court sided with the work’s former owner and an expert from the Met, who suggested that Balthus was trying to get back at his ex-wife, who had authenticated it in the first place.
Along with the moral and legal hazards, orphaned works are often difficult to identify because they are simply not that good. “It’s slapdash,” Gary Tinterow, a Met curator, told the Times, in 2010, of the authenticated Picasso. Talking to Freud experts, I noticed that even connoisseurs who were extremely disparaging about Omar’s painting often left the door open a tiny crack. “I saw a photo of this a year or two ago and assumed it’s a dud,” James Kirkman, one of Freud’s former dealers, told me in an e-mail. “One is capable of being proved wrong, I suppose,” Feaver said.
One day in February, I stopped by the Bacon estate, which occupies Bacon’s former studio, in Reece Mews, in Kensington. I was looking for evidence that Bacon spent time in Geneva. Until 2016, the Bacon estate had an authentication committee, which was chaired by Martin Harrison, the editor of Bacon’s five-volume catalogue raisonné. (The committee stopped meeting after the catalogue was published.) Like Freud, Bacon destroyed or abandoned hundreds of paintings during his career, many of which then escaped from his control one way or another. (Bacon’s studio was burgled three times; roughly a hundred canvases that had been slashed by Bacon survive.) When genuine works have resurfaced, Harrison has had no choice but to recognize them as such. “If I believe a work to be by Bacon, I have to say it,” he told me. “I wish it weren’t, in many ways. What am I going to do?”
Bacon and Freud scholars maintain a quietly bitchy relationship, and Harrison, who has a mischievous side, took an interest in Omar’s painting. “It doesn’t stop it being a Freud just because it’s not good,” he said. “I wouldn’t dismiss it.” In a recent biography of Bacon, the American art writers Annalyn Swan and Mark Stevens suggested that he made short trips to Switzerland in the seventies, likely to collect money from a Swiss bank account. Harrison invited me to look at one of Bacon’s two passports for the period. I found only a few Swiss border stamps, from Basel, in 1969 and 1976.
Harrison thought that Omar’s painting was competently done. “Some of the Bacons that I had to reproduce were much more negligible than this,” he said. In the room where Bacon used to paint, Sophie Pretorius, who manages the estate’s archive, magnified an image of “Standing Male Nude” on her computer. “I just don’t think the body is right,” she said. “There’s no distortion.” Harrison looked again. “It looks like somebody else,” he agreed. “But who on earth is somebody else?” Harrison said he thought the painting had a thirteen-per-cent chance of being by Lucian Freud. I couldn’t tell if he was teasing.
The perils of the authentication process, and the slim chance of extreme rewards, mean that some quests never end. Eastaugh, the pigmentation expert, told me that he sees it a lot: the bulging file, the flights from one European city to another, the latest invoice for a round of bomb-pulse radiocarbon dating. It’s usually a campaign carried on by men and, when they die, Eastaugh observed, continued by their daughters. At a certain point, it stops being about the painting and becomes a search for deeper, and even more impossible, forms of validation. Owning a work made by a genius induces a feeling of connection—to something pure, and, perhaps, to the purer part of ourselves.
“The obsessive desire to prove parentage is quite a strong psychological state of mind,” Feaver remarked. “Isn’t it?”
Seven years ago, Richard Polsky, a former Warhol dealer, set up his own art-authentication business. He quoted a Talmudic idea to describe an elision of identity that can take place between owners and their unproven masterpieces: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” (Polsky’s life has also been threatened, over a fake Basquiat). “When you make money, you feel smart. It’s as simple as that,” he told me. “It does sort of justify who you are as a person—‘I’m a smart person, I made a good decision. I saw something others didn’t see.’ ” Uncomfortably, the reverse is also true. Finding out that you didn’t, in fact, buy a priceless art work from a bankruptcy auction can raise troubling questions about whom you imagine yourself to be.
When I first met Omar, over lunch in Geneva, I asked him why he didn’t just try to sell the painting in its disputed state, and let someone else take on the problem. He made it clear that this wasn’t an option. “It is a battle,” he replied.
“I think it’s about personal ego,” Navarro chimed in across the table, indicating a degree of association that now existed between his client and one of the greatest twentieth-century artists. “I think he has a personal feeling, or he wants to prove to himself that he can go over this decision by Freud.”
There is no Freud authentication committee. In 2013, the Freud archive appointed Catherine Lampert, a curator and historian, who knew Freud, and Toby Treves, a former curator of twentieth-century British art at Tate, to write his catalogue raisonné. The first catalogue, of Freud’s prints, was published in the spring. A second catalogue, of about five hundred paintings, will appear next year
In May, I visited Treves at his home, in West London. Although Omar and Navarro had not formally submitted “Standing Male Nude” for the catalogue raisonné, Treves had seen an image of the painting in an article in The Observer, last year. “I don’t need to see it again,” he said. “If we put that painting in a line with all the other paintings that he made from 1939 to 2011, I think pretty much everyone would think, That looks like the odd one out.” The selection for the Freud catalogue raisonné was practically complete. “The criteria is certainty,” Treves explained. “And, if we’re not certain, then that’s it.”
Treves acknowledged Freud’s unpredictable behavior toward attribution during his lifetime. “Freud was an extremely knowing individual,” he said. “And he knows about mythmaking.” But Treves also observed that Freud’s artistic output was well documented. He had the same studio assistant, David Dawson, for the last twenty years of his life. He worked extremely slowly, usually on three portraits at a time, and was fairly static, making almost all his paintings in London. During nine years of research, Treves and Lampert turned up only four small paintings that they previously hadn’t seen, and three belonged to the family of one of Freud’s lovers. “People doing these projects would love to find a new work,” Treves said. “That really is finding a new poem by Keats.” But he added that the chances of discovering a major portrait at this stage were almost nonexistent. “I very much doubt it,” he said. “What you may find is unfinished, abandoned paintings. . . . That’s definitely happened.”
In 1997, the year that Omar bought his nude, a creative director named Jon Lys Turner inherited another painting attributed to Freud which the artist had denied. Turner’s portrait, of a young man in a black cravat, belonged for many years to Denis Wirth-Miller, a bohemian landscape painter. Wirth-Miller and his partner, Richard (Dicky) Chopping, were among Francis Bacon’s closest friends. But they couldn’t stand Freud. Freud called Wirth-Miller Worth-Nothing; Chopping kept a handwritten list of reasons he hated Freud. Turner recalled that Wirth-Miller had left the painting to him with a specific instruction: “I want it sold as loudly as possible to really upset Lucian.”
But it wasn’t as straightforward as that. In 1985, Christie’s had accepted the painting for an upcoming auction, only for Freud to reject the attribution. The reason appeared to be spite. Wirth-Miller and Freud had studied together at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, in Suffolk, during the Second World War, and Wirth-Miller had owned the canvas since then. Like Omar, Turner found the task of overturning Freud’s repudiation virtually impossible. Polite phone calls went nowhere. “They said, ‘O.K., we’ll get back to you,’ ” Turner said. “Tumbleweed.”
As Freud’s fame grew—and his prices rose—Turner’s relationship with the painting became uncomfortably charged. “It’s a lot like going through hell as you go through one recession after another. I used to think to myself, Imagine if this is a Freud,” he said. “Imagine if this is worth lots of money.” Unlike Omar, however, Turner was close enough to the London art market to be sensitive to its unspoken codes. “A lot of people were frightened of him and they weren’t going to go against him,” he said, of Freud. “I am a sole individual who goes into a big auction house. Which side is that auction house going to take?”
In 2015, the producers of a BBC arts program, “Fake or Fortune?,” agreed to investigate Turner’s painting for the show. “I was full of trepidation,” Turner said. “I also knew that, at the end of it, if I did that myself, I will get nowhere.” During filming, Diana Rawstron, Freud’s lawyer, revealed a note from a phone call with Freud, in which he acknowledged starting Turner’s painting. Technical analysis of the canvas, paint, and brushstrokes suggested strongly that the work had been completed by a single hand. In 2019, Treves and Lampert agreed to include Turner’s portrait in the catalogue raisonné, as an unfinished painting.
Three years later, Turner’s Freud remains unsold. He waited for the publicity around the TV show to fade and then offered to use it to endow a scholarship at an art school. But the conversations did not progress. A couple of curators asked to borrow the painting for exhibitions, but, similarly, did not follow through. When we met, Turner did not want to think about why. “I have got no evidence, no evidence for anything, but it is history repeating itself,” he said. He wondered how the painting would be received by Freud’s circle if he put it on the open market. “I’m still the outsider,” Turner said. “Let’s face it. . . . They must hate me, because I did what they didn’t want. I won.”
You carry on, because what else can you do? In November, 2021, Omar and Navarro escalated their campaign, sending “Standing Male Nude” to the laboratory of Marc Restellini, the scourge of the Modigliani market. The Institut Restellini charges up to thirty thousand euros to examine an art work. A specific type of carbon dating that has been recently applied to twentieth-century canvases allows them to be dated to within a couple of years. According to the Institut Restellini, the canvas of Omar’s painting dated from the early fifties, which ruled out a recent forgery. In May, Navarro told me that Omar had unearthed a second witness, based in Italy, who could also attest to Bacon spending time in Geneva in the seventies. “Excellent news are on track and should be confirmed soon,” Navarro texted.
The longing is infectious. One day, I remembered something that Harrison had said, at the Bacon estate. A few years ago, he was sent a group of supposed Bacons, which had originated in Sweden. He came to the conclusion that they weren’t fakes, as such, but had probably been made by an art student in the sixties or seventies, who had fallen under Bacon’s influence; the paintings had later been mistaken for the real thing. I wondered if the same thing might have happened with Omar’s nude. Freud supervised students sporadically throughout his career—at the Slade, in London, and, in the autumn of 1964, at the Norwich School of Art.
I tracked down Roger James Elsgood, a radio producer in his seventies, who was one of five students taught by Freud in Norwich. One morning, in the spring, we met at the Royal Academy of Arts, on Piccadilly. There was a major Bacon show on display, which included “Two Figures”—the masterpiece that had hung in Freud’s bedroom—complete with an image of the Muybridge reference on the wall next to it. Elsgood didn’t think that Omar’s painting could have been done by a student. “It’s a relatively mature work by a very middling figurative painter,” he said. “They were ten a penny.” Then he brought out his phone. He wanted to show me a painting that his wife, Jan, had bought in the late sixties, from Ken Brazier, an artist whom Freud painted in 1957. Elsgood had begun to think that maybe they owned a Freud, too. “Of course, when you start to wonder, you start to think, Well, we’re rich,” he said. He was thinking about looking into it.
The painting was on display in a conference room at Omar’s lawyers’ offices, in the middle of town. It rested on a stand in an alcove. Omar had put the portrait in an elaborate gilt frame, which was distracting. Up close, I was struck by the painting’s tidy correctness. The figure looked away. The patch of impasto on the flank was the artist’s only real flourish. The previous day, I had been to a small show of Freud’s paintings at the Freud Museum, the London home of Sigmund, and all the works there had seemed to possess more complexity, more problems, more life. “Everything is fought over,” Feaver said, of Freud’s work. A home video at the exhibition had showed the artist, in his late teens and wearing a suit, performing somersaults in Sigmund’s garden.
Moreno, the witness who remembered the painting and Francis Bacon from the late seventies, was also at the meeting. He wore a Panama hat, silver reflective sunglasses, and sneakers covered with rhinestones. He said that he first met Bacon at La Garçonnière, a disco bar. Moreno seemed totally plausible as someone who might have partied with Bacon almost fifty years ago. He said that Bacon loved Geneva, because of the anonymity and because it was the place where he first met Sophia Loren. (Her manager confirmed this.) “He saw that people looked at her in the street and no one bothered her,” Moreno told me. “He thought, I can do my private life here.” At the same time, there were gaps, and oddities, in Moreno’s account. He claimed to have owned a Bacon painting, and later sent me a video of “Head,” a Bacon work from 1962, whose recent owner said that the assertion was impossible. Moreno told me that he once had a photograph of Bacon in Geneva, but that it might have been lost in a flood. At one point, for complicated reasons, he showed me a pornographic video on his phone.
The margins of the multibillion-dollar art market are a bewildering place. You are touching immortality, or you are touching nothing at all. A few weeks after the meeting, Omar and Navarro fell out, over Omar’s plans to sell the painting and Navarro’s role in the process. (Neither man wanted to talk about the details, for legal reasons.) In the conference room, there was an intoxicating, disorienting atmosphere. I found myself doubting everything except the fact of the painting resting against the wall. When Navarro started talking about his own forays as an artist, I even had the bizarre thought that maybe he had painted it, or his father, who, as Navarro said, liked to make copies.
Across the table, Omar beamed. “I am proud to say I am the owner of a Freud,” he said. He repeated his offer to the estate, and to the authors of the catalogue raisonné, to come and see “Standing Male Nude” for themselves. “It’s like saying you don’t like an orange,” he said. “And yet you have never tasted one.”
Sotheby’s to sell $70m of art stored at MoMA to
benefit New York museum’s digital initiatives
Francis Bacon triptych and Renoir still life among works from the collection of CBS founder
William S. Paley that have been “under the museum’s stewardship” since his death
BY KABIR JHALA | ART MARKET | NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 14 SEPTEMBER 2022
Around 30 works from the collection of the late Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) founder William S. Paley, which have been on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) since his death in 1990, will come to auction this autumn at Sotheby’s sales in London and New York.
Consigned by Paley’s foundation, these works come from an 81-piece-strong trove that was placed under MoMA’s stewardship; Paley served as the museum’s chairman and president during his lifetime. They were loaned with the understanding that both the museum and foundation could determine “how these works could best be used to serve the public and the changing needs of the institution”, according to a MoMA press release that announced the forthcoming sale. Accordingly, much of the sales’ proceeds will go toward establishing an endowment for digital media and technology at MoMA, as well as towards the museum’s “new strategic acquisitions”.
The works carry a combined estimate of $70m to $100m. Top lots offered in New York’s Marquee evening sales on 14 November include Pablo Picasso’s Guitare sur une table (1919), estimated between $20m to $30m and Renoir’s fruity canvas Les Fraises (1905) (est $3m-$4m).
And Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale on 14 October during Frieze Week in London will be headlined by Francis Bacon’s intimately sized triptych Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, (1963), estimated in excess of £30 million. This is the first time the work has come to market since Paley purchased it from Marlborough Gallery in 1963, according to a Sotheby’s statement. Many of these works were until recently considered “off limits” for selling, Sotheby’s chairman Brooke Lampley tells The Wall Street Journal.
As the works were never officially in the collection of MoMA, but rather under its stewardship, the sale cannot be considered an instance of deaccessioning.
This is the first time that works from Paley Foundation’s collection have been sold since being loaned to the MoMA. Since Paley’s death they have been the subject of two travelling exhibitions. One in 1992, and the other between 2012 to 2014.
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, (1963)
BY PARK YUNA | INTERVIEW | LIFE & STYLE | THE KOREA HERALD | SEPTEMBER 7, 2022
When Korean contemporary artist Kim Whan-ki’s masterpiece “05-IV-71#200 (Universe)” fetched 13.2 billion won ($9.6 million) as a highlight of the Christie’s autumn auction season in 2019, it became the highest-ever price for a Korean artwork sold at an auction house. The record remains unbeaten.
The record sale has attracted attention to the late artist from home and abroad.
Kim is a pioneer of Korean abstract paintings that feature lines and dots with
colors reminiscent of the ocean around his hometown, located at the southwestern
tip of the Korean Peninsula.
“There are many (Korean) artists of which we have established world records, from Kim Soo-ja to Kim Tschang-yeul. Interestingly, we have seen a fairly high number of records in the past seasons. This season in May in Hong Kong, we broke 35 records of artists in total, of which four are Korean (artists). There is a strong belief in Korean art,” said Francis Belin, president of Christie’s Asia Pacific during an interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday in Seoul.
“What we bring is the global stage to Korean art. We bring global attention when we put Korean art into our sale, because we put them along other very prominent artists — whether they are modern artists or contemporary artists. This is where we see our contribution to the Korean art market, which is giving it an international platform, not domestic one which is very well-structured and very active,” he said.
Belin arrived in Seoul two weeks ago, ahead of the Frieze Seoul opening on Friday, to showcase the exhibition “Flesh and Soul: Bacon/Ghenie” at Boon the Shop in southern Seoul, which brought together 16 works by Francis Bacon and Adrian Ghenie — works to which Koreans have not been widely exposed.
The three-day exhibition that opened on Saturday went viral on social media and the reservation roster of 1,000 people filled quickly as soon as it opened on Sept. 2. The works in total are worth more than $440 million, according to Christie’s.
“It was the first time that these two artists were put together, and no institutions have done it. The reason why we do this is because a lot of galleries are coming to town, and a lot of things are going to happen here (coinciding with Frieze Seoul),” Belin said. “It is an amazing moment for Seoul, and we wanted to do something very unique. This is also a way to start a conversation with our clients.
Christie’s has been one of the forerunners in the international auction scene in Seoul, opening its office in the capital in 1995. Since its opening, there has been steady development in the South Korean market. Over the past two years, there has been a clear acceleration, and expansion of the office is under consideration, Belin said.
“The Korean market is increasingly important for us. In the past few seasons, we have seen a very strong uptake (of Korean collectors),” he said. “We are constantly looking at our real estate footprint in Seoul.
Young collectors are growing — particularly in the Asian markets, including South Korea. While some people are skeptical of the sustainability of the Hong Kong market, Belin said the art market is still strong and that people need to see the Asian art market as a “growing pie” rather than a “zero-sum game.” Christie’s has signed a 10-year lease for a new Asia Pacific headquarters at The Henderson in Hong Kong, which will open in 2024.
South Korea’s art market has a “strong ecosystem” involved by a variety of stakeholders in the art scene – art institutes for academic aspects and galleries and auction houses on the commercial sides, growing collectors and great artists, he said.
When asked about the recent infighting between local galleries and auction houses in the country, Belin said that tension between the primary and secondary markets could happen in any region, but it should be a “healthy competition,” as they are all intertwined together to create an ecosystem of the art world.
“Galleries are our clients too. They may sell with Christie’s or they may buy with Christie’s. We must respect our clients. It’s really important to create a successful ecosystem of the stake holders, and we are small part of it. Is one more important than the other? No, they are all important,” he said.
Francis Bacon Study for Portrait II 1953
SKARSTEDT GALLERY | NEW YORK R79
DONALD KUSPIT | REVIEWS | ARTFORUM | SEPTEMBER, 2022
Five of the ten portrait paintings in this Francis Bacon exhibition, “Faces & Figures,” were studies, indicating that they may have been works in progress. The artist’s hyperactive, agitated brushstrokes seem to imply that a person’s true essence can never be definitively nailed down. Thus, Bacon (1909–1992) offers us Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground), 1964, bizarre embryonic renderings of his burglar lover (who committed suicide in 1971), and Three Studies for a Portrait, 1976, a visceral excavation of some unknown soul with disagreeably wormlike lips. The show also included Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing, 1969, a depiction of the famously hedonistic bon vivant, who seems to be morbidly grimacing rather than happily giggling—a rather unflattering picture of a close friend. Also featured were full-body illustrations, such as Seated Woman, 1961, in which a woefully twisted being rests uncomfortably on an ungainly gray thing that appears to be carved from stone, and Figure in Movement, 1972, a portrayal of a man who casts a pitch-black shadow that contrasts irreconcilably with the bright-yellow space of its surroundings. Bacon’s imagery is indebted to film, as he acknowledged, and possesses a certain melodramatic flair. All of these works are masterpieces of their kind; but what was Bacon trying to master?
The artist’s canvases contain only excruciating pain and unrelieved suffering, as the relentless blackness that surrounds many of his figures makes clear. His harshly rendered, grotesquely distorted subjects, often fragmented to the extent of being dehumanized, are monstrous creatures, tormented in hells of their own making. Their bodies and faces are frequently patchworks of conflicting colors and shapes, further marred by streaks of darkness recalling scars and pus-like eruptions of white, the latter of which convey a sickness unto death. The figures are both Manneristically distorted and expressionistically destructive—actors in some bloody theater of the absurd. None of Bacon’s models seem capable of cracking a smile—to do so would go against the grain of their steadfast ugliness. As art historian Stephen Eric Bronner once stated, these faces are “bursting the objective barriers that constrain the subjectivity of the subject,” achieving an objective he claimed was the goal of all expressionistic painting. So I wonder: Does this aspect of Bacon’s work make it existentially authentic? Or, rather, is denying his vulnerable human subjects the “promesse du bonheur,” per Stendhal, a terrible injustice?
“Everywhere and at all times the portrait was a school of objectivity,” wrote art historian Max J. Friedländer—but in modernity it has become a school of subjectivity. All of Bacon’s people convey a sense of what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm felicitously called “vital impotence,” which he said is indicative of “psychical ‘crippledness.’” Bacon’s people are as emotionally incapacitated as Bacon himself was: The man was notorious for his uncontrollable destructiveness, someone whose particular brand of love almost always led to ruin. Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott noted that the painter’s depictions of his subjects’ faces were “distorted significantly,” arguing that their hideousness indicated the artist’s “painful striving towards being seen,” or the need to be empathetically mirrored, a desire that can persist throughout life. Bacon was a shy child with an effeminate manner, a trait that angered his manic-depressive father, a breeder of horses who had his son whipped by stable hands in his employ. Is Bacon projecting this experience of paternal violence onto his subjects, mercilessly brutalizing them as his father had brutalized him? “The past is never dead,” as William Faulkner said. Perhaps more to the emotional point of the individuals Bacon portrays is that they are all wracked by pain, as he was his entire life—the most broken of souls, lost and isolated.
— Donald Kuspit
Francis Bacon, Figure in Movement, 1972, oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas, 78 × 58".
Arts & Culture shine in new season on RTÉ
DOCUMENTARIES | ART & CULTURE | RTÉ IRELAND | FRIDAY, 26 AUGUST, 2022
RTÉ’s new season puts Irish culture, creativity and talent centre stage, with a number of major new documentaries from the Arts & Culture team alongside several major stand-alone cultural events and the return of a number of old favourites.The season was launched at an event in Dublin’s RDS, featuring a show-stopping performance from singer Tolü Makay, who features in the forthcoming RTÉ documentary A Note for Nature.
Highlights include fresh takes on the lives of Francis Bacon and Lady Gregory, deep dives into Irish culture, landscape and familial bonds from the likes of Tommy Tiernan, Sebastian Barry and Colm Toibin, new writing from the cream of the nation’s authors and an array of homegrown musical talent across every imaginable genre.
Francis Bacon: The Outsider
A new diary reveals an unrecorded chapter in Francis Bacon’s life. U2’s Adam Clayton, a huge admirer of the artist, retraces a trip Bacon took to Ireland in 1929, with his new friend and diarist, Eric Allden, painting a fresh picture of Bacon’s relationship with the land of his birth.
Adam Clayton hosts The Outsider
Christie’s and HomeArt Bring Seminal Works by
Bacon and Ghenie to Seoul for the First Time
BY KAME HAME | EXHIBITION ANNOUNCEMENTS | WIDEWALLS | AUGUST 20, 2022
Even though artists Francis Bacon and Adrian Ghenie are generations apart, their works possess a haunting similarity. Inspired by the human condition, they are united in the exploration of the deepest, darkest parts of humanity. Each with their own unique style and technique brings to life the raw images that speak about violence, nightmares, and the darkest facets that, for most, are better left in the dark.
This September, Christie’s and HomeArt will highlight the artists’ commonalities and differences in the museum-quality exhibition entitled Flesh and Soul: Bacon/Ghenie at BOONTHESHOP – Cheongdam in Seoul, South Korea. The not-for-auction exhibition will feature the 16 most renowned works by two artists priced at over US$440 million.
Private demons and the angsts of post-war Europe come together in Francis Bacon’s eerie, ghoulish figurative paintings. Inspired by history and his often personal volatile relationships with sitters, the artist has produced images that speak about the primal fear that is in all of us. Standing as a silent and unflinching witness of humanity’s daemons, he created images featuring crucifixes, distorted bodies imprisoned inside claustrophobia – inducing settings, and portraits of howling faces begging for release. About his ultimate goal, Bacon said:
“I would like someday to trap a moment of life in its full violence, its full beauty. That would be the ultimate painting.”
Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie is best known for dark and disturbing images inspired by European history. Over time, what started as an exploration of personal daemons and the unconscious mind has evolved and become a journey into collective and shared traumas. In his work, the artist sheds light on the darker parts of history, such as the eugenics of WWII German physician Josef Mengele, communism, and genocide, in hopes of bringing forth feelings of desire, vulnerability, and frustration.
Flesh and Soul: Bacon/Ghenie will showcase some of the artists’ most iconic motifs side by side and thus bring all similarities and differences into a sharp focus. From Bacon’s Papal Series, Study for Portrait II and Study for a Pope I will be shown alongside Ghenie’s Lidless Eye and The Collector 3.
Papal Series was inspired by the work of Spanish artist Diego Velázquez entitled Portrait of Innocent X., which features the portrait of Pope Innocent X sitting in a throne-like gilded chair. Bacon reinterpreted the stern-faced image into a dramatic, dark, and sinister composition that alludes to the chaotic modern age.
Ghenie’s work Lidless Eye, inspired by Van Gogh’s s Self Portrait (1889), investigates how memories of the past influence the future. The chiaroscuro drips and pours and scraped surfaces come together in the artist’s paintings to create decay and fluidity within a single composition.
The exhibition aims to encourage public dialogue around art and foster cultural exchange. It is one of a kind opportunity to see together works by the two most distinguished artists. Elaine Holt, Deputy Chairman, and International Director, Christie’s Asia Pacific, said:
“Curating their work side-by-side opens a window into the heart of a myriad of themes - love and intimacy, power and oppression, cultural icons, and the tropes of war.”
Exhibition Flesh and Soul: Bacon/Ghenie will be on view BOONTHESHOP – Cheongdam in Seoul from September 3rd until September 5th, 2022.
John L. Eastman, McCartney’s Lawyer in Beatles’ Strife, Dies at 83
An entertainment attorney for high-profile clients, he was central to a battle over control of the Beatles’
business empire in the last days of the band.
BY BEN SISARIO | OBITUARIES | ARTS | MUSIC | THE NEW YORK TIMES | MONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2022
An entertainment attorney for high-profile clients, he was central to a battle over control of the Beatles’ business empire in the last days of the band.
John L. Eastman, a lawyer for musicians and artists whose representation of famous clients like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Willem de Kooning made him a force in the entertainment world, and who played a key part in a power struggle over the control of the Beatles’ business in the last days of the band, died on Aug. 10 in East Hampton, N.Y. He was 83.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his son Lee, a partner in their longstanding family firm, Eastman & Eastman in Manhattan.
Mr. Eastman and his father, who was also named Lee, worked with a long roster of big-name clients over the years, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Bowie, Elton John and the estates of Tennessee Williams and the painter Francis Bacon. But of all of them, the lawyers were most closely associated with Mr. McCartney, whom Mr. Eastman represented for more than 50 years.
Their connection was both professional and personal. Mr. Eastman was the brother of Linda McCartney, Mr. McCartney’s first wife, and Lee was her father.
The Eastmans became involved in the fight over the Beatles’ business empire in early 1969. Mr. McCartney had hired the Eastmans, father and son, to be his representatives and tried to persuade his three bandmates to put them in charge of the group’s affairs. Despite their enormous success, the Beatles were then on the brink of insolvency.
But John Lennon and the other Beatles had selected another New Yorker to manage the group: Allen Klein, who had worked with Sam Cooke and the Rolling Stones. Mr. Klein had a reputation as a ferocious negotiator and, as Mick Jagger once described him, a “gangster figure” — the opposite of the refined Eastmans, whose townhouse office in Manhattan was lined with museum-quality paintings by de Kooning and others.
The conflict between Mr. Klein and the Eastmans, and the disagreement within the group over those men, would consume the Beatles for years to come, even after their official breakup in 1970.
To break Mr. Klein’s grip over the band, and to secure Mr. McCartney’s independence, Mr. Eastman masterminded a lawsuit, filed in London on Dec. 31, 1970, to dissolve the Beatles’ partnership agreement. As part of their preparations for the case, Mr. Eastman suggested that his brother-in-law wear a suit and tie to court. Mr. McCartney half-complied: He appeared in a suit, but no tie.
The other Beatles responded to the lawsuit in frustration. “I still cannot understand why Paul acted as he did,” George Harrison said in an affidavit. In March 1971, the judge ruled in Mr. McCartney’s favor, appointing a receiver for the Beatles’ business interests until the dissolution of their partnership could be negotiated, which came several years later.
Early in their work with Mr. McCartney, the Eastmans helped him set up what would become MPL Communications, his entertainment company. It owns many valuable copyrights, including the music publishing rights to songs by Buddy Holly, Fats Waller and Carl Perkins and from hit Broadway shows like “Annie” and “Grease.”
With the Eastmans’ guidance, Mr. McCartney also acquired ownership of all of his recordings and songwriting rights since the breakup of the Beatles. Lee Eastman died in 1991, and Linda McCartney died in 1998.
In 2017, Mr. Eastman steered a lawsuit by Mr. McCartney against Sony/ATV, the music publisher (now known as Sony Music Publishing), to regain his share of the United States copyrights in Beatles songs that he wrote with Mr. Lennon, citing an amendment to federal law that allows creators to recapture those rights after set periods. The case was settled; the terms were not disclosed, but Mr. McCartney has been registering the American ownership of those rights under MPL
“John was a great man,” Mr. McCartney wrote on Twitter last week, along with a photo of him with Mr. Eastman in yoga poses. “Not only did he help me massively in my business dealings as my lawyer but as a friend he was hard to beat.”
John Lindner Eastman was born on July 10, 1939, in Manhattan, and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., the eldest of four children of Lee and Louise Lindner Eastman. His mother had inherited a fortune from the Lindner department store in Cleveland.
His father, who had changed his name from Leopold Epstein, set up a successful legal practice representing high-profile musicians, artists and writers, among them the bandleader Tommy Dorsey and the songwriters Harold Arlen and Hal David.
John Eastman graduated from Stanford University in 1961 and from the New York University School of Law in 1964. The next year, after briefly working in the office of the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, he and his father set up Eastman & Eastman.
They developed a specialty in working with pop musicians whose business had suffered under previous representatives. Aside from Mr. McCartney, they were best known for working with Mr. Joel in the late 1980s and early ’90s, when he sued his former manager and lawyer. The case was settled, and the Eastmans helped Mr. Joel rebuild his business
“He was fierce when it came to protecting artists’ rights,” Mr. Joel said in a statement to The New York Times, “and I credit him with whatever longevity I have achieved in my career.”
Mr. Eastman served on the boards of a number of prominent organizations, including the American Museum of Natural History, and two music groups, the National Music Publishers’ Association and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, known as ASCAP.
In addition to his son Lee, he is survived by his wife, Josephine; another son, Jay; a daughter, Louise; two sisters, Louise Weed and Laura Malcolm; and 11 grandchildren.
Francis Bacon to be celebrated at Heritage
Arts Festival in Laois town this week
BY EXPRESS REPORTER | LAOIS LIVE | LOCAL NEWS | LEINSTER EXPRESS | SUNDAY, 7 AUGUST, 2022
The life of internationally renowned Irish artist Francis Bacon is being celebrated in Abbeyleix next week.
The Abbeyleix Heritage Arts Festival will run from August 12 to 14 with a marvellous line-up of music, exhibitions, workshops, and much more centred around the life and times of Bacon.
Francis Bacon was born in a nursing home at 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin on the 28th October 1909. He was the second of five children born to English parents who had recently settled in Ireland, but had no Irish blood ties. His father Anthony Edward ‘Eddy’ Mortimer Bacon, was a retired Army Major. His mother was Christian Winifred Loxley.
The Bacon family moved between various country houses in counties Laois and Kildare and, for shorter stays, to England. As his home life was chilly and fraught with his father, Bacon developed a close relationship with his maternal grandmother, Winifred Margaret Supple who disliked Bacon’s father.
Her house near Abbeyleix contained bow-ended rooms that would be echoed in the backdrops of Bacon’s paintings as a result of living with her for sometime — hence his love affair with Laois began, seen through his expressionism and surrealism influenced art.
Festival organiser Andy Ring said, “Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his raw, unsettling imagery but he developed deep regard and fondness for Laois as his grandmother Winifred Supple lived here. She and the county became an ongoing influence in his life until his death in 1992 in Spain.
“The Festival organisers decided the time was long overdue to celebrate Bacon’s life and his times here in Laois along with that of one of the most famous sculptors, Launt Thompson.
“Many of his works are now housed in the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington DC.”
The sculptor left Abbeyleix as a teenager during the Famine with his widowed mother and became one of the United States’ most sought after sculptors. They settled in the Albany, New York area. Thompson was one of the most important post-Civil War sculptors in America, who exhibited in France and Italy who died in obscurity and was buried in an unmarked grave until recently.
Music over the three day festival will be held in Morrissey’s Pub and includes the bands Beats Working, Abbeyfolk, Revelation and Brian Kileen.
All proceeds from the Festival go to Laois Down Syndrome Laois — Abbeyleix Field of Dreams. It is kindly sponsored by Morrissey’s Pub in Abbeyleix, one of the oldest and most iconic pubs in Ireland which has been in existence since 1775. All artists have been asked to give 25 per cent of everything they sell to charity.
Mr Ring added, “While we want to celebrate Bacon’s and Launt’s links to Abbeyleix we want to also champion those in our community who live with intellectual difficulties and that is why all funds from the Festival will be donated to Laois Down Syndrome and their project Field of Dreams.”
The charity’s goal is to establish an Employment Training Centre of Excellence called the Laois Field of Dreams in Abbeyleix. They aim to continue their cradle to grave philosophy and help complete the life cycle of those who live with an intellectual difficulty.
The charity has secured four acres of land from Laois County Council and are currently drawing up plans to develop the site to accommodate members with an intellectual difficulty in the county. The planned service aims to get those helped by the charity to have less reliance on Day Services and move them into the community in a very practical way through inclusion and integration into society and the community.
Denis Wirth-Miller show to launch at Firstsite Colchester
BY LEWIS ADAMS | NEWS | DAILY GAZETTE | COLCHESTER GAZETTE | THURSDAY, 4 AUGUST, 2022
A MAJOR new exhibition will revisit the work of a Colchester artist whose work was once acquired by the Queen. Before his death in Colchester aged 94, Denis Wirth-Miller’s art had been shown in London’s leading galleries and owned by the Her Majesty.
The self-taught painter was both a friend and collaborator with famed artist Francis Bacon, but following an explosive disagreement with Bacon, Wirth-Miller ended his career in painting in 1977. Now, in the largest retrospective of his work to date, Firstsite, in Lewis Gardens, Colchester, will display more than one hundred paintings by the influential artist.
The exhibition is curated by the renowned writer and curator James Birch, who has secured key loans from a variety of sources to give visitors a chance to view pieces never before been seen in public.
Many artworks are from private collections, including more than 70 never shown and important artworks from Jon Lys Turner, the holder of Denis and Dickie’s personal archive and author of their biography, The Visitors’ Book.
Wirth-Miller was born in 1915 in Folkestone, Kent but, having met his partner-to-be Richard Chopping in London, he would later move to Wivenhoe in 2005. The couple became the first in Colchester to solemnify their relationship with a civil partnership in December of that year.
“It’s a great honour to be able to draw attention to an often overlooked and talented artist who loved and depicted this area with such vibrancy,” said Firstsite director Sally Shaw. “The show will examine how Wirth-Miller and Bacon collaborated together.
“This can been seen in the style and techniques used in some artworks –showing how powerful it can be when people are creative together.” While living in Wivenhoe simultaneously, Wirth-Miller and Bacon would share a studio and often contributed to each other’s work, however, theirs was a tempestuous relationship.
After his 1977 exhibition, following a public spat with Bacon, Denis destroyed his own pictures and virtually gave up painting. James Birch added: “[Denis’] work captures the magic of this country’s landscapes, especially the Essex marshes and fields, and deserves to be much more well-known in its own right”.
Francis Bacon, Reinhard Hassert and Denis Wirth-Miller in Paris, November 1983
The well of happiness – and despair:
The town in the 1950s was a crucible of gay artistic life, as painters,
sculptors, playwrights and actors flocked
WRITTEN BY PETER PARKER | BOOK REVIEWS | THE SPECTATOR MAGAZINE | 23 JULY 2022
In the winter of 1952 the 21-year-old sculptor John Milne travelled to St Ives in Cornwall to take up a temporary job as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth. The arrangement was that he would become her pupil in exchange for helping her in the studio, but he was subsequently paid a small salary and ended up staying in her employ for two years. By this time, Milne had decided to settle in the town, which had become a thriving modernist artists’ colony, and in 1956 he acquired Trewyn House, a three-storey Victorian property next door to Hepworth’s studio. The reason a working-class boy from Eccles could afford so substantial a house was that it had in fact been bought for him by Cosmo Rodewald, a very wealthy American-born academic 16 years his senior who was also a collector of contemporary art. The two men had met and become lovers in 1951, and although Rodewald found the man who would become his life partner some four years later, he remained Milne’s close friend and patron.
Milne decided to run Trewyn as ‘a guesthouse for painters, sculptors, and people generally connected with the arts’, and visitors included Francis Bacon, Patrick Procktor, Keith Vaughan, Noël Coward, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson. Some were merely holidaymakers, but despite finding the town ‘a stronghold of really dreary abstract stuff’ and having a tooth knocked out by his boyfriend during an altercation with locals outside the Sloop Inn, Bacon rented a studio in St Ives and produced 13 paintings while there. A woman brought up in the town later recalled that it wasn’t until she moved to London that she realised homosexuality was not universally accepted.
Another regular visitor was a flamboyant young layabout called Julian Nixon, who helped run the guesthouse, becoming a talented cook ‘of the Fanny Cradock type’. Nixon joins Milne and Hepworth as the third principal player in Ian Massey’s beguiling account of what Tatler in 1958 dubbed ‘Le Quartier St Ives’. Four years earlier, Nixon had been one of a group of 15 men found guilty of ‘gross indecency’ in a notorious trial at the Somerset Assizes, but he had escaped a prison sentence, being instead bound over on condition he spent 12 months in a psychiatric hospital.
The ‘treatment’ he received proved unavailing, and after his release he took up with a succession of older men, notably Richard Blake Brown, a dandified clergyman and the prolific author of such novels as Bright Glades, My Aunt in Pink and A Broth of a Boy. It was because of this last book that Brown nicknamed the wayward Nixon ‘Brothy’, and in spite of severe provocation he remained devoted to him. Nixon left St Ives in 1965, heavily in debt, but reappeared in Milne’s life five years later when he attempted to take him to court, claiming damages of £10,000 for the ‘alienation of affection’ of a young man the sculptor had employed as a gardener.
Meanwhile, Milne had continued to pursue his vocation, but turned in the mid-1960s from carving to casting and produced many drawings. He had been advised to use drawing as a way of dealing with his frequent nightmares while undergoing Jungian therapy as a teenager, and this became a lifetime’s practice. These drawings, Massey observes, were ‘abstract expressions of his inner life that, in contrast to the formal containment and smooth surfaces of much of his mature sculpture, read as maps of his state of mind’. Hepworth remained a major influence, but whereas her work had a strong connection to Britain’s ancient landscape, Milne became more inspired by the mountainous terrains of Greece, Morocco and Iran. He was attracted particularly to the architecture, the traces of ancient civilisations and the willing young men he encountered, and the extracts from his travel diaries reproduced here are exceptionally fine.
Although their relationship was not always an easy one, Milne was devastated when Hepworth died in a fire in 1975, an event that exacerbated his regular bouts of suicidal depression and insomnia. At the same time, he was achieving his greatest success as a sculptor, with major exhibitions in Britain, America and Ireland. Having visited St Ives in late autumn, however, Massey finds it ‘easy then to imagine how one might turn in on oneself, depression seeping in like a sea fog, so that you gradually lose your bearings’, and Milne died the day after his 47th birthday from an accidental overdose of barbiturates.
Massey skilfully describes the physicality of Milne’s sculptures, mere photographs of which do not convey their volume or the experience of walking round them. He also provides an illuminating account of the queer and artistic circles in which Milne had moved in Manchester before coming to St Ives. This is an absorbing and extremely well written book, and it sheds new and welcome light both on Milne and the celebrated town in which he lived and worked.
Queer St Ives and Other Stories Ian Massey Ridinghouse, pp. 256, £30
For sale: Francis Bacon’s former home
where he painted George Dyer
Five bedroom house comes with a piece of Britain’s artistic history
BY MARIA BASTAN-SARABI | PROPERTY | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | MONDAY, 11 JULY, 2022
There are conflicting accounts of how Francis Bacon met George Dyer, his artistic muse. The most captivating story is that Dyer, known as a criminal from East London, attempted to burgle Bacon’s Reece Mews home in 1963. According to The Irish Times, Bacon told Dyer he could take whatever he wanted if he took his clothes off and came into his bed.
Although this may be urban legend, Bacon continued to paint Dyer in his small studio at Reece Mews. Bacon’s London home serves as the location where he crafted his most famous works as he reported “I feel at home here in this chaos because the chaos suggests images to me”. Francis Bacon’s artwork is known for its abstract and ominous flare, a vision that he enabled through the griminess of London.
Surprisingly however, Bacon swapped his Reece Mews home for the quieter Horsemoor Studio in 1964, a house located in Chieveley, Berkshire and known now as Courthill. Bacon found his Chieveley home through an advertisement James Page-Roberts, the previous owner, placed in The Daily Telegraph. Although he experienced less robbery in his country home, his artistic passion withered.
In The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Daniel Farson notes the artist’s reaction to his new home, remarking, “I thought I’d be able to do some work there, but I’ve discovered that the light is entirely wrong. The studio’s facing the wrong way”.
Although the studio was rebuilt by Page-Roberts, the glass walls and marble floor failed to suit Bacon’s grungy and dark aesthetic. He continued to derive artistic inspiration from Dyer, with Page-Roberts recalling in his blog an instance when Dyer draped himself on the studio platform in a “languid, greased-hair pose”.
Page-Roberts progresses by writing how he would occasionally see a Bacon painting of Dyer and notice that it had been created when Dyer would “recline in the corner” of the studio. Bacon and Dyer therefore spent much time together in Chieveley with photographs taken of the two sitting outside the property.
After undergoing extensive refurbishment, remodelling, and enlargement, Courthill is now on the market with Carter Jonas for £1,000,000. At 2,540 sq ft, the house includes five bedrooms, a bespoke fitted kitchen, and a south facing garden which looks onto open farmland.
Edward Westmacott, of Carter Jonas Newbury, comments that “this exquisite house would suit a family, or a buyer who is particularly architecturally inclined and is keen to own a part of Britain’s artistic history”.
Courthill serves as a spacious family property and tells a story of art.
Francis Bacon (right) and George Dyer on the Orient Express in 1964
A $23.8 M. Francis Bacon Painting Has
Become a Political Football in the U.K.
BY FRANCESCA ATON | NEWS | ART NEWS | EST. 1902 | TUESDAY, JULY 5, 2022
A painting by British artist Francis Bacon worth £20 million ($23.8 million) has become the center of a political battle in Leicester, England, after a Liberal-Democrat politician decried the city’s Labour-controlled Council’s keeping the work in basement storage, the BBC reported Sunday.
Bacon’s Lying Figure No. 1 (1959) had been on view at the Leicester Museum and Art Gallery until recently. The City Council, which owns the artwork, cited space limitations as the reason for its removal.
“I’m sure a lot of people would visit Leicester just to come and look at it. It must be the most valuable painting we have got in the museum,” said Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Porter. “Rather than having this £20m painting stuck in some basement, what harm would there be to put it on display and have it back where it was?” he questioned.
“We have an astonishingly large collection of very important artwork,” Leicester’s mayor Peter Soulsby responded. “It is inevitably the case that, compared to the scale of the collection, we have a limited amount of wall space on which to hang them.” Furthermore, Soulsby explained, Lying Figure No. 1 “will be safely in storage and will be on display in rotation as time passes.”
The sizable oil painting depicts a blurred curvaceous figure at the center lying upside down on what appears to be a green couch, feet propped against a blue wall. The City purchased it in 1960 with the assistance of the Museums and Galleries Commission and a Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund.
Since the artist’s death in 1992, Bacon’s works have fetched high prices at auction. Just last week, his Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964) sold at Sotheby’s for £43 million ($52 million). Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) still holds the record, however, at $127 million, from a 2014 sale at Christie’s.
This news comes on the heels of a decision made earlier last month by the U.K.’s Tate Museum to return a donated archive of Bacon works to its owner Barry Joule, a former neighbour of the late artist. The collection, which has been under the museum’s examination since 2004, included 800 magazine and newspaper clippings, 39 photographs of Bacon and his friends, other ephemera, and an “X Album” of overpainted sketches.
Tate made the news public on June 8, The Art Newspaper reported in a statement, explaining that the archive had been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material,” adding that the “material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition, and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted. It has therefore been considered unsuitable for retention in Tate Archive. In the first instance, it has been offered back to the donor, in line with the donor’s wishes.”
Francis Bacon posing in front of his paintings in a Paris gallery, 1987.
‘Tate capitulated to my legal demand’: donor of disputed Francis Bacon
archive responds to museum’s return of collection
Barry Joule disputes gallery’s claim that trove of sketches and documents,
which he donated, was “unsuitable for retention”
MARTIN BAILEY | LATEST NEWS | NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | MONDAY, 4 JULY, 2022
Barry Joule, who donated his Francis Bacon archive to the Tate, tells The Art Newspaper that its decision in June to return a thousand items was at his insistence. “Tate capitulated to my legal demand,” he says.
On 8 June we revealed the Tate’s decision to return the archive to Joule, the friend of Bacon who had donated it. Joule has subsequently provided The Art Newspaper with a lengthy and detailed response to the Tate announcement.
In January his lawyers, Collyer Bristow, had demanded “the return to Joule of the entire donated archive whilst highlighting the non-fulfilment of the Tate/Joule contract”. Joule says that he had “long suspected they [Tate] wanted to hang onto it forever, lingering in their basement vaults, and for me to shut up and go far away”.
The Tate’s 8 June statement said that the Joule donation had been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material”.
The Tate statement added: “The material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition, and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted. It has therefore been considered unsuitable for retention in Tate Archive. In the first instance, it has been offered back to the donor, in line with the donor’s wishes.”
It is most unusual for the Tate to deaccession works, or archives, and this decision needed to be approved by the gallery trustees.
In his response, Joule explains that he had acquired around a thousand documents and sketches, which he is convinced are from the hand of Francis Bacon. Joule, a neighbour of Bacon’s, had known him since 1978. He would do occasional odd jobs for the artist and became a friend.
Joule’s collection donated to the Tate included 800 magazine and newspaper cuttings, some bearing pencil and pen marks and daubs of paint. There were also 39 photographs of Bacon and his friends, books and other documents. Finally, there was the so-called “X Album” of overpainted sketches, which the Tate now describes as “of unknown authorship”. Joule has always vigorously defended the authenticity of all the items...
The collection was apparently given by Bacon to Joule at his Reece Mews studio in London on 18 April 1992, ten days before the artist’s death. Joule cites a witness who recorded seeing the artist help load up his car with the papers
Joule handed over the archive to the Tate for examination in early 2003. A contract donating the archive was subsequently signed on 15 January 2004, with no requests for payment or tax concessions.
At the time of the donation the papers were described as probably the Tate Archive’s most important acquisition ever. Press reports suggested that it might be valued at up to £20m, although the source of this figure is now unclear.
The 2004 press announcement stated that “Tate will undertake to study, photograph and catalogue the collection over the next three years, before displaying these items and making them available for loan”.
Joule says that, despite the promise of an exhibition, this never occurred in what is now more than 18 years. Disappointingly, the archive was not digitised and posted online, although he says he had offered to fund this. Joule blames the Bacon Estate. “Over the years they have continually exerted their considerable influence on the Tate to make certain the archive was never exhibited,” he says.
In June last year the Francis Bacon Estate, set up by the artist to administer his inheritance, published an analysis of the Joule archive by their archivist, Sophie Pretorius. Her essay was included in the estate’s publication Francis Bacon: Shadows. The Tate’s private letter to Joule, informing him that the archive would be returned, relied heavily on the Pretorius research.
“Fake news, cheap shots”
Joule is dismissive of the essay. He describes it as “fake news, peppered with cheap shots and slurs at myself, filled with omissions and glaring inaccuracies”. Joule points out that Pretorius failed to contact him for any information while she was working on his archive.
Details are disputed. Pretorius writes that Bacon never used charcoal, which appears in some of the items in the Joule archive. Joule disagrees, pointing out that he was in Bacon’s studio on numerous occasions, whereas she was not.
Joule also stresses that his archive has been exhibited at major museums, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Musée Picasso in Paris, the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence and, most recently, the Shoto Museum of Art in Tokyo.
The Barbican catalogue was published with support from the late David Bowie. Joule says that Bowie was deeply involved with its production, “even insisting on the disturbing transformation image for the cover”.
In April this year Joule told The Observer that he has now cancelled plans to give the Tate hundreds more items that he had saved from Bacon’s studio. He lives in France and instead intends to offer them to the archives of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. “The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters. I turn my back on the Tate forever.”
A spokesperson for the Centre Pompidou says that it “hasn’t had any contact with Barry Joule in this matter and we only learnt about it through the press”.
The Francis Bacon Estate comments: “Many specialists from within the Estate and without have studied the material, coming to the conclusion that the material does not bear any substantial evidence of Bacon’s hand.”
Reece Mews in South Kensington, London, where the artist lived and worked for 30 years
Leicester owns famous Francis Bacon painting worth £20m
— but you can’t look at it
‘It must be the most valuable painting we have got in the museum’
BY HANNAH RICHARDSON | LEICESTER NEWS | NEWS | LEICESTER MERCURY | SATURDAY, 2 JULY, 2022
A painting by Francis Bacon claimed to be the most valuable in Leicester’s collection is in storage and unable to be enjoyed by members of the public Leicester City Council owns the work of art titled Lying Figure No1, which is thought to be worth around £20 million.
But the piece, which dates back to 1959, is not currently on display. It would formerly housed at the top of the stairs in the New Walk Lricester Museum and Art Gallery.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylestone ward, Nigel Porter, questioned why such a valuable work of art was ‘sitting in a basement somewhere’ at a scrutiny meeting this week. “I think a lot of people would like to see it,” he said.
“It’s a very valuable, very important painting and I’m sure a lot of people would visit Leicester just to come and look at it. It must be the most valuable painting we have got in the museum.
“Rather than having this £20 million painting stuck in some basement, what harm would there be to put it on display and have it back where it was?”
Bacon died in 1992 and his works have been selling for huge sums. In 2013 his Three Studies of Lucien Freud sold for a record $142.4m in New York. Another piece of his called Seated Figure sold for $40m in 2014.
However, city mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, said the council has many valuable paintings in its collection and cannot have them all on display at the same time. “Down to the generosity of previous generations, we have an astonishingly large collection of very important artwork,” he said.
“It is inevitably the case that, compared to the scale of the collection, we have a limited amount of wall space on which to hang them.
“If it is the case that the Bacon is not in display at the moment, I can assure [Councillor Porter] that is will be safely in storage and will be on display in rotation as time passes,” he added.
Francis Bacon. Lying Figure No I. Oil on Canvas. Leicestershire Museums
Sotheby’s sales in London fall short —
though Francis Bacon brings in £43.4m
Bidding was strong for red-chip artists, but the air is much thinner at the top of the market
DANIEL CASSADY | ART MARKET | NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | THURSDAY, 30 JUNE, 2022
Sotheby’s Modern and contemporary art sale yesterday was a study of extremes, but ultimately fell short of its estimate of £70m-£101m, bringing in a lacklustre £64m (£76.8m with fees).
At times there were bidders almost jumping out of their seats and experts wildly gesticulating while whispering into their phones and holding out shaky hands to try and get another bid in. At other times, especially during the latter half of the sale, many of the experts who were manning the phones looked slightly bored, their heads down, texting, chatting to each other or casually flipping through what was presumably the printed catalogue.
That does not mean there was no excitement. The sale started off at a gallop, with the first five lots spurring fast-paced bidding from the phones, the floor and online. Michel Majerus’s new comer (2000) opened the sale and sparked a snappy bidding battle between specialists Bame March and James Sevier, with some added competition from the floor. The picture sold for £190,000 (£239,400 with fees) against a £150,000 high estimate to the bidder on the phone with Sevier. Next was golden lion winner Simone Leigh’s Blue/Black (2014), a terracotta and porcelain bust that looks both ancient and futuristic. The sculpture sold for well above its high estimate of £300,000, hammering at £490,000 (£617,400 with fees), after a lengthy battle between David Galperin, Julian Gascoigne, Gregoire Billault and Oliver Barker, who worked in the trenches while Helena Newman took command of the rostrum.
Gagosian’s new recruit Anna Weyant’s elegant still life Buffet (2020) came next and within a minute or two doubled its high estimate of £150,000. An absentee bidder swatted away the competition at first with what turned out to be a £200,000 bid, but the pressure kept coming, as did the bids. The picture ultimately hammered at £370,000 (£466,200 with fees). The fourth lot, René Magritte’s eerie La Saveur des larmes (1938 or 1939) was the first lot to break £1m, but also foreshadowed the latter half of the sale when the excitement had dissipated in the room. The picture hammered at £1.3m (£1.6 with fees). Bidding was slow and felt conspicuously drawn out for Study for Clouds (Contre-jour) (1970), an ethereal picture populated with translucent clouds by Gerhard Richter. With an estimate of £6m-£8m, the canvas eventually hammered at £8.4m (£11.2m with fees) to a bidder in the room.
Andy Warhol’s Self Portrait (1986) was one of the most impressive lots but did not bring in as much as expected. The estimate was £12m-£18m and it barely sold after a round of bidding that was over almost as soon as it began. Newman opened the bidding at £10m, and the picture hammered at £11m (£12.7m with fees).
Still, more than 50% of the of the works sold above the high estimate. But the pace that introduced the sale, almost exclusively for the red-chip artists that have been commanding the market for the past couple of years, proved to be unsustainable. Indeed, for a sale that had more than 40 lots, only nine went unsold—but six of those were among the last 12 lots, among them Andreas Gursky’s Chicago, Board of Trade III (1999-2009), Camille Pissarro’s charming Statue d’Henri IV et hôtel de la Monnaie, matin ensoleillé (1901) and Eugène Boudin’s Trouville, l’heure du bain (1881).
Meanwhile, the preceding Jubilee Auction of British art brought in £61m (£72.3m with fees), again noticeably short of the £73m-£99.9m estimate. Here, a 1964 portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon accounted for more than half of the sale’s value, achieving £43.4m with fees.
In total, Sotheby’s made £125m (£149.1m with premium), falling below the low end of its combined pre-sale estimate of £143m-£201m. The market could yet be headed for a correction.
Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud sells for £43 million
BY ROBERT DEX | UK NEWS | THE EVENING STANDARD | LONDON | WEDNESDAY, 29 JUNE, 2022
A Francis Bacon painting of Lucian Freud has sold for a record-breaking £43.4 million at auction The work, Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud, had not been seen in public for almost 60 years and was owned by the same person - described by Sotheby’s as a “distinguished European collector” for four decades.
It was originally estimated to make £35 million before it went under the hammer at the auction house. The artwork was painted by Bacon in 1964 and based on a photograph of his contemporary and great friend Freud, taken in the same year by their mutual friend John Deakin.
It was last seen on display in 1965 when it was on show as the central panel of a large-scale triptych as part of a travelling exhibition to Hamburg and Stockholm. The piece was also displayed on its own in Dublin in the same year.
Bacon separated the three individual works of the triptych shortly after they were created, with the left-hand panel in a private collection and the right-hand piece belonging to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Bacon and Freud had been friends for 20 year prior to Bacon’s creation of Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud and shared a friendship for over 40 years, before relations soured and the relationship ended in the mid-1980s
Both artists painted each other on numerous occasions, with Freud often painting from real-life and Bacon preferring to work from photographs.
In the instance of Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud, Bacon used an image of Freud sitting on a bed with his arms outstretched, fists clenched and white sleeves rolled up above the elbows. The black and white photographs taken by photographer Deakin became Bacon’s primary source material as he painted Freud obsessively in the 1960s.
Bacon kept the photographs with him for the rest of his life, and they were rediscovered torn, crumpled and splattered with paint in his studio following his death in 1992, Sotheby’s said. Ahead of the portrait’s sale, senior director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Tom Eddison, described the work as being “executed with painterly bravura at the height of Bacon’s acclaim”.
Velázquez’s Pope eclipses Bacon’s ‘silly’ screamers
A firsthand encounter with the Spanish artist’s portrait of Pope Innocent X
in Rome puts the later interpretations in perspective
BEN LUKE | COMMENT | LATEST | THE ART NEWSPAPER | THURSDAY, 23 JUNE, 2022
Recently, I was about to see a painting by a favourite artist that I had never viewed in the flesh—the Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) by Diego Velázquez in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome. Yet amid my excitement was a hint of trepidation. Two things provoked it. First, the fear of disappointment. Just before my visit, the artist Mark Leckey had confided in our A brush with… podcast how he had journeyed to view Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling but found that he “couldn’t see it”. He said: “I made this pilgrimage. And then it was denied by the crowds and everything else. It was just horrible.”
I had been so bewitched by Velázquez’s painting in reproduction, so expectant of its mastery, that I couldn’t help but worry that it might not live up to the magnificence I’d already projected onto it. At least, at the mercifully quiet Galleria Doria Pamphilj, there are none of the stifling hordes that contributed to Leckey’s disillusionment in the Vatican Museums.
But then there was a different claustrophobia surrounding the Velázquez: Francis Bacon’s interpretations of it, many of which I had seen up close. There are around 50 Bacon Popes, made from the 1940s to the 1960s, which, according to Gilles Deleuze “hystericised all the elements of Velázquez’s painting” by portraying the pontiff in various stages of scream. After Bacon’s shrill horror, is it possible to innocently see Innocent X?
Bacon himself never saw Velázquez’s masterpiece, even though he visited Rome in 1954, at the height of his engagement with it. Would confronting it have affected his capacity to reinvent it? He avoided making portraits from life, because, as he said, “I don’t want to practice before them the injury that I do to them in my work.” Whatever, as Deleuze tells us, Bacon always expressed “his doubt and discontent” when he discussed them.
Now, more than ever, I can see why. Perhaps no one described the power of Velázquez’s paintings better than Bacon when he said: “In each of his portraits you find the life and the death of his characters.” What I hadn’t expected, something visible perhaps only in the flesh, is the tenderness in Velázquez’s handling—even if it’s unflinching, it’s also empathetic, one of Velázquez’s greatest qualities.
You also feel a little-discussed delight—a relish in the depiction of Innocent’s ruddiness, perhaps after so many sessions with the pallid Habsburgs in the austere gloom of the Spanish court. Most powerfully, more even than in Las Meninas (1656), I felt Velázquez’s presence in the picture—while he observes the most powerful man in the world, he is being observed, and so, too, are we.
The multitudes contained in Velázquez’s canvas make Bacon’s interpretations seem almost “silly”, as he himself described them. So magnificent is the Spaniard’s painting that those screams fade to whimpers.
Despite his recreations of it (left), Francis Bacon never saw Velázquez’s masterpiece (right)—even though he visited Rome in 1954
Poisonous feud between the artists who painted the town red:
Behind the £35m sale of an iconic portrait lies the colourful tale of how
Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud — once so close many thought them
lovers — fell into spiteful rivalry, writes Richard Kay
Francis Bacon became ‘bitter and bitchy’ towards his one-time protégé Freud
RICHARD KAY | LATEST HEADLINES | NEWS | THE DAILY MAIL | MONDAY, 20 JUNE, 2022
Like all good feuds, theirs began in a blizzard of mutual admiration — passion, even — that led some in London’s bohemian circles to wonder if there was a frisson of romance to their friendship.
But it was art, not sex, that drew Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon to one another. Bacon, thrown out of the family home when his father found him wearing his mother’s clothes, was childless and gay; while Freud, who acknowledged 14 children but may have fathered as many as 40, was an ardent pursuer of women.
Both men had a prodigious appetite for the good life. For more than 30 years the two were inseparable, drinking and carousing in raffish Soho bars and clubs, gambling — roulette for Bacon, the horse track for Freud — and basking in each other’s company.
And, of course, they painted one another, too — indeed, Freud sat for Bacon no fewer than 18 times. Such was their closeness that Lady Caroline Blackwood, Freud’s second wife, noted that she had dinner with Bacon ‘nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian — we also had lunch’. The marriage, perhaps inevitably, lasted only four years.
Freud recalled seeing Bacon at some point virtually every day for a quarter of a century. The pair scrutinised each other’s work. As Bacon put it: ‘Who can I tear to pieces if not my friends?’ Alas, over time, this competitive rivalry consumed their friendship and their mutual regard for one another descended into envy, resentment and hatred.
The sale at the end of this month of Bacon’s 1964 work Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud, which is expected to go under the hammer for £35 million at auction, has reignited the story of one of the art world’s greatest sagas. It is a story as electrifying and colourful as any of the masterpieces both men produced. It also followed a noble artistic tradition. Van Gogh and Gauguin were also friends-turned-enemies and when their relationship ended, the Dutchman sliced off his own ear.
If the poisonous feud between Freud and Bacon did not descend to quite such grisly levels, nor did it do anything to diminish their public status as Britain’s greatest post-war artists: the Turner and the Constable of their age. No two artists did more to revitalise figurative painting than Freud and Bacon, and both lived to see their work sell for many millions of pounds.
Such status and riches must have seemed a distant prospect when they first met in the louche and dangerous streets of bombed-out Soho in the mid-1940s. Freud, who was 13 years Bacon’s junior, looked up to the older man, who represented a thrilling example of how to conduct the life of an artist while also embodying an aristocratic spirit.
In background, they couldn’t have been more different. Bacon, born in 1909 to well-to-do British parents in Ireland where his father trained racehorses, had little formal education because of severe asthma. His childhood was turbulent, not least because of his abusive father, who once ordered stable boys to give him a whipping.
After spending time decadently in Paris and Berlin, he arrived in London in 1930 where he found work as a gentleman’s gentleman, only to be fired when his master saw him dining at the next table at the Ritz. As one biographer noted, the flamboyant Bacon ‘could be found in the gutter or the Ritz and was at home in both’.
Even in later years, when he was recognised as England’s finest painter for 150 years and his work was selling for many millions, Bacon still preferred to travel by bus and live in the same scruffy mews house he had for years. For a time, he earned a precarious living as a designer of furniture and rugs, and it wasn’t until the closing years of World War II that he started painting seriously.
Self-taught, his work demonstrated considerable technical ability and originality that took the art world by storm. Even so, he was his own most severe critic and he destroyed more canvases than have survived of that period.
Freud, born in Germany in 1922 and raised in Berlin during the rising tide of Nazism, studied at art school. As a Jew and the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, whom the Nazis abhorred, he had to be accompanied by a bodyguard to and from his private school. The family fled to Britain and Lucian was sent to Bryanston public school in Dorset. He was expelled for dropping his trousers for a dare in Bournemouth.
However, there were other domestic similarities with Bacon. He had a lifelong estrangement from his younger brother Clement, the broadcaster and former Liberal MP, and was only partly reconciled with his elder brother Stephen, an ironmonger. After a stint of war service in the Merchant Navy, he began to paint full-time from his early 20s.
Like Bacon, Freud gravitated towards the drinking dens, illegal betting shops and seedy sex parlours of Soho. Both loved its gilded squalor.
In Bacon, Freud found a teacher not just in art but in life. From him he learned about the best wine, food and tailoring. They spent much of their time at the Gargoyle Club and later the Colony Room, drinking and arguing with figures such as the philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. But, usually, they preferred to be alone and, if they could, would exclude anyone else.
Many found this self-obsession insufferable and rumours circulated that the pair were sleeping together. Biographers have suggested this friendship did have a ‘quasi-erotic tone’ but that it was ‘sensual’ rather than sexual.
Freud’s daughter Annie said her father described Bacon as having the ‘most sensuous forearms . . . That is lover-like, isn’t it?’ The two were rarely apart — breakfast at a working man’s cafe in Smithfield Market, lunch at Wheeler’s on Old Compton Street, then drinking in the Colony. A lot of it, recalled friends, was the two of them showing off.
Then there was the gambling: both men were reckless. On one occasion Freud lost everything he owned, including his car, which he went home to fetch and drove to a garage to sell, placing the proceeds on a horse which also lost. Bacon was similarly profligate, throwing money at people and buying extravagant rounds of drinks. He would say: ‘Champagne for my real friends — real pain for my sham friends.’
In 1949, they attended a white-tie ball where an ingenue Princess Margaret had taken the microphone and began to sing an out-of-key Cole Porter classic, Let’s Do It. Bacon, who was standing with Freud, started to boo and hiss and a red-faced Margaret fled mid-song with her ladies in waiting. Freud declared his friend was the most fearless man he had ever met, the ‘wildest and wisest’.
Although they painted in the same tradition, their methods were very different. Freud liked to show women’s flesh, wrinkled by age and imperfections. Bacon’s distorted portraits captured the peculiar horror of modern life.
When Lucian first sat for Bacon in 1951, he was fascinated by Bacon’s hurried and spontaneous approach. Bacon, when sitting for Freud the following year, was amazed at how long the younger man took to paint. This portrait was stolen from a gallery in Berlin in 1988.
Their sexual proclivities, however, were wildly different. Henrietta Moraes, a muse to both men, was painted and pleasured by Freud — for Bacon the beauty was sitter and drinking companion.
Freud fretted over his friend’s taste in rough male trade and couldn’t understand his relationship with George Dyer, a hanger-on of the Kray crime gang family. Bacon liked rogues and was sexually unafraid at a time when homosexuals caught in the act could still be imprisoned.
Bacon disapproved of Freud’s hobnobbing with aristocrats. But Freud relied on this ‘posh trade’ for his portraits and for the ruthless candour the upper-classes offered. In the 1950s and 1960s, Freud was the less successful and viewed by the snobbish art world as Bacon’s ‘pet’. But everything changed with Freud’s first major show in 1969.
Suddenly, Freud found the sycophants around Bacon tiresome while Bacon grew tired of Freud’s refusal to acknowledge any kind of ‘duty’. They also became impatient of each other’s sexual obsessions.
Francis became ‘bitter and bitchy’ towards his one-time protégé. As a rift opened up, Bacon cruelly observed of his one-time friend: ‘She’s [Freud’s] left me after all this time and she’s had all these children just to prove she’s not homosexual.’ Freud, who was by now the much more substantial figure, confined his public remarks to criticism of Bacon’s art. ‘Ghastly’, he said of his work from the 1980s on.
Matters came to a head when Freud accepted honours — both men had previously turned down the CBE. But Freud accepted a CH — Companion of Honour — and later became an OM, a member of the Order of Merit. Bacon observed: ‘I came into this world as Mr Bacon and I want to leave as Mr Bacon.’
They did occasionally meet in the 1980s but their encounters were punctuated by ever-longer silences. On one occasion, Freud telephoned Bacon at home. The conversation ended with a red-faced Francis slamming the receiver down so violently the wall shook.
A few years later — and shortly before his death in 1992 — Bacon was having breakfast in a London restaurant when Freud walked in and past his table without stopping. Bacon observed sadly: ‘That’s the way things are.’
Freud, who outlived his one-time friend by 19 years, had other feuds with lovers, friends and agents. There was no rapprochement with Bacon — but he kept one of his paintings hanging on his bedroom wall until the day he died.
For more than 30 years the two were inseparable: friends Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
Francis Bacon: why Tate returned a 1,000-piece archive
BEN LUKE | THE WEEK IN ART | PODCAST | THE ART NEWSPAPER | FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2022
This week: Why is Tate rejecting an archive of material relating to Francis Bacon,18 years after acquiring it? Our London correspondent Martin Bailey tells us about his recent scoop that Tate is returning a thousand documents and sketches said to have come from the studio of Francis Bacon. The Art Newspaper broke the story last week that the items are due to be returned to Barry Joule, a friend of the artist, who gave them to the Tate in 2004. At the time of the donation the material was described as probably the Tate archives most important acquisition ever but last week Tate issued a statement that the items had been researched by art historians who had raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material.
Now among the scholars to have expressed doubts about the Joule archive are Martin Harrison, the pre-eminent Bacon expert who compiled the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work published in 2016, and Sophie Pretorius, the archivist for the Francis Bacon Estate, mentioned by Martin Bailey, who analysed the Barry Joule donation in the Tate archive item by item and wrote an essay on the subject for a recent publication Francis Bacon: Shadows. I went to 7 Reece Mews in London, the location of Bacon’s famously detritus strewn studio, where he worked from 1962 until his death in 1992, to talk to them.
Ben Luke: Martin, you put together the catalogue raisonné of Bacon’s work over a long period; at what point did Joule’s material enter into your thoughts in that process, did you consider the material for the catalogue raisonné?
Martin Harrison: Joule’s material was available before the catalogue raisonné began, which in earnest was 2006, and it was well known before that, I tried to stress that I was author of the catalogue raisonné primarily but I had a committee, an authentication committee of five distinguished art historians, who obviously became friends, one can understand, we met twice a year and some I knew already and their opinions were very important and so when we saw, as we did latterly, material that came from Barry Joule, I had then to voice their opinions; in case of one member of my committee, he almost refused to look at it: Why are you making me look at this garbage, basically. You know the whole question comes back to one, and they’re not popular ways of looking at art anymore, but the question of authenticity, and you can be, I could bore people with lots of pages of writing about this, will make an intellectual case out on a long carefully reasoned argument for what that means, but in the past great art historians going way back sometimes said things and it sounds a bit rhetorical but it gets to the truth: Look if it looks like a Rubens or Caravaggio it’s probably not a Bacon, there’s even chance it’s Rubens of a Caravaggio. And the works from Barry Joule, I often use the word, they’re like juvenile parodies of Bacon, they’re based on Bacon, to some extent, the imagery past, which they bare no relation in their fabrication and materials and in every conceivable way.
We’re talking a vast number of things, more than a thousand, I am told, and across that material you have drawings, you have archive material, photographs that have been sketched on, etcetera, to what extent are there just obvious inconsistencies in those materials; for instance, is it right there are things like charcoal which Bacon never used?
Yes, the materials themselves are one the key reasons why you’d immediately eliminate them, or, be very careful with the way you questioned and examined them, and it presupposes, therefore, that there was a whole body of work by Bacon which came ostensibly from the building we’re sitting in, 7 Reece Mews, Bacon’s studio, and yet even in those terms of the actual materials, bore no relation, or hardly any relation ever to the material we know came from this studio, and was removed forensically and archeologically, eventually to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. The differences between that material, which we can take and no one’s ever going to question that and surely wouldn’t, as authentically Bacon’s, and for material I don’t believe came from here at all. Perhaps occasionally there was some base-material that came from here and was worked on by someone else. We tend to say, it’s easier, that it was Barry Joule himself but we don’t know that, he could have had a sister we don’t know of or a friend, or anything that made them, could be more than one person, so you’re only guessing then and we’re trying to make this a carefully scrutinised question of establishing real authenticity so one doesn’t want to be careless about attributing things so what we may say among ourselves, a lot of it not printable, you asked what acquaintance I had, most of my members had seen material, I was granted a day at the Tate, I think it was 2003 because they realised my project; at that time the public weren’t really being allowed in to look at it because it wasn’t in a form properly within its archive where it could be. And you know a day was more than enough, it’s deeply depressing and of course it had been shown before that at IMMA in Dublin and at the Barbican art gallery here in London and I’d seen that, that was just the selection that was displayed and you sort of looked at it in disbelief, as most people did, and you know that people were prepared to entertain it, you might wonder what their motives were for this and perhaps there were people who actually can’t tell a Francis Bacon from a Lucian Freud, and you’d want to test their ability to do that and know what criteria they applied in making this comparative assessment to see whether their views worth listening to.
So what was your reaction when the Tate acquired this material for its archive?
Well, people have shown me emails that prove I was sort of around but I was very much on the edge. I wasn’t then being sponsored, as I was to write my first book about Bacon or around Bacon, called In Camera by the Bacon Estate and I was no part of that process. I knew the main protagonists and I was being proved to me I was in London where David Sylvester was present and there was a lot of material on show, I didn’t live in London then I came down for the day and I remember seeing it on tables and just being well, bemused would be a polite word, what is all this, and it was so disparate, I guess, you’ve referred yourself to, works over photographs, actual works on paper and so on, so many different things and all looking like some wild fantasy around Bacon and I had not yet begun the catalogue raisonné and so if you’re going to grandly call yourself a Bacon expert that I had to be careful about saying it back then but I kind of knew what a Bacon looked like and it was nothing like this; and someone from the Tate was there, I think David Mellor, who was then professor at Sussex and some of these people knew Joule, as I did. And the fact that he’s a very affable chap, which he was and charmed people sometimes complicated this slightly, he came across so well and he often goes around with pictures of himself and Francis because no one’s denying he knew Francis. I tried to persuade him, and put a lot of effort into it, to do a book, I said tell the truth about you and Bacon because especially in the last five or six years of Francis’s life, John Edwards wasn’t around much and Barry was a valued helper, yes electrician, driver a lot, odd jobs, Bacon needed people like that because he was on his own, he was very much on his own, Bacon, and it’s jolly useful to have someone near by to perform those functions so he was generally useful to him, quite genuinely; and the thing that interested me as an art historian, he was almost uniquely given access to take snap shots around the studio; so Barry would send me photographs of authentic Bacon paintings in the studio here in Reece Mews half finished; imagine what of value that is because we only know the finished painting, he showed canvases begun with a rough sketch of an idea which don’t exist that Bacon obviously the next day, whatever, scrapped it; these are invaluable. I said Barry, tell the true stories and show your pictures which they’re not great quality, technically, but really valuable historically, and I put him in touch with a publisher but.
And we are now joined by Sophie Pretorius who wrote an essay in the book Francs Bacon: Shadows which went through the Joule material in detail. Sophie can say something about your methodology for doing that; so you were looking at each individual item of this archive?
Sophie Pretorius: So, yes I was asked by the Estate to go into the Tate and establish the authenticity of each item individually because most of the discussion of this work it’s always been, well, the base material is real, the marks on top are questionable and no one’s ever really analysed if that first statement is true: the base material is real: it just looks a bit like stuff Bacon had and so I went in, very open minded and for the better part of a year everyday went though each and every item and slowly went insane because, as Martin said, it’s so obvious it’s not Bacon and if you have eye-balls, it’s true, like, there’s no denying it.
And just how early in the process were you thinking like that? First day?
Yes, especially because when you go into the Tate and ask to see this archive you get shown the X-Album first and the X-Album is this once bound now unbound photography album that’s been painted on with finished drawings sort of presentation drawings, we can get into the nature of drawing and Bacon maybe a bit later but he definitely didn’t make presentation drawings; but these get shown to you, probably the worst things in the whole archive, they’re really bad, very juvenile, they have giant, as we’re looking at here, giant penises drawn like on a boys lavatory wall, really ridiculous; outrageous; men dressed as sailors and things. You look at them and I obviously admire Bacon a great deal and you think, oh, poor Francis, that’s what you think; and so yes, very early on in the process I thought this; but connoisseurship of that sort, Morellian analysis, is very much dead in art history and there are reasons behind that, not good reasons but there are reasons and so scientific fact, that’s what you need to establish and so I was going through, trawling trawling trying to find something that was undeniable and I did, six months in, I found a clipping from 1995. Bacon is dead by 95. And this is what’s so confusing about the journalistic reaction to this essay, my essay, is there are points like that and chronologies is another one of these things that just gets swept under the table. Francis cannot paint if he’s dead. Journalists, when they asked us for a comment, we sent them a PDF of my essay it’s in-depth as we can possibly get and they picked up the charcoal comment, which you repeated to Martin earlier now that is a point I make in the essay but it’s a point 150 of 300; and it’s true that he didn’t work in charcoal ever and there’s no charcoal in his studio and there’s lots of charcoal in the Barry Joule archive but he strongest points in my essay are Bacon can’t paint when he’s dead and various other large lacunae in the author of the Barry Joule materials working practice but I guess it’s not very sexy to say something that completely damns it; it has to be will it won’t it, could it be, so I trawled through and I would say, as Martin said, because Barry did know Bacon, there are somethings that are real; there are photographs in there there are receipt for when they went to Bibendum but you can sort of count the items on two hands and the Tate did a show in 2019 of material from the Barry Joule archive and they very cleverly included nothing with a single mark on it; no paint, no watercolour, no charcoal, it was only detritus of their friendship of which Barry has kept most so the stuff in the Tate is miniscule and you didn’t ask me the question but if the stuff that was in that show can be considered genuine and as much as they are photographs of them together, genuine photographs, but the end of my research over that period the conclusion was none of the marks on it could be by Bacon; and if you’re going to talk about material, the main point against it is none of them are in oil, and Bacon painted in oils and there’s not even drips of oil paint on any of it.
And if you look at the studio photographs of Reece Mews there’s just oil everywhere right.
Yeh, and oil obviously leaves a hallo on paper and so it’s so easy to tell when its oil and not watercolour; also watercolour everywhere in there, Bacon didn’t own a tube of watercolour; so you have to think that Bacon had a separate studio he kept all this stuff in, if it’s real, to work exclusively in charcoal and watercolour and kept it all separate and then gave it to Barry and the mental gymnastics you have to do in order to justify it because in the spirit of open enquiry I was trying very hard to think am I biased I’ve been asked by the Estate, obviously, there’s a history there, if it was real I would have said it was and unfortunately it isn’t.
And just to be clear, the idea of the base-materials, you’ve talked about counting on two hands, so there’s nothing that has inauthentic marks in your view on a base material that is real?
There’s one item which is a Bacon catalogue that has the evidence of Bacon fumbling the edges, I mean it’s likely that it was Bacon’s and that has some watercolour drawings over the paintings so there’s been figures added to a painting, a reproduction of one of Bacon’s paintings in this catalogue. So there’s one out of a thousand. Bacon was very generous with his possessions and so there’s lots of books in there that are inscribed to Bacon from famous people; Peter Beard for instance, there’s a dear Francis here’s my latest catalogue love Peter, that’s there, so that obviously was Francis’s at one point and then Barry got it. And then there’s marks in that; it was likely Bacon already had a copy of that catalogue and so off it goes, and so in that sense, there’s again maybe you can maybe you can count on one hand the number of items that have a significant paper-trail back here and then have marks that are obviously not in Bacon’s hand on them; and another thing people don’t remember about the whole process because it’s so boring is that from the very beginning, from day one of looking at this material, people said it was bad quality; David Mellor said that in his IMMA catalogue, and that it was clear that it was by more than one person; even its supporters form the get-go say it was all by Bacon and if they did say it was by Bacon, they said it was very poor quality Bacon. It’s very worrying when a collection can’t even have one supporter that says it’s all real. You end up having to come up with these ridiculous and then this happened and this happened; Peter Lacy, one of Bacon’s lovers, was brought in as a possible author, I mean he’s dead before most of the stuff is printed so that’s impossible. But it was a very unsexy process digging it all up, and I think I’m very glad we’ve got the result we have because as an Estate a lot of what we do is of, I think, huge value but it’s not provable how valuable it is but getting something that is not a Francis Bacon out of our national collection, the collection he donated his work to, so he clearly thought a great deal about is capital g Good in my opinion and I think something that he would be pleased we were doing.
Right. Can I ask you about liaison with the Tate about all this so you’ve done all this work, you did it, as you say, for the Francis Bacon Estate.
What correspondence did you have with the Tate in that process?
The Tate were very very helpful. When they accepted the items in 2004, they, even in their publicity statement about it, they said this material is going to be studied and made available online; nether of those things happened and I was the first person to look at each piece methodically.
First person ever to have done that?
Yes, every single piece. Marcel Finke did a very good piece about it in 2000 which was basically ignored but that was of a much smaller section. I mean I think the Tate implicitly knew, that’s even unkind of me, they knew, they’re smart people. In 2008 when the big Bacon show happened, the centenary, they didn’t include any of the Barry stuff and so they knew. So they made everything available and they were very encouraging, they, as a big institution, and it being part of a public collection, they obviously had to be careful and I very much respected their going through due process with it and it’s very unusual, as Martin points out, that something leaves a public collection and so you have to be surer than sure that you’re making the right decision but the stuff was accepted with a proviso and the proviso was never fulfilled and so it left it in art historical limbo this collection and I’m glad that someone did it, it’s great that it’s me but it could have been anyone and I don’t think it’s anything to do with my talent as an art historian I think literally any art historian looking at it would have come to the same conclusion but it was just hard work, just sloggy, horrible, repetitive work which means you can come forward with the data and that’s what people listen to and that’s what persuaded the Tate’s lawyers and our lawyers to even let me publish that. I’m not saying anything about him as a person or who did it, it’s just that it wasn’t Bacon and that’s the end of it.
Well, Martin and Sophie thank you so much for telling us about this today.
Martin: Thank you, Ben. Sophie: Thank you.
Francis Bacon in his 7 Reece Mews Studio (around 1970s) Prudence Cuming
Great Art Heists of History: A Break-in for Bacon
In the final iteration of our heist column, we take a look at a still
not fully resolved break-in and the taking of five Bacons
BENJAMIN BLAKE EVEMY | GREAT ART HEISTS OF HISTORY | MUTUAL ART | FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2022
Art heists, by nature, typically target museums and galleries. They are where most masterpieces and priceless works are housed, their whereabouts not being a secret – the targeted loot is common knowledge for those that are inclined that way. And once the art pieces are selected for procurement, the heist itself can be planned and executed seamlessly, as museums and large galleries are places teeming with thousands of daily visitors. How is the half-asleep security guard to know that the solemn, non-descript man taking in the Van Gogh or Rembrandt isn’t plotting its forthcoming departure? But, of course, as we’ve learnt during the course of this column, not all art heists fit the mould. And for our final entry in Great Art Heists of History, we will be observing a heist not targeting the Louvre or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but a private residence. That doesn’t make the crime any less impressive, however, for 2015’s heist of five Francis Bacon paintings from an apartment in Madrid has gone down as the largest contemporary art heist in recent Spanish history.
José Capelo, a banker by trade, owned an apartment located in one of Madrid’s safest and most secure districts. And even though Capelo was away in London at the time of the theft, the criminals responsible for the robbery managed to pull it off without tripping any alarms or rousing suspicion in the neighbourhood. They also left no tangible evidence such as fingerprints. It was clear that the thieves behind the heist were professionals. The paintings were small to medium in size, making them easier to transport, and were worth a combined estimated value of 30 million euros. Even though the theft occurred in June 2015, it was initially kept under wraps by the authorities, and only made public in March 2016. Alongside the paintings, jewels and other items of value such as precious coins were taken from the premises.
Almost a year after the paintings were taken, in May 2016, seven suspects were apprehended in connection to the theft. Although this in itself was not a complete victory, as unlike the criminals, the paintings themselves still remained at large. The arrests were made after a tip-off was received by Spanish police from the Art Loss Register (ALR) in London – a team that specializes in tracking down stolen and missing artworks via the use of a sophisticated art database. The ALR had been contacted by an individual in Sitges, a coastal town near Barcelona, who asked the team to verify what could potentially be one of the stolen Bacon paintings. The team received photographs of the piece in question, which included one of Bacon’s signatures on the rear side, and verified it as indeed real. The photographs also were concluded to have been taken after the heist was pulled off. The Spanish police wasted no time in identifying the model of camera used to take the photographs, and traced it to a camera rental firm, where they identified the photographer responsible for the shots. This break in the case led to the first arrest being made. The other six swiftly followed – and a further three in January 2017.
In July 2017, three of the five stolen paintings were recovered due to the diligent combined work of the Art Loss Register and the Spanish police. The ALR’s director of recoveries and general counsel, James Ratcliffe, stated at the time of the paintings’ recovery:
“The return of the pictures is testament to the value of collaboration between the public and private sector. We gave the police this lead to help them track down these individuals. The Spanish police have done a fantastic job.”
The 2015 Francis Bacon theft is cloaked in secrecy. There is no detailed account of the break in or any subsequent attempt to sell the stolen paintings. But what makes this heist so tragic is the personal element involved. The thieves violated someone’s sanctuary, their place of security and comfort. Even more tragic is the connection the victim had to the artist. José Capelo was a dear friend of Bacon’s and reportedly the artist’s final lover before his death of a heart attack in Madrid in April 1992.
The men arrested in connection to the case remain accused of masterminding the heist and all are currently on parole. The two paintings not recovered remain missing. They are believed to be somewhere in Spain.
And that concludes in the final chapter in Great Art Heists of History.
José Capelo and Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon portrait unseen for 60 years to make auction debut
Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud was painted by British artist Bacon in 1964
BY CONNIE EVANS | CULTURE | UK NEWS | THE INDEPENDENT | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2022
A Francis Bacon painting which has not been seen publicly for nearly six decades will be auctioned off later this month, having remained in the same private European collection for 40 years.
Titled Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, it was painted by Bacon in 1964 and is based on a photograph of Freud, his contemporary. The photograph was taken in the same year by the artists’ mutual friend, John Deakin.
The painting will go on sale as part of Sotheby’s British Art: The Jubilee Auction on June 29. It was last seen on display in 1965, on show as the central panel of a large-scale triptych in a travelling exhibition to Hamburg and Stockholm.
It was also displayed in Dublin on its own in the same year. Bacon and Freud had been friends for 20 years prior to Bacon’s creation of Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud and shared a friendship for over 40 years before relations soured and ended in the mid-1980s.
Both artists painted each other on numerous occasions, with Freud often working from real-life and Bacon preferring photographs.
In Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, Bacon used an image of Freud sitting on a bed with his arms outstretched, fists clenched and white sleeves rolled up above the elbows. The black-and-white photographs became Bacon’s primary source material, as he painted Freud obsessively in the 1960s.
Bacon kept the photographs, which were of great personal significance, with him for the rest of his life. They were rediscovered torn, crumpled and splattered with paint in his studio following his death in 1992, Sotheby’s said.
Speaking about the portrait ahead of its sale, senior director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Tom Eddison, said: “In this one single portrait we bear witness to a masterpiece, illuminating the deep and complex relationship between two titans of the 20th century.
“It is hard to think of two greater artists whose lives and works are so interwoven into the fabric of our consciousness than Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.
“At the same time both muses and critics for each other, it was their friendship, respect, rivalry and deep infatuation with one another which ultimately fuelled their unequivocal artistic talents.
“Executed with painterly bravura at the height of Bacon’s acclaim, here we see a portrait that pulsates with an intensity, a tension that mirrors the emotions which bonded these two sparring partners together for over four decades.
“Now, having remained completely unseen to the public for 57 years, this remarkable portrait will return to London as the star highlight of the summer auction season.” The portrait carries an estimate in excess of £35 million.
Along with Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, Sotheby’s British Art: The Jubilee Season sale will also include further highlights such as Banksy’s portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, a sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney’s almost four-metre wide tranquil portrayal of Woldgate Woods, L.S. Lowry’s A Town Square, J.M.W Turner’s view of London and Flora Yukhnovich’s Boucher’s Flesh.
The live-streamed auction will begin at 5pm on June 29.
Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964, is estimated to reach in excess of £34m
British Art: The Jubilee Auction
LOT 10 | 29 JUNE 2022 | 17:00 BST | LONDON
Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud
Property of a Distinguished European Collector
Property of a Distinguished European Collector
: 43,336,000 GBP
Executed in 1964, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud exemplifies an iconic pairing of two of the most significant painters within the canon of twentieth-century art. Last seen by the public during a travelling exhibition in Hamburg, Stockholm and Dublin between January and May 1965, the present work is testament to Francis Bacon’s capacity to provoke emotion and capture in paint the complexities of the human psyche. Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud illuminates a powerful dialogue rarely matched in history: The great friendship and epochal rivalry between Bacon and Freud that lasted from 1944 until the apex of their artistic sparring in the mid-1980s. Though their visual styles differed considerably throughout their respective oeuvres, both painters were deeply committed to the human figure. They sat for each other on multiple occasions; Bacon painted Freud fourteen times between 1964 and 1971, in a combination of two small panels, four large panels (one destroyed), two small triptychs, three large triptychs (of which the present work was part) and part of larger compositions. Indeed, the present painting was originally part of one of only three full-length triptychs measuring 1.9 metres in height, depicting a restless Freud in alternating poses within differing architectural spaces. Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud is only comparable in its excellence to Bacon’s masterpieces Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach (1964, Moderna Museet, Stockholm), Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1966, Private Collection), and Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969, Private Collection).
Bacon and Freud became close friends towards the end of the Second World War and were introduced by the English painter Graham Sutherland. As Freud later recalled, "I said rather tactlessly to Graham ’who do you think is the best painter in England?' he said 'Oh, someone you’ve never heard of; he’s like a cross between Vuillard and Picasso; he’s never shown and he has the most extraordinary life; we sometimes go to dinner parties there" (Lucian Freud quoted in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain, William Feaver, Lucian Freud, 2002, p. 26). Bacon and Freud spent time in each other’s west London studios, they had dinner nearly every night for a lengthy period and frequented the great restaurants, bars and clubs of Soho together with friends such as Frank Auerbach, John Deakin, Michael Andrews, Timothy Behrens, Stephen Spender and Henrietta Moraes. Indeed, writer Daniel Farson recalled Bacon and Freud as being inseparable throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and Lady Caroline Blackwood remembered having dinner with Bacon nearly every night for the duration of her marriage to Freud, which lasted until 1959 (Caroline Blackwood quoted in: Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 1996, pp. 192-93). In his recent memoir Michael Peppiatt recalled these lively, raucous dinners: “Lucian also clowns around, specially for Francis. One of his favourite turns is to pick up the restaurant bill when it comes, give it a cursory look and then pretend to faint, falling sideways on the banquette like Charlie Chaplin, while Francis chuckles and writes out a cheque… He is quite funny in an ironic way, with his lightly inflected patter doing quick pirouettes around the people he describes, but I think he is in awe of Francis, or even in love with him. But then I suppose most of us are, whether it’s Lucian or George or me, Sonia Orwell or models like Henrietta Moraes, or Miss Beston, who looks after everything to do with Francis at the Marlborough gallery… He is the point, whether we know it or not, around which we all turn” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir, London 2015, pp. 40-41).
Bacon executed his first portrait of Freud in 1951, Portrait of Lucian Freud (currently in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery, London) and would thereafter employ black and white photographs of Freud taken by their mutual friend John Deakin as source imagery. The figure’s pose in the present work is based on a photograph Deakin took of Freud sitting on a bed in 1964, the very same year the present work was executed. In the photograph Freud sits with his arms outstretched behind him, his fists clenched and white sleeves rolled up above the elbows. Freud’s pose in the present painting mirrors this position almost precisely. Bacon’s paintings of Freud from the 1960s were, in the words of Freud biographer William Feaver, “all closely informed by Deakin’s photographs of him, were systematically dramatised in the making. Bacon amplified the feel of shapes, exaggerating how it feels to sit, to slump, or to fidget to avoid a crick in the neck and cramp behind the knee. He loved a good whiplash assertion of fellow feeling. This often involved interchanged body parts” (William Feaver, The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame 1968-2011, London 2020, p. 588). Bacon’s frenetic emerald green, pink and white brushwork in the face of Freud on the surface of the present painting exemplifies this sense of dynamic, visceral movement – or whiplash – as Freud’s head appears to swivel quickly to the side, his body bent forward in tense aggression. From the 1960s onwards, Deakin would produce several photographic series of Bacon’s friends and lovers, among them Freud, Peter Lacy, George Dyer, Isabel Rawsthorne, and Henrietta Moraes. Through the medium of Deakin’s photographs, Freud became a recurrent subject of Bacon’s paintings throughout the 1960s, and indeed one of the most significant.
The threatening pose of the sitter with his fists clenched is unique and rare among the large-scale portraits of Freud painted during this period. In the triptychs Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) and Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud (1966) Freud is seen equally restless and agitated, yet his positions are seemingly insecure and protected – legs crossed, arms folded, his body always angled slightly away from the viewer. In contrast, the present work illuminates Freud at his most confident, his chest bare and body open facing directly towards the viewer; Bacon’s thick brushwork shows Freud’s face spectacularly distorted, yet his eyes regard the viewer directly in a visceral glare. Bacon has positioned his subject directly in the centre of the composition, the viewer unable to escape Freud’s intense stare. It is no surprise therefore that Bacon’s powerful rendering of his friend and artistic foe in the present painting formed the central panel of the original triptych, a seminal anchor for the outer panels. Depicting Lucian Freud in a steady progression of nuanced poses, the triptych was broken up shortly after the 1965 travelling exhibition to Hamburg, Stockholm and Dublin, and the panels are now described as individual works in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, numbered 64-05, 64-06 and 64-07 respectively. The left panel, exemplifying Freud reclined towards the left side of the composition, remains in a private collection, while the right panel, showing the figure sitting to the right of the composition with his hand hovering around his face, resides in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. The two outer panels show Freud illuminated by suspended light bulbs which seem to glow against Bacon’s stark black ground.
The thick bands of exuberant and alternating colour on the surface of the present work unquestionably reveal the influence of the expansive colour-field canvases of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, which Bacon would have seen at The New American Painting exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1959. The broad, horizontal bands of black and sea green evoke Barnett Newman’s sublime vertical stripe or ‘zip’ paintings, such as Abraham (1949) and Concord (1948) which were both included in the 1959 Tate show. Such colouristic compositions clearly held enduring appeal for Bacon and the bands of colour on the surface of Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud help create an illusion of depth. Here, perspective is simplified into a confined, flattened space, the bench painted with swathes of rich sea green and positioned against a matte black ground. In rich blue and green hues, the lower third of the composition is thickly worked, and the imprint of corduroy can be seen across this highly textured area; Bacon employed corduroy as a painting material throughout his oeuvre, and the texture can be found on the door of his Reese Mews studio, which suggests the he applied the oil paint from the tube first to the studio door, and then printed the corduroy and set it against the canvas. These painterly passages recall the abstracted, spatially ambiguous compositions of Monet’s water lilies in an instantly recognisable colour palette of blue, green and lilac. As Martin Harrison writes in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, “The textured carpet is the closest Bacon came to reprising Monet’s Nymphéas” (Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III, 1958-71, London, 2016, p. 752). Bacon’s gestural daubs of oil paint are accented by flecks of white, the impressionistic surface fully recalling Monet’s celebrated triptychs such as Water Lilies (1914-26) now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Bacon’s influence on Freud’s life and work was profound. As Freud recounted early in their friendship, “I realised immediately that [Bacon’s] work related to how he felt about life. Mine on the other hand seemed very laboured. That was because there was a terrific amount of labour for me to do anything – and still is. Francis on the other hand, would have ideas, which he put down and then destroy and then quickly put down again. It was his attitude that I admired. The way he was completely ruthless about his own work. I think that Francis’s way of painting freely helped me feel more daring” (Lucian Freud quoted in: Richard Calvocoressi, Lucian Freud on Paper, New York 2009, p. 11). Critic Sebastian Smee further describes Bacon’s impact on Freud: “But now, under Bacon’s influence, he stops drawing entirely and begins to loosen up his paintwork. He sticks to his incredibly slow and arduous way of working. But, like Bacon, he incorporates chance and risk, he smears and displaces the face’s fixed features, he utilizes all the viscosity and latent energy of oil paint applied by the brush” (Sebastian Smee, The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals & Breakthroughs in Modern Art, London 2016, p. 87). Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud thus exemplifies Bacon and Freud’s great mutual respect for one another and a mutual appreciation for each other’s work.
The present work dates from the most crucial period of Bacon’s career and life; he was gaining immense international recognition following a number of major museum exhibitions and his relationship with George Dyer was at full height. His artistic confidence throughout the 1960s is exemplified by the fact that some of his greatest self-portraits were executed during this highly successful and fruitful period of production. Painted obsessively, Freud’s likeness utterly dominates Bacon’s production. As resolutely indicated by this extremely rare and little-seen work, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon fuelled each other’s extraordinary talent, two masters of modern art at the apex of their ground-breaking, technical prowess. Lucian Freud was known to have been an avid collector of Bacon’s work, with works such as Head (1951, now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art), Two Figures (1953, Private Collection), Figure with Meat (1954, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago) and Study for Portrait II (After the Life Mask of William Blake) (1955, Tate, London) remaining in his collection until his death in 2011. The present work thus exudes a sense of friendship, respect, rivalry and fervour that immortalised Bacon and Freud’s deep infatuation with each other. A paragon of Francis Bacon’s encyclopaedic iconography and inimitable painterly style, Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud is a riveting masterpiece of the twentieth century.
Bacon and Freud: unseen portrait
is glimpse into doomed friendship
Painting goes on show in the UK for the first time before expected £35 million sale
BY PETER CHAPPELL | ART | UK NEWS | THE TIMES | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2022
Lucian Freud’s second wife, the writer Lady Caroline Blackwood, once claimed she sat through dinner with her husband and Francis Bacon “more or less every night of my marriage to Lucian” which, inevitably perhaps, lasted just four years.
The buyer of Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud by Bacon of his then best friend in 1964, which is expected to sell for £35 million at auction later this month, may hope they can put up with the presence of two of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists for a little longer.
Art critics say that the oil painting, which will be exhibited in the UK for the first time before it goes under the hammer, reveals a softer side to an artist described as having a “pitiless sense of mankind.
“It’s a very admiring portrait in a way of Freud”, said Mark Stevens, co-author of Francis Bacon: Revelations. “We don’t often think of Bacon as a person who paints admiring sorts of portraits, but I think this is a portrait of focus and determination.”
It offers a glimpse into a doomed friendship forged in the pubs and clubs of 1950s Soho, and is based on a photograph taken by John Deakin, one of their close bohemian circle.
“They were actually inseparable from about the late 40s throughout the 50s and even into the early 60s. And Lady Caroline was correct,” says Bacon’s biographer Annalyn Swan. “When they were both in the Colony Room [a Soho club] they only saw each other, they only wanted to gravitate to each other, to talk to each other, and excluded everyone else.
“It was sort of a partnership of the two of them. And what they had to say about art mattered most. Bacon admired Freud’s eye and Freud admired Bacon’s.”
In the painting, which was originally part of a triptych, Bacon has “planted this figure on the bench, and it’s as if he’s screwed him on to the bench with such force that his head almost seems to twist. To me, it’s a picture that captures a man of will, focus, determination, and a person resolute on dominating his body in achieving what he wants,” Stevens said.
Despite the pair’s friendship creating an “unbreakable rhyme in a room”, many found their self-obsession “insufferable”.
Bacon and Freud were so close that there were rumours the pair were sleeping together. Stevens and Swan said this was unlikely but the “friendship did have this sort of deep quasi-erotic tone, not overtly sexual, but sensual”.
The two artists fell out after 1974 when Lucian Freud’s show at the Hayward Gallery transformed him into an international star, with Bacon left feeling like their relationship was permanently altered.
“Bacon suddenly had to see Freud in a new light. Freud had always been the one who hadn’t gotten all the acclaim and the sales . . . And so there began to be a strain and a shadow in this relationship,” Swan said.
Aside from jealousy, the two objected to each other’s sexual tastes. Freud couldn’t understand Bacon’s love of the East End world and his relationship with George Dyer, a Cockney from a well-known crime family. “He shared it to a certain extent, but certainly not in the bedroom. And then Bacon, for his part, disliked Freud’s social-climbing,” Swan said.
However, this painting created ten years earlier was a “testament” to their friendship and one of the first of Bacon’s mature oil portraits. Despite the feud, the pair still met for intimate breakfasts into the 80s, with Freud arriving at Bacon’s nearby studio in his Bentley to pick him up.
The work has been in the collection of a private European owner for 40 years and its existence only became widely known in 2016 when a colour photo was included in a catalogue of Bacon’s work. It will go on public display at a gallery in New Bond Street from Thursday of next week.
Bella Freud, a fashion designer, and Lucian’s daughter, said last year: “I was rather disappointed that they weren’t friends when I then started spending more time with my father, and sitting for him in the late 70s. When I asked him why he fell out with Francis, he said “because his work went off.”
“But I am sure there was more to it than that, because they had been so close and obviously seemed to love each other. Francis was clearly somebody who he adored and admired. And there weren’t many people my father talked about in that way.
“The things he repeated about him were just dazzling, utterly disarming and breathtakingly wonderful, and silencing because of their brilliance. I imagine he must have missed that when he stopped being friendly with him.”
Tom Eddison, senior director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, said it was “rare” for a previously unseen Bacon portrait to come up for sale. “Executed with painterly bravura at the height of Bacon’s acclaim, here we see a portrait that pulsates with an intensity, a tension that mirrors the emotions which bonded these two sparring partners together for over four decades.
“Now, having remained completely unseen to the public for 57 years, this remarkable portrait will return to London as the star highlight of the summer auction season.”
Bacon’s Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964, is expected to sell for £35 million at auction this month
Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud expected
to sell for over £35m at auction
Painting, based on black and white photograph, last exhibited in 1965 as part of a triptych
BY MARK BROWN | ART & DESIGN | CULTURE | THE GUARDIAN | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2022
A Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud not seen in public since it was first exhibited 57 years ago is to be auctioned with an estimated price of more than £35m.
Sotheby’s on Wednesday announced what is believed to be the most valuable contemporary work to be offered in London in almost a decade.
Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud was painted in 1964 and shows Freud with his chest bare and face monstrous and mangled, sitting on a hard bench with his arms outstretched and his fists clenched.
It is based on a black and white photograph taken by the two artists’ mutual friend John Deakin and shines light on a friendship and rivalry that was incredibly intense, but ultimately incredibly bitter.
The painting was the central panel in a triptych exhibited in 1965 in a travelling exhibition to Hamburg, Stockholm and Dublin. With Bacon’s consent, the triptych was broken up, with the left-hand panel now in a private collection and the right-hand one in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Bacon and Freud met in 1944, introduced by the painter Graham Sutherland. They became instant friends and in the 50s and 60s they would see each other almost every day, both in each other’s studios as well as eating and drinking in Soho’s most celebrated haunts.
The Guinness heiress Caroline Blackwood once said she remembered having dinner with Bacon every night for the five-year duration of her marriage to Freud in the 50s.
Freud was the sitter in 1951 for Bacon’s first identifiable portrait of an individual. He went on to paint Freud more than any other person, save himself.
By the 80s they were drifting apart because of petty rows and jealousies, with Freud clearly tiring of Bacon.
Freud’s daughter, Bella, said of the feud: “I was rather disappointed that they weren’t friends when I then started spending more time with my father and sitting for him in the late 70s. When I asked him why he fell out with Francis, he said ‘because his work went off’. But I am sure there was more to it than that, because they had been so close and obviously seemed to love each other.
“Francis was clearly somebody who he adored and admired. And there weren’t many people my father talked about in that way. The things he repeated about him were just dazzling, utterly disarming and breathtakingly wonderful, and silencing because of their brilliance. I imagine he must have missed that when he stopped being friendly with him.”
Bacon’s remark on the fizzling of the friendship, told by a smiling Freud to William Feaver, his biographer, was: “She’s left me after all this time. And she’s had all these children just to prove she’s not homosexual.”
The work has been in the same private collection for 40 years and will go on public display at Sotheby’s galleries in New Bond Street London from 23-29 June.
It will be auctioned on 29 June in a sale titled British Art: The Jubilee Season. Other works include Banksy’s portrait of Winston Churchill with a lime green Mohican, estimated at £4m-£6m; and David Hockney’s almost 4-metre wide portrayal of Woldgate Woods.
Austrian Billionaire Heidi Goëss-Horten Has Died at Age 81,
Just Days After Opening Her Private Museum in Vienna
The collector owned some 700 artworks.
BY SARAH CASCONE | PEOPLE | NEWS | ARTNET | TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2022
Austrian billionaire Heidi Goëss-Horten died on Sunday at her home on Lake Wörthersee, just days after opening her private museum in Vienna. She was 81.
“It is with great regret and in deep mourning that we have to give news of the completely unexpected death of our patron and benefactor Heidi Goëss-Horten,” read a statement from the Heidi Horton Collection.
In honor of Goëss-Horten, admission to the museum—normally €15 ($15.60)—will be free through the weekend. In its first week, the institution attracted some 800 daily visitors, according to Artnews.
Born Heidi Jelinekin Vienna in 1941, Goëss-Horten met her first husband, department store magnate Helmut Horten at a bar in 1959. She was just 19 and he was 51, and in 1966 they were married. Together, they began building what became a nearly billion-dollar art collection in the 1970s.
Horten died in 1987, leaving Goëss-Horten a $1 billion fortune, which allowed her to continue amassing her collection, with a focus on Expressionism and American Pop art. At the time of her death, Goëss-Horten’s net worth was $2.9 billion, which put her at 1,040 on the list of the world’s wealthiest people, according to Forbes. When she died, Goëss-Horten had a collection of some 700 artworks.
In 1996, Goëss-Horten notably spent $22 million in a single week on works by Francis Bacon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Klee at Sotheby’s, The New York Times reported.
Agnes Husslein-Arco, then managing director of Sotheby’s Austria, served as Goëss-Horten’s art advisor, and was eventually tapped to direct the Heidi Horton Collection.
It wasn’t until 2018 that Goëss-Horten finally shared her holdings with the world, in the critically acclaimed exhibition “Wow! The Heidi Horten Collection” at Vienna’s Leopold Museum. It became the museum’s most-visited show of all time, and inspired the collector to create a permanent venue to showcase her collection.
“I knew after the first public presentation of my collection that I wanted to preserve the works for posterity and share a treasure with people that has been with me in my private life for many years and given me such happiness,” Goëss-Horten told Artnews.
The high-profile project invited greater scrutiny of Goëss-Horten’s finances. In 2020, she commissioned a report from historian Peter Hoeres that found that her husband “Helmut Horten benefited from the economic circumstances provided by the Nazi state” in the form of confiscated Jewish-owned department stores, according to The Art Newspaper.
In 2018 and 2019, Goëss-Horten donated nearly €1 million ($1.04 million) to the conservative Austrian People’s Party, but in amounts small enough not to be publicly reported, according to Der Standard. Her lawyer maintained she did not break any laws, and Goëss-Horten said she would no longer make political donations.
But any controversy appears to have failed to dampen enthusiasm for Goëss-Horten’s new museum. The venue, originally an annex of the Albrecht Palais and the offices of Archduke Friedrich, underwent a gut renovation by Next Enterprise Architects Vienna ahead of its transformation into a museum.
The building, rechristened the Palais Goëss-Horten, now features three floors of gallery space, with two futuristic floating platforms.
For its inaugural exhibitions, the 16,000-square-foot museum is showcasing a selection of 50 works by the likes of Lucio Fontana, Robert Rauschenberg, Dan Flavin, Andy Warhol, and Damien Hirst. But there is also a focus on less established figures, particularly emerging and mid-career Austrian artists, with new commissions by Constantin Luser and Andreas Duscha.
“I am proud, with my collection and the construction of the museum,” Goëss-Horten said in a statement ahead of the museum’s opening, “to have created something lasting, which future generations will also be able to experience when they visit my museum and take joy in the art that has given me such joy for so long.”
The 1958 canvas was offered for $15 million.
BY KATYA KAZAKINA | SENIOR REPORTER | NEWS | ART WORLD | ARTNET NEWS | TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2022
The Nahmad family is known for bringing some of the most expensive and significant modern artworks to international art fairs such as Art Basel. Inevitably, the Picassos, Rothkos, and Calders displayed on their booths act as bellwether for the high-end art market.
Some years, these paintings linger. Some years, they go fast. This year is a fast one.
The latest edition of Art Basel, which opened to VIPs on Tuesday, is an example of the booming market. By the end of the day, Helly Nahmad gallery sold its Francis Bacon Pope painting, according to a representative.
The 1958 canvas was offered for $15 million, and the sale price wasn’t disclosed. Multiple people considered the work, according to the gallery. It was the second-highest known price at the fair. Earlier in the day, Hauser & Wirth reported the $40 million sale of an 11-foot-tall Spider by Louise Bourgeois.
You may recall the ghostly Pope from Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction in November 2019, just before the pandemic struck. At the time, it was consigned by the Brooklyn Museum to raise money for its collections fund. Estimated at $6 million to $8 million, it fetched $6.6 million, and was bought by the Helly Nahmad gallery.
The $15 million list price represents a considerable markup over just a few years—127 percent, to be exact.
There’s been a steady stream of high-end Bacon paintings at auction. Two years ago, billionaire Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi was the winner of Francis Bacon’s Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981), which fetched $84.6 million.
Earlier this year, star architect Norman Foster’s triptych fetched $51.2 million at Christie’s in London. Patrick De Pauw, a scion of a Belgian collecting family, sold Bacon’s Study for Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971 (1971) for $46.3 million at Sotheby’s
Bacon’s auction record of $142.4 million was established in 2013 for Three Studies of Lucian Freud (in 3 parts).
Francis Bacon Pope (1958). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
A Secretive Austrian Collector Unveils a Long-Awaited Private Museum in Vienna
BY ALEX GREENBERGER | MUSEUMS | NEWS | ART NEWS | ESTABLISHED 1902 | FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2022
Back in 1996, the art market was left in shock after a single collector bought up $22 million worth of art at a Sotheby’s auction in London.
The buyer, who called in with a Vienna specialist with the house, was a “mysterious German-speaking collector,” The New York Times reported at the time, and she had purchased pieces by Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, and others all in one fell swoop, making herself a sensation almost overnight
That collector, The Times went on to reveal, was none other than Heidi Göess-Horten, the ex-wife of Helmut Horten, a Viennese department store owner with whom she began buying art. (She has since remarried two times.) Some years after Helmut’s death in 1987, a new passion for art collecting was ignited in Heidi, who currently owns 700 pieces and ranks on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list.
Now, in addition to those hundreds of artworks, she also owns a museum, the Heidi Horten Collection, which opened in Vienna earlier this month.
In a sense, Göess-Horten has even come full circle, naming Agnes Husslein-Arco, the Vienna Sotheby’s specialist who placed bids for her in 1996, as the museum’s director.
It is not the first time Göess-Horten’s collection has been seen in Vienna — that would be in 2018, when a survey of it opened at the Leopold Museum. But that exhibition came and went in a matter of six months, and the goal with the Heidi Horten Collection is to offer a permanent view of one of the country’s richest private collections, which has rarely been seen publicly.
“I knew after the first public presentation of my collection that I wanted to preserve the works for posterity and share a treasure with people that has been with me in my private life for many years and given me such happiness,” Göess-Horten told Artnet News in an email.
“That’s why I see my museum as a place of discovery, of sensuous experience, of the joy of art—because that’s what art has been and still is for me: a vital source of joy!”
So far, according to those involved with the museum, the Viennese have indeed taken pleasure in visiting the museum, which has 16,145 square feet of exhibition space. Self-reported data from the museum say that at least 800 people visited each day during the space’s first week and, on Thursday, there were already crowds pouring in just 15 minutes after opening.
In some ways, this fervor from the public is a bit of a surprise, since Vienna is already packed with museums, among them the Albertina, mumok, the Kunsthalle Wien, and more, all of which are walking distance from the Heidi Horten Collection. But Husslein-Arco did not seem shocked that the museum already had such a large audience.
“The people love it,” she said.
Some coming to the exhibition are likely to arrive expecting some of the iconic works in Göess Horten’s collection, including paintings by Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein. Those paintings, as well as some of the other more famous ones owned by Göess-Horten, are still in her house, however. Instead, the spare opening hang at the museum, set across three pristine floors, is primarily devoted to emerging and mid-career artists, many of whom are Austrian.
“I did it on purpose,” Husslein-Arco said. “I wanted to show two things: that the collection keeps growing and that there is a younger art” in Göess-Horten’s holdings. She also wanted to foreground the architecture, by the Vienna-based firm ENTERprise architects.
The Heidi Horten Collection’s building seems small from its outside, but on the inside, it feels big. (The price to get in, at 15 euro per adult visitor, is hardly small either.) Two staircases appear to float over viewers’ heads, and there are large airy parts in which one can see right up to the roof.
This scale allows the museum to show grand works, most notably Constantin Luser’s Vibrosauria (2022), a 20-foot-tall sculpture of a female dinosaur that is crafted from brass instruments twisted together to form something like an armature. The sculpture can be played by up to 24 musicians at once. Meanwhile, the museum’s tearoom is itself a work of art by Markus Schinwald, who covered its walls in paintings of an old-school teahouse. Schinwald Photoshopped out any people who appeared in his source images, however, and anyone who inhabits the room is meant to effectively figure in their place.
More minimal pieces shine as well. A Dan Flavin sculpture composed of a fluorescent lighting tube propped against a corner gets a gallery to itself, as does Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s video Lady to Fox (2018), in which the artist, painted entirely red and wearing only a set of white sneakers, gyrates among a herd of sheep. That work stems from Göess-Horten’s longtime love of animals, which also informed her decision to buy works by Claude Lalanne, Lena Henke, and Ulrike Müller.
There’s enough blue-chip art to whet the palette of those wanting bigger names. Among the offerings are two paintings resulting from a collaborative effort by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat (plus a drawing by the latter working solo), two of the six Lucio Fontana paintings that Göess-Horten owns, a painting from Robert Rauschenberg’s beloved early ’60s period, and a painting made with dead butterflies by Damien Hirst
More works by stars like Franz Marc, Georg Baselitz, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner are likely to figure in future shows, but it’s these lesser-known artists that speak to the depth of her collection. After all, the opening hang is just 50 works, or roughly 7 percent of her holdings.
“I am convinced that my collection contains treasures that are unmatched in Vienna, in Austria, even in Europe,” Göess-Horten said.
Heidi Göess-Horten 13 February 1941 – 12 June 2022
Tate returns a £20m slice of Francis Bacon
Authenticity fears led to the rejection of a gift of sketches from the famous artist’s friend
DAVID SANDERSON | ARTS CORRESPONDENT | ARTS | NEWS | THE TIMES | THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2022
Francis Bacon would probably have had a chuckle — but for those left to resolve the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most important painters it is no laughing matter. A long-running dispute over a “generous” gift to Tate from a friend of Bacon’s escalated yesterday after the gallery returned the 1,000-plus items and cast doubt on their authenticity.
It said “credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material” had been raised by art historians. The archive of documents and sketches purportedly from Bacon’s studio were donated to Tate in 2004 by Barry Joule, a gift estimated at the time to be worth about £20 million.
Joule, who said he had been Bacon’s chauffeur, friend and handyman for more than a decade before the artist’s death in 1992, said that Bacon had handed the items to him saying: “You know what to do with them.” After 2004, however, it seemed that Tate did not know what to do with them.
Sir Nicholas Serota, its director at the time, said the “generous gift will provide a fascinating insight into Bacon’s working practices”. The gallery said it would take as long as three years to study the material before it could be put on display. However, only a few items were exhibited. The Francis Bacon estate has continually cast doubts on the authenticity of the material.
Last year in a book, Francis Bacon: Shadows, Sophie Pretorius — the archivist of the estate’s collection — launched an attack on the Barry Joule Archive [BJA]. “The story of the material associated with Joule is riddled with exaggeration, half-truths and contradictions,” she wrote. “Bacon’s work is not easy to mimic. But the author of the items in the BJA made a stab at it.”
She said that while many of the sketches were drawn in charcoal, “no charcoal or charcoal marks were found in Bacon’s studio upon his death”. Joule at the time said he was “fuming” and would consider legal action.
He said the estate had only started questioning the authenticity of the material after he had declined its request to donate it to the Bacon Study Centre in Dublin in the 1990s. He has previously said the estate once accused him of having stolen the material. Joule also said last year that he was frustrated that Tate had failed to exhibit works from the archive.
In April of this year he said he was cancelling plans to donate a further 150 drawings, ten paintings, hundreds of photographs and more than 12 hours of taped conversations with Bacon which he said would instead go to Centre Pompidou in Paris.
“The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters,” he told The Observer. Bacon, who was born in Ireland but was based in London for most of his working life, is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most influential painters. In 2013 his triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) became the then most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after it fetched £89 million
Among the works that Tate is deaccessioning from its archive — a highly unusual move in Britain’s museum world — and returning to Joule are an album of overpainted sketches. Tate said the sketches were of “unknown authorship”, adding: “The gift has been researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material.
“In itself, the material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted.”
Loud, drunk and desired
Francis Bacon, according to Tracey Emin, “just did whatever he wanted to do, drank whatever he wanted to drink, slept with whoever he wanted to sleep with” (David Sanderson writes). Her contemporary and fellow Bacon aficionado, Damien Hirst, meanwhile, was drawn to Bacon’s “very, very dark view of the world”.
Much of the darkness came from his formative years in Ireland where he grew up as the openly gay son of a horse breeder and was banished from his conservative family’s home aged 16.
Violence and sex became the markers of his life. Childhood horsewhippings from grooms and stable boys segued to fights with strangers on the streets of London; exploratory teenage sex progressed to sado-masochist relationships with a parade of lovers.
And all the time his star kept rising, with an enthralled art market and appreciative curators. All in all, there are many reasons he was described as the “loudest, rudest, drunkest, most sought-after British artist of the 20th century”.
Following his death in 1992 aged 82, his star continued to glow, with a procession of auction records and prestigious exhibitions. The Royal Academy this year devoted an exhibition entirely to the artist’s relationship with animals.
Barry Joule with Francis Bacon at the home of the artist Richard Hamilton in June 1982
Tate to return Francis Bacon archive—once valued at £20m
—to donor who was close friend of the artist
A thousand documents and sketches from the Barry Joule collection to be
deaccessioned by London museum over attribution doubts
BY MARTIN BAILEY | TATE NEWS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | WEDNESDAY, 8 JUNE, 2022
Tate is to deaccession a thousand documents and sketches said to have come from the studio of Francis Bacon. The Art Newspaper can report that they are to be returned to Barry Joule, a close friend of the artist, who donated them in 2004.
At the time of the donation the material was apparently valued at around £20m and was described as probably the Tate Archive’s most important acquisition ever.
A Tate statement issued today records that the Joule donation has been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material”.
The statement explains: “The material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted. It has therefore been considered unsuitable for retention in Tate Archive. In the first instance, it has been offered back to the donor, in line with the donor’s wishes.”
Joule has consistently and robustly defended the authenticity of the material.
Canadian-born Joule had been a London neighbour of Bacon’s and developed a friendship with him in 1978. He helped Bacon in various ways up until the artist’s death in 1992. Joule came into possession of a considerable quantity of paper material from Bacon’s London studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington.
The studio material donated to Tate includes 800 magazine and newspaper cuttings, some bearing pencil and pen marks and daubs of paint. There were also 39 photographs of Bacon and his friends, books and other documents. Finally, there is the so-called “X Album” of overpainted sketches which Tate describes as “of unknown authorship”.
When Tate accepted the 2004 gift it was described in glowing terms: “The trustees of Tate have acquired an archive collection from the studio of Francis Bacon, one of the most important painters of the 20th century, thanks to the generous gift of Barry Joule, a friend of the artist… Tate hopes the acquisition and further study of this material will enable scholars to resolve remaining issues about Bacon’s working practice.”
But since then specialists from the Francis Bacon Estate have studied the material, ending with a negative conclusion. An essay on the donation by the estate’s archivist, Sophie Pretorius, was included in their publication Francis Bacon: Shadows, released in June last year.
Pretorius quotes Andrew Wilson, until last year a senior Tate curator, who believed that the hand(s) that applied the marks “may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree”. She herself concludes that “for scholars to devote time to analysing a collection of works not by Francis Bacon is a waste of resources”.
It is certainly unusual for Tate to deaccession. Under a Parliamentary act, the gallery is normally prohibited from deaccessioning artworks. Although this does not apply to archival material, the gallery follows the same procedure when this is considered, a Tate spokeserson says.
Tate’s trustees have now deemed that the Joule material "can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of students or other members of the public”—and have decided to offer it back to Joule.
After holding the Joule archive for nearly 20 years, a Tate spokesperson says: “Credible doubt has been cast on the majority of the material. While it remains unproven as to whose hand the markings on this material might be attributed, the addition that it represents to the public understanding and enjoyment of Bacon’s art has been exhausted and is no longer suitable for retention in the collection.”
Joule has voiced frustration with Tate’s failure to exhibit his donation, which he insists is fully authentic. In April he told The Observer that he has cancelled plans to donate hundreds more items from Bacon’s studio to Tate. Instead he intends to offer them to the archives of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. “The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters. I turn my back on the Tate for ever.”
Francis Bacon in his studio in London in 1974 Photo Michael Holtz
Tate returning Francis Bacon archive
after researchers raise ‘credible doubts’
The collection was donated in 2004 by Barry Joule, a close friend of the artist.
BY ALEX GREEN | UK NEWS | LONDON EVENING STANDARD | WEDNESDAY, 8 JUNE, 2022
The Tate is returning an archive of documents and sketches purportedly from the studio of Francis Bacon, saying its researchers raised “credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material”.
Donated in 2004 by Barry Joule, a close friend of the artist, the collection includes almost 1,000 items and was reportedly valued at £20 million at the time of acquisition. As first reported by The Art Newspaper, a statement from the Tate said the gallery had offered the material back to Mr Joule after concluding it “does not lend itself to any significant exhibition”.
The gallery also said that any potential the material held to improve public understanding of Bacon’s art “has been exhausted”. Of the 1,000 pieces donated, around 800 are magazine and newspaper cuttings, some bearing incidental marks or daubs of paint.
It also includes 39 photographs of Bacon and his friends, a selection of books and other documents and an album of overpainted sketches the Tate concluded were of “unknown authorship”. Bacon, known for his bold and shocking figurative style, died aged 82 in 1992.
Among his most famous and recognisable works were 1966’s Portrait of George Dyer Talking and 1953’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. The Tate said: “Francis Bacon is one of the most celebrated and influential British artists of all time. “Tate has consistently championed Bacon’s art for over half a century, having staged his first ever retrospective exhibition in 1962, and today Tate’s collection holds several of his most renowned paintings which are regularly on public display.
“In 2004 Barry Joule, a friend and neighbour of Francis Bacon in his later years, offered Tate a body of archival material which had recently come to light. Tate Archive accepted the donation as ‘material relating to Francis Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews, London’ and it was catalogued and made available for further study. Since then, some items from the gift – photographs and written material – have featured in an archive display and been made available for publication. The entire gift has also been researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material.”
“In itself, the material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted. It has therefore been considered unsuitable for retention in Tate Archive. In the first instance, it has been offered back to the donor, in line with the donor’s wishes.”
Mr Joule has repeatedly defended the authenticity of the material, which has been questioned in recent years by the Francis Bacon Estate. In August 2021, he threatened to cancel the gift and accused the Tate of reneging on a pledge to stage exhibitions of the material, according to The Observer.
Canadian-born Mr Joule was living near to Bacon’s home and studio at 7 Reece Mews, west London, when they met in 1978 and became close friends. He helped Bacon with his work until the artist’s death in 1992, when he came into possession of a collection of material said to be from the London studio.
Announcing the donation in January 2004, the Tate hailed “the generous gift of Barry Joule, a friend of the artist”. It said: “Tate will undertake to study, photograph and catalogue the collection over the next three years, before displaying these items and making them available for loan.”
However, since then specialists from the Francis Bacon Estate have studied the material and come to negative conclusions, even questioning its authorship.
Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery in 1985 London
Tate Returning Francis Bacon Archive Amid
Doubts Over ‘Nature’ and ‘Quality’
Tate is to return a thousand documents and sketches once said to have
come from the studio of Francis Bacon and valued at £20 million, amid
concerns over their authenticity, The Art Newspaper reports
ARCHIE BRYDON | GALLERIES | ART | WHY NOW | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2022
The works are to be deaccessioned to Barry Joule, a close friend of Bacon’s, who first donated them to Tate in 2004. At the time of the donation, the collection was valued at roughly £20m. It was described as “probably the Tate Archive’s most important acquisition ever.”
In a statement from Tate, issued today, it is revealed that the collection has been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material”.
The statement goes on: “The material does not lend itself to any significant exhibition and any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted. It has therefore been considered unsuitable for retention in Tate Archive. In the first instance, it has been offered back to the donor, in line with the donor’s wishes.”
Joule has “consistently and robustly defended” the authenticity of the material. He was a neighbour of Bacon and the two became friends in 1978 – a friendship that continued until Bacon’s death in 1992, at which point the Canadian-born Joule came into possession of a “considerable quantity” of paper material from Bacon’s London studio in South Kensington.
The collection that Joule donated to Tate in 2004 includes 800 magazine and newspaper cuttings, some bearing pencil, pen and paint. Thirty-nine photographs of Bacon and his friends were also included, as were books and other documents. The final component of the archive is the so-called “X Album” – an album of overpainted sketches which Tate now describes as “of unknown authorship”.
When Tate first accepted the archive, the response was rather different. They said: “The trustees of Tate have acquired an archive collection from the studio of Francis Bacon, one of the most important painters of the 20th century, thanks to the generous gift of Barry Joule, a friend of the artist…Tate hopes the acquisition and further study of this material will enable scholars to resolve remaining issues about Bacon’s working practice.”
Since the glowing welcome, specialists from the Francis Bacon Estate have studied the material and “come to a negative conclusion.”
While it is unusual for Tate to deaccession works – under a Parliamentary act, the gallery is normally prohibited from deaccessioning artworks – Tate’s trustees have now deemed that the Joule material “can be disposed of without detriment to the interests of students or other members of the public”, and hence have decided to offer it back to Joule.
Tate said: “Credible doubt has been cast on the majority of the material. While it remains unproven as to whose hand the markings on this material might be attributed, the addition that it represents to the public understanding and enjoyment of Bacon’s art has been exhausted and is no longer suitable for retention in the collection.”
Joule has long voiced frustration with Tate for their failure to exhibit his donation. In April, he told The Observer that he has cancelled plans to donate more items from Bacon’s studio to Tate, and will instead offer them to the archives of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
“The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters. I turn my back on the Tate for ever.” Hmm.
Tate to Deaccession Francis Bacon Archive
Over Authenticity Concerns
BY ANGELICA VILLA | NEWS | ART NEWS | ESTABLISHED 1902 | WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2022
In an unexpected turn, the Tate announced Wednesday that it will deaccession a vast archive of materials from Francis Bacon’s estate donated by a close confidant of the Irish-born painter, after researchers raised questions about the gifts’ authenticity.
The move comes just two months after Barry Joule, a British man who befriended Bacon in 1978 while living in London, rescinded his initial plan to donate another group of works to the museum after it failed to exhibit the disputed archive, which he donated nearly two decades ago. Joule, who is said to have been in contact with the artist until his death in 1992, threatened to take legal action against the Tate over the rift.
In 2004, Joule donated the near 1,200-item archive spanning drawings to photographs from Bacon’s studio that was worth an estimated £20 million ($25.1 million) to the Tate. At the time, the Tate said it would catalogue the donation over a period of three years before making it available to be exhibited, but the promised public showcase never materialized. The museum said it is now offering the archive back to the donor — a move that is rare, but legally permissible for U.K. institutions.
In a statement first obtained by the Art Newspaper, the Tate said the Joule archive materials had been “researched by art historians, and this research has raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material,” continuing that “any potential it held to improve the public’s understanding of Bacon’s art has been exhausted.” Joule has denied any claims that the archive contains inauthentic materials.
In April, reports of the ongoing row escalated when it was revealed that doubts had been cast by scholars over Joule’s donation, known formally as the Barry Joule Archive (BJA). Last September, the Bacon Estate published Francis Bacon: Shadows, which quotes a former Tate curator Andrew Wilson as saying “the hand/s that applied the marks to the material may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree.”
Joule said he intended instead to donate a second grouping of Bacon’s works—around 150 drawings, 10 paintings and other archival materials including documents and audio recordings — to the national archives of the Centre Pompidou in France after falling out with the London institution and had already begun negotiations. Bacon was the subject of a retrospective focused on his literary influences in 2019 at the French museum, titled “Bacon: Books and Painting.”
Whether or not the Tate’s move to jettison the long-held archive will affect the ongoing negotiations between Joule and the Pompidou to receive the other tranche of works is still unclear. A representative for the Center Pompidou did not immediately respond to ARTnews’ request for comment.
The Tate is returning Barry Joule’s Francis Bacon archive
ART NEWS | APOLLO | THE INTERNATIONAL ART MAGAZINE | WEDNESDAY, 8 JUNE, 2022
The Tate announced on Wednesday (8 June) that it will deaccession around 1,000 sketches and documents said to have come from the studio of Francis Bacon by his friend and neighbour Barry Joule, who donated the archive to the Tate in 2004.
At the time of the gift, the archive was valued at around £20m, but in a statement today, the institution revealed that art-historical research into Joule’s collection has ‘raised credible doubts about the nature and quality of the material’, which has now been offered back to the donor.
Joule has defended the authenticity of the material, and in the past has voiced frustrations with the Tate for not making use of the material in exhibitions; in April, he announced that he had cancelled plans to donate further items associated with Bacon to the museum, intending to offer them to the Pompidou instead.
Francis Bacon: Faces & Figures
BY ALFRED MAC ADAM | ART SEEN | THE BROOKLYN RAIL | JUNE, 2022
Francis Bacon’s biography may help us to understand the artist, but can explain nothing about his art. That is, from the biographer’s perspective, the work only exists to reveal something about Bacon’s tumultuous life. To learn that such and such a figure is George Dyer, a lover, or Henrietta Moraes, a friend, is at worst anecdotal gossip and at best historical fact.
To deal with Bacon as artist, to deal with this extraordinary panoply of ten paintings assembled here, we have to deal with a number of undeniable facts. Bacon does not represent people as they are: his bodies or faces are contorted, his colors are unnatural, and his disregard for verisimilitude is total. To deal with Bacon’s work, we must equip ourselves with an aesthetic of ugliness.
Umberto Eco’s 2007 essay “On Ugliness” establishes the ugly as an artistic category, one that traffics in rejection, disgust, lack of harmony, irrationality. Notions such as these, and not the names of Bacon’s sitters, explain our unending fascination with Bacon, revealing why the emotional and psychological reactions his paintings arouse in us far outweigh the importance of his drinking, gambling, and sexual proclivities.
If we do want to take into account a biographical fact about Bacon in looking at his work, it would be that he is not our contemporary. Born in 1909, before World War I, he comes from a remote, alien social and artistic milieu. It is precisely Bacon’s unabashed manipulation of “primitive art” elements, his affinities with Picasso, with the distortions and unnatural colors of Expressionism, with his reworking of the composition principles in seventeenth-century Dutch portraiture and genre paintings: all of that links him inextricably to a twentieth-century art that reveled in its links to art history.
The ten oils on canvas here, ranging from the astounding Man at a Washbasin (ca. 1954) to Study for Self-Portrait (1979), do not pretend to be a comprehensive presentation of Bacon’s long career. There are no biomorphic figures, no screaming popes—only explorations of figures within the confines of pictorial space. But that self-imposed limitation is a tremendous opportunity to look closely at superb examples of Bacon’s work.
Two studies come to the point: Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground) (1964) and Three Studies for a Portrait (1976). The six images are all 14 by 12, so despite the twelve-year distance between them, the two series share a genealogy that leads back to Van Dyck’s 1635 Charles I in Three Positions. That each portrait of the king is slightly different from the others may have appealed to Bacon, who also individualizes each of his images by torquing them in different ways and defacing them with swaths of paint. True, the Dyer images are slightly closer to reality than the 1976 studies, but the face in both instances is no longer human. In the 1976 triptych, the echo of Picasso’s mask faces in Demoiselles d’Avignon is palpable, and we are staring into an allegory we can never hope to fathom. Bacon leaves Picasso and his bordello far behind and focuses instead on the reality of grotesque distortion.
The same applies to Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing (1969) and the three other portraits. The Moraes image is arresting because it might be a death mask, while the Study for a Head (1955), the largest of the portraits at 40 by 30 inches, constitutes a parodic version of a conventional portrait—a bank president perhaps now transformed into a leprous demon.
The other four works here, all on a larger scale, involve figures arranging themselves in space. Here Bacon takes cues from a host of antecedents: Goya, Ingres, and Manet, who all painted women reclining on divans. Man at a Washbasin (ca. 1954) takes up a Degas theme: a person washing themselves off. But Bacon reduces his figure to a ghostly presence, as if to draw attention away from the central figure to the composition itself: the rigorous geometry of a Dutch interior, static but animated by the nebulous figure.
Figure in Movement (1972), the largest piece in the show at 78 by 58 inhces, is the culmination of Bacon’s aesthetic of the ugly. Again, a single, writhing figure isolated in a yellow space, perhaps a model on break reading a newspaper and moving around rather than posed. But the torsion and distortion contrast with the control Bacon imposes on the space, with its roomlike geometry enhanced by encasing rectangular outlines. The figure, as in the other two images of seated figures, is both in transit and fixed for all time, captured in an artistic experiment of simultaneity.
This is the way to truly experience Francis Bacon’s greatness: a dose large enough to tell us what Bacon was all about and small enough to remain comprehensible.
Alfred Mac Adam is Professor of Latin American literature at Barnard College-Columbia University. He is a translator, most recently of Juan Villoro’s Horizontal Vertigo (2021), about Mexico City.
Francis Bacon, Man at a Washbasin (ca. 1954)
Bacon’s US$46.2 million Pope portrait
tops Sotheby’s New York evening sale
BY KAYAN WONG | AUCTION NEWS | LATEST | NEWS | THE VALUE | FRIDAY, 20 MAY, 2022
This season’s New York auction marathon came to a close with Sotheby’s US$210 million Contemporary Art Evening Sale.
Amongst 27 lots offered, only one was unsold, bringing in a total hammer price of US$181 million – higher than its presale low estimate of US$170 million.
The sale’s top lot was Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971 – the only painting by the British figurative painter depicting both the Pope and his lover, George Dyer – which realised US$46.2 million after fees.
The auctioneer began soliciting bids at US$35 million and saw unenthusiastic reception from both telephone and floor bidders. The hammer was dropped at US$40 million, offered by Grégoire Billault, the chairman of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s New York, for his client with paddle number 267.
One of the major British artists of the post-World War II period, Francis Bacon is widely recognized for his iconic – often unsettling and blatant – images of scathed and traumatized humanity.
Inspired by Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, his renowned Papal portrait series, which he worked on for at least two decades, is no exception. Under his brushes, the benevolent, highly-respected Pope is casted as a victim of his own status, tortured by the weight of his authority.
Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971, the last painting in his Pope series, was originally created in 1962, when only Pope Innocent X was on the canvas. Later in 1971, he decided to rework the painting and placed his lover George Dyer next to the Pope, making it the only work by him that has both muses in the same composition.
Bacon’s relationship with George Dyer began in late 1963 in a pub in Soho. Dyer’s devotion to Bacon was fuelled by his admiration for Bacon’s intellect, power, and confidence. From the mid-1960s, Dyer became Bacon’s muse and was seen at every gallery opening.
However, their relationship soon went downhill due to Bacon’s tempestuous manner and increasingly destructive drinking. By 1971, Dyer had already attempted suicide on more than one occasion but saved by Bacon every time. At the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, while Bacon was to be honoured with a major retrospective, Dyer was found dead from a drink and drugs overdose in the bathroom of the hotel.
According to literature and scholars, Pope Innocent X’s sister-in-law Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj was actually the power behind his papal throne. The two were rumoured to be having an affair; however, after the Pope’s death, Olimpia wouldn’t even pay for his burial but instead letting the body being dumped in a closet, where rats nibbled at it.
Was Bacon reminded of this story of Pope and decided to include his lover Dyer in his painting?
Lot 115 | Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971 | Sold: US$46,284,500
Last of Bacon’s famous papal portraits
auctioned for $46 million in New York
ONLINE NEWS EDITOR | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | LA PRENSA LATINA | FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2022
New York City, US, May 19 (EFE). — The last of Francis Bacon’s famous papal portraits was sold on Thursday for $46 million at an auction of contemporary art at Sotheby’s in New York.
The sale of “Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971,” which has been in private hands since 1973 and has a tragic history, took place five years after it failed to sell at Christie’s in London, which made an overly optimistic valuation.
The Irish-born modernist painter depicts a “haunting” encounter between the Pope and Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who committed suicide two days before the work was unveiled to the public at a career-defining exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1971.
It is the last papal portrait of several dozen that Bacon painted, inspired by Diego Velázquez’s “Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” 1650, but despite its historical significance, it failed to fetch a price close to the artist’s most expensive painting, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” sold in 2013 for $142.4 million.
This Bacon painting’s selling price was closer to its minimum value of $40 million than to the maximum of $60 million predicted by Sotheby’s and that was the general tone of the auction, which had three dozen pieces, most of them paintings.
The next most valuable work was an untitled painting by the American Cy Twombly, of circular scribbles in wax on a dark gray background, which sold for $38 million.
Andy Warhol’s “Elvis,” in which rock-and-roll legend Elvis Presley is dressed as a gunslinger, raked in $21.6 million.
A huge painting by Ed Ruscha that had “Cold Beer Beautiful Girls” stenciled in white letters onto an image of clouds fetched $18.82 million, and David Hockney’s colorful “Grand Canyon III,” sold for $11.03 million.
Perhaps the only surprise was German artist Georg Baselitz’s record-breaking sculpture “Women of Dresden,” which was estimated at a maximum $4 million but sold for $11.24 million. EFE
The Thrill of Bringing Bacon to Moscow
James Birch recounts the fascinating journey of introducing Francis Bacon’s art
to Soviet Russia, including transvestites, the KGB, and political manoeuvring
MICHAEL PEARCE | BOOK REVIEW | MUTUAL ART MAGAZINE | WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 2022
Art history would be much more fun if it was all written like James Birch’s excellent Bacon in Moscow. The book is a ripping yarn about the author’s wild Cold War adventures as a young gallerist attempting to bring paintings by Francis Bacon to the Russian capital. Bacon in Moscow reads with the tension of a John le Carré spy story, vividly coloured with the fluid sensuality of scenes from Birch’s bohemian life set against the scenography of taut life in late Cold War Russia, which was ready to snap.
The story begins innocently enough in the early eighties, when an ambitious Birch set up his first gallery in London. To put it on the cultural map, he formed the crazy idea that he should take an exhibit of work by transvestite potter Grayson Perry, and the members of his eccentric “neo-naturist” group, a surrealist collective of body-painting nudists, to Moscow, thinking that this bizarre cultural mission might bring his gallery some notoriety. He travelled to Paris to follow an introduction to an unlikely Russian cultural diplomat, Sergei Klokov, a frightening but comical KGB agent who looked like a hairdresser but had the power to stop airplanes on the runway on their take-off approach and board them, to sweep aside murder, and to intimidate his countrymen with looks and gestures alone. In this first bizarre meeting, Klokov introduced Birch to a tall and beautiful young woman, Elena Khudiakova, who left the room several times, reappearing dressed in different outfits, attempting to impress Birch with her skill as a fashion designer. Dangerous, and self-obsessed, Klokov agreed to help Birch with papers to go to Moscow to scout venues for an exhibit.
Birch’s Moscow delivers as the grim, grey, and oppressive setting of the surreal Soviet dystopia of the 1980s, and his fluidly descriptive writing brilliantly carries the narrative on a vivid journey through a dreary series of cavernous, dirty, white galleries and into age-beaten hotels with suites subdivided into tiny and stinking rooms, miserable food, and worse waiters. As he was toured around the smoke-stained and vodka-fueled nightmare of declining communism, constantly chaperoned by KGB guides and translators, Birch realized that the Soviet art scene was not tuned for the decadent excesses of cross-dressing Perry and his louche pots, or naked body painters mocking bourgeois pretentions – what need, when there was no bourgeoisie to mock? Instead, he suggested bringing Russian artists to Britain. Klokov promptly arranged for him to be escorted to the state-funded studios of mediocre Russian artists, but in them Birch saw only a stream of paintings frozen by decades of fear into the official Socialist Realist style ordered by long-dead Lenin, Stalin, and Lunachersky, and who shared an endless supply of theoretically rationed vodka. However, while their work deserved little praise, to Birch’s plastered surprise these painters were united by their admiration and applause for Bacon, whose work they had only seen in small photographs in art magazines discretely passed from hand to hand among artists until they were ragged and stained. Klokov asked Birch if he could reach Bacon. Birch had known him since he was a little boy – Bacon once snapped a photograph of him splashing about in his grandmother’s bathtub. Now, Birch’s mission was clear – bring Bacon to Moscow.
Birch returned to England and met with Bacon during one of his legendary drunken nights out in Soho. Over bottles of champagne he pitched the idea of a Moscow show. To his surprise Bacon immediately agreed to the idea. “When I was younger, I met two Russian sailors in Berlin, they were very good to me,” he said with a smile.
But who would fund the show? A rush of meetings followed. The Marlborough Gallery wouldn’t pay. The Russians couldn’t pay. Bacon was nonchalant. Klokov came to London and met him for lunch at an expensive restaurant on Germyn Street, in the heart of the establishment, then met representatives of the British Council, bringing the Russian ambassador with him and persuading them to fund the expensive shipping, crating, and insurance of the paintings with British taxpayers’ money. Eager for opportunities to develop new intelligence contacts in Gorbachev’s Russia, the British Council promised to assist. Klokov complained of sharkish behavior at the Marlborough Gallery and warned Birch that he must find a way to neutralize the threat that they might attempt to control the exhibit. Birch worried about the word “neutralize” coming from the mouth of the KGB agent. The Union of Artists offered to host the exhibit in their own gallery.
Birch returned to Moscow to measure the gallery. He had begun thinking of Klokov as a friend and was falling in love with Khudiakova, and they all dined together to celebrate. Birch was becoming used to the pragmatic and dour Russian outlook, although he was shocked when Klokov told him he served in Afghanistan as a flamethrower operator, burning down the houses of suspected mujahadin. Chillingly, he said that the smell of burning flesh and the sand in his mouth had made breathing difficult. “It felt like an ethical lobotomy,” Birch writes. To lighten the mood, he retrieved a copy of Daniel Farson’s story announcing Bacon’s exhibit in the Daily Mail, which reported that Klokov had joked to Birch, “You know James… if Mister Bacon made a show in Moscow, I’m sure the queues will be bigger than those for Lenin’s tomb.” For the first time he saw fear on Klokov’s face. Klokov cursed Birch’s naivete and told him he had put him in danger. “These kinds of remarks can have serious repercussions in USSR,” he said. But Gorbachev was in power now, and Klokov had unwittingly captured the mood of perestroika.
After all the drama, Birch’s description of Bacon’s show in Moscow seems almost like an afterthought. As Klokov had predicted, immediately after it was clear that it presented a real opportunity for political manoeuvring, powerful players pushed him to the sidelines, although he had a glowing career ahead of him as an international art dealer and curator. Bacon’s show in Moscow attracted more than 600,000 people. Lenin’s tomb didn’t stand a chance.
Birch asked Khudiakova to marry him, and eventually she came to London to live with him. He discussed the marriage proposal with his mother, and she was horrified, telling him, “You can’t marry her, she’s KGB.” His father asked Khudiakova what was the best thing that had ever happened to her, doubtlessly expecting her to affirm her love for Birch, and she replied, “Meeting Klokov.”
James Birch, Bacon in Moscow. Cheerio Publishing
CONTEMPORARY EVENING AUCTION
Property from a Private European Collector
LOT 115 | 19 MAY 2022 | 19:00 EDT | NEW YORK
Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971
signed Francis Bacon, titled and dated Study of Red Pope 1962,
2nd Version 1971 (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 by 58⅛ in. 198 by 147.5 cm.
Executed in 1971.
Estimate: 40,000,000—60,000,000 USD
Lot sold: 46,284,500 USD
Marlborough Fine Art,
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in February 1973)
Acquired by descent from the above sale by the present owner
John Russell, Francis Bacon,
London, 1971, p. 112, illustrated in color
Lorenza Trucchi, Francis Bacon, New York, 1975, p. 14 (text), p. 150, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Venice Biennale 45th International Exhibition, Figurabile Francis Bacon, 1993, p. 117 (text)
Wieland Schmied, Francis Bacon: Commitment and Conflict, Munich, 1996, no. 18, fig. 34, p. 23, illustrated, p. 49, illustrated in color
Exh. Cat., Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (and travelling), Francis Bacon: Lo Sagrado y lo Profano, 2003–2004, p. 31, illustrated in color
Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 2008, p. 292 (text)
Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III, 1958-71, London, 2016, no. 71-04, p. 970-971, illustrated in color
Maia Wellington Gahtan & Donatella Pegazzano, eds., Monographic Exhibitions and the History of Art, New York, 2018, p. 56 (text)
John M. Carvalho, Thinking with Images: An Enactivitst Aesthetics, New York, 2018, p. 35 (text)
Paris, Galeries Nationals du Grand Palais
and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Francis Bacon, 1971-1972, no. 107, p. 137,
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Francis Bacon: Books and Panting, 2019-2020, pp. 50-51, illustrated in color, p. 229 (text)
“Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971… is the final work in the series. Once again, Bacon introduces an element that complicates the spatial situation and sharpens the challenge to the viewer’s perceptions. The element in question is the mirror, an inherently ambivalent image that can also be read as a window. Here, too, the backrest of the throne has the function of a picture within a picture, but in this case, it is extended to form a triptych, a winged altarpiece whose two side-panels are folded out so that the viewer sees only their inner surface.”
WIELAND SCHMIED, FRANCIS BACON, MUNICH 2006, P. 2
A defining masterpiece and triumphant finale to the artist’s seminal series of Pope paintings, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 depicts the first and only encounter within Francis Bacon’s oeuvre between his two most important subjects: the Pope raised on a dais, drawn from Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,1650, and George Dyer, the love of Bacon’s life and one of his most celebrated muses. First unveiled at Bacon’s landmark retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, a career-defining exhibition and an accolade only previously afforded to Pablo Picasso among living painters, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 remains a testament to Bacon’s limitless capacity to provoke and capture the most fundamental of human emotions. In the present work, Bacon reworks the composition of his 1962 painting Study from Innocent X, revising the portrait to include his love George Dyer, as if the figure of the Pope, not only the progenitor of Bacon’s practice but a stand-in for authority, the canon, and the father, finds its counterpart in Bacon’s lover, instantly identifiable by his curved nose. On October 26th, 1971, the Francis Bacon retrospective opened to great acclaim, the galleries at the Grand Palais were filled with admirers, yet George Dyer’s presence was tragically absent. Less than thirty-six hours prior, Dyer had taken his own life in their Paris hotel room. Executed shortly before the Retrospective, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 reveals a haunting premonition of the devastating loss of Bacon’s lifelong love, a singular meeting of his two greatest muses and charts Bacon’s artistic maturation between 1962 and 1971. Having remained in private hands since 1972, the present work’s importance is further attested to by its inclusion in the major retrospective Francis Bacon Books and Painting at the Centre Pompidou in 2019.
“In the lives of all of us there is a human being whom we least wish to lose. Bacon sustained that particular loss at the time of his retrospective exhibition in Paris in 1971-1972. He bore it with a stoicism for which even Homer would have been hard put to find words; but in his real-life – his life as a painter, that is to say – it came to the fore over and over again.”
JOHN RUSSELL, FRANCIS BACON, LONDON 1971, P. 151
A tragic loss and profoundly emotional soul, Dyer was often portrayed in Bacon’s oeuvre as in motion or in a mirror. As John Russell describes: “A compact and chunky force of nature, with a vivid and highly unparsonical turn of phrase, he embodied a pent-up energy... a spirit of mischief, touched at times by melancholia... his wild humour, his sense of life as a gamble and the alarm system that had been bred into him from boyhood... George Dyer will live forever in the iconography of the English face.” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, pp. 160-65) Dyer’s passing would continue to haunt Francis Bacon’s artwork throughout his career. A now legendary portrait, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 is one of the last images Bacon made of Dyer prior to his death, embodying Bacon’s fervent attempt to find catharsis in the canvas. Bacon’s portraits of George Dyer are some of his most passionate and psychologically arresting paintings; the spectral figures incisively convey the dichotomously tortured and heroic, romantic and tempestuous nature of their relationship.
Dyer and Bacon met in the fall of 1963 for the first time at a Soho pub; Dyer famously introduced himself to the artist’s party with the gambit “You all seem to be having a good time. Can I buy you a drink?” (Jonathan Fryer, Soho in the Fifties and Sixties, London 1998, p. 9) A charming, handsome man, Dyer would soon become Bacon’s lover and muse. Underneath this beautiful façade, however, Dyer was deeply conflicted and vulnerable. Their relationship was passionate and tumultuous, tender and brutal. Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 reflects on the eight years they had together, the artistic and emotional transformation Francis Bacon encountered following their meeting in late 1963. During this period, Bacon sought to capture Dyer’s likeness with a painterly dynamism that captured his inner turmoil and the mercurial, fierce passion of their relationship. In Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971, Dyer meets the Pope from behind a mirror; he resembles a trapped spectral reflection under that stirring gaze. A macabre and disquieting prophecy, Bacon illustrates Dyer as a shadow, a memory trapped stoically behind the glass, a seminal meeting with the conflicted head of the Catholic Church.
Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 endures as a fervidly fraught and harrowing grande finale to the incomparably momentous series of pontiffs that Bacon obsessively reworked in the 1950s and 1960s, transmitting a palpable vulnerability through the profound aesthetic translation of their psychological tension into painted form. In any one period, there are only a finite number of images with almost limitless connotations. In our time, along with perhaps Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Duchamp’s La Grande Verre and a Giacommeti Femme debout, Bacon’s Popes are not only the centerpiece of all his paintings...but a centerpiece of the whole of twentieth-century art.” (Michael Peppiatt, Exh. Cat., Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (and travelling), Francis Bacon in the 1950s, 2006, p. 28) A titan of twentieth-century portraiture and one of the most iconic bodies of work, Bacon’s Pope paintings were inspired by Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650.
Bacon was deeply affected by the work, which he described to David Sylvester as “one of the greatest portraits to have ever been made” (Interviews, the green edition, p. 26), and the series became his most famous arena for the rendering of flesh in all its tactile glory and psychological deconstruction. Bacon’s chosen task in painting the Pope was not one of representing an image but rather re-representing the meanings inherent to Velázquez’s portrait: stature, presence, public role and the very mechanics of being. Bacon gets under the skin and goes beyond the surface of the image, engaging a series of emotions that lie at the heart of ordinary daily existence in the most extraordinary way.
A symbol of authority and power, the Pope that Bacon illustrates, distorts the infallibility of the figure. In many portraits, he is seen erupting in screams, writhing or disfigured. Through his depictions of the Pope, which he began after he first came across a reproduction of Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X around 1946, Bacon would launch an exploration of the nature of existence that would guide his portraiture throughout his career, including those of George Dyer. In Velázquez’s portrait, Bacon became infatuated by the raw and tormented figure he glimpsed, a poignant juxtaposition to the figure’s exalted status.
“Bacon’s mirrors can be anything you like — except a reflecting surface... Bacon does not experience the mirror in the same way as Lewis Carroll. The body enters the mirror and lodges itself inside it, itself and its shadow. Hence the fascination: nothing is behind the mirror, everything is inside it.”
GILLES DELEUZE, FRANCIS BACON: THE LOGIC OF SENSATION, LONDON AND NEW YORK, 2005, P. 13
A retired army captain and racehorse trainer with a puritanical and vindictive streak, Bacon’s father Eddy tyrannized the family household, and in particular his son, with whom he was at odds. Allergic to his father’s horses, asthmatic and unashamedly effeminate, Bacon was expelled from the family home after being caught admiring himself in the mirror wearing his mother’s underwear. That the Pope – the Holy Father – was to be Bacon’s first subject when he reached artistic maturity is perhaps in part owing to a working-through of personal trauma. Bacon created approximately 50 canvases in the series of Popes, including early works from 1946 to 1950, which he subsequently destroyed, depicting Pope Innocent X, a man afflicted by the weight of his own authority. In the 1960s, Bacon turned to some of his most arresting and intensely captivating muse, his great love.
In 1971, for the retrospective Francis Bacon at the Grand Palais, the artist revised two of his most celebrated works, the present work and Second Version of ‘Painting’1946 (1971), held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Bacon’s insistence that this image be included in the exhibition, despite its then owner’s refusal to lend it, coupled with the new inclusion of the intimate portrayal of an emotionally fraught George Dyer, evidences Bacon’s regard for the importance of this piece and composition. Together Study for Innocent X and Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 chart the changes in technique, form and style that Bacon employed over the intervening nine years; the Baroque richness of color evident in his 1962 painting differs from the sparingly applied paint and raw canvas in Bacon’s later work.
The dynamic passages of painterly strokes of impasto juxtaposed against the bare canvas highlight the dramaturgy of the composition, the curved mirrors and fragmented space almost seem to foreshadow the iconic Black Triptychs executed following Dyer’s death. Furthermore, the inclusion of George Dyer evidences a palpable emotional reverence. Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 elevates the personal to the universal, transmitting a palpable vulnerability and arresting intensity. The work marked the end of an era for both muses, the final papal portrait and one of the last portraits of Dyer prior to his death; the light cords that dangle between them are suspenseful and threatening, a premonition of Dyer’s death. Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 singularly embodies the profound artistic reckoning between 1962 and 1971, becoming the ultimate encapsulation of Bacon’s most transformative decade.
As Wieland Schmied describes, "Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971… is the final work in the series. Once again, Bacon introduces an element that complicates the spatial situation and sharpens the challenge to the viewer’s perceptions. The element in question is the mirror, an inherently ambivalent image that can also be read as a window. Here, too, the backrest of the throne has the function of a picture within a picture, but in this case, it is extended to form a triptych, a winged altarpiece whose two side-panels are folded out so that the viewer sees only their inner surface." (Wieland Schmied, Francis Bacon, CITY 2006, p. 23) Bacon worked from printed photographs of both the Velásquez Pope and Dyer, disfiguring and morphing their images to illustrate the burden and complexities of their internal psyche. He felt that by referring to secondary sources, he was able to remove their literal appearance and instead capture the essence of their selves. Equally conflicted characters, wrestling with power and vulnerability, the Pope and Dyer meet in the present work confronting each other’s gaze with a binding intensity.
One of the most radical iconoclasts, Bacon’s obsession with the Pope and Dyer, both fundamentally impacted his oeuvre and, more broadly, twentieth-century painting. Coupled together in the present composition, akin to a devotional diptych, the Pope and Dyer’s figures appear twisted, fractured and densely worked. Together, united as subjects of Bacon’s painterly obsession, they deftly embody the fragility of the human experience. In Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971, the reference to his painting from nine years earlier offers unique insight into Bacon’s artistic evolution in the intervening years, a period that marked the most important decade in his life, culminating with the Grand Palais retrospective. Through Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971, Bacon is in dialogue with himself, his muse, his lover, his past and his present, rendering a sublime commentary on the human condition with a fervent passion and incisive vigor. Staging the encounter between his great love, Dyer, and his greatest obsession, the Pope, Francis Bacon reveals a tragic premonition of Dyer’s fateful passing and a seminal reverent homage to his two most renowned muses finally united together.
Majid Boustany: “When Bacon burst into my life,
I was fascinated by the unique giant”
BY CAMILLE ESTEVE | EDITOR’S CHOICE | PERSONALITIES | NEWS | MONACO TRIBUNE | MONDAY 2 MAY 2022
The patron and president of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation agreed to tell us about his passion for the painter and the activities carried out by his Foundation.
Could you tell us about your background?
After a degree in business administration followed by a master’s degree in international relations in England, I started working as a corporate director in my family’s business in Monaco. I am also co-owner, along with my brother, of the Hôtel Métropole in Monte-Carlo and founder of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation Monaco, a non-profit institution that is dedicated to the British artist Francis Bacon.
How would you describe the bond between yourself and Monaco?
Extremely strong. My family has been here for over forty years and I am deeply attached to the Principality and the Princely Family.
Why did you decide to launch the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation in Monaco and not elsewhere?
During my student years in London, I took an art history course and on a visit to the Tate Gallery, when I was in my twenties, I came across Bacon’s triptych, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), which defied interpretation and triggered a need within me to explore his world.
In the course of my research, I discovered that the artist first visited Monaco in the early 1940s, that he was a resident of Monaco from July 1946 until the early 1950s, and that he continued to stay regularly in the Principality with his family, lovers, and circle of friends right up until the end.
He would readily speak of his stays in Monaco and he often referred to the work he managed to do here, despite the many distractions he faced. It was in Monaco that he began to focus on the representation of the human figure and began his first series of popes and series of heads. Creating a foundation in the Principality therefore seemed to me to be an obvious choice.
The vital support of Prince Albert II and the Monegasque authorities played a major role in the creation of the project, and the Sovereign inaugurated the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation on 28 October 2014, the anniversary of the painter’s birth.
What does the painter mean to you? What does his art awaken in you?
When Bacon burst into my life, I was quickly fascinated by this unique, unclassifiable, self-taught and uncompromising giant whose works raise burning questions. As an observer of his time, he made monumental and tragic works, “a concentration of reality,” as he put it so well, which captivated and haunted me. His powerful images, tinged with intense pain, disturb, shock, fascinate and have such a spellbinding power that nobody can remain indifferent.
Is there a seminal work for you?
One of my favourite works by Bacon, and part of my collection, is Figure Crouching, a canvas dating from 1949 that was probably painted in Monaco.
What are your Foundation’s aims?
The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation is a non-profit institution that is dedicated to study and research on the British painter. It was created to promote a better understanding of the artist’s work, life and creative process, with a special focus on the period he spent living and working in Monaco and France.
It supports research, awarding a research scholarship every four years to a doctoral student at the École du Louvre whose work focuses on Francis Bacon, and is open to researchers and art historians. It also supports artistic creation by providing scholarships to young graduate students from Villa Arson, publishes books on Bacon and supports publications about the artist.
The Foundation also produces short films about the painter and contributes to exhibitions by lending works or through financial support. The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, the Tate Liverpool, the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, the Musée Fernand Léger in Biot, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and the Royal Academy in London are some of the museums we have cooperated with.
The Foundation is open year round to researchers and art historians. It is open to the public, by appointment only, every Tuesday and on the first Saturday of the month for guided tours, free of charge.
What other philanthropic activities have you carried out?
In 2020, I created an endowment fund with the Musée du Louvre, directed towards the conservation and enhancement of the collections of this prestigious Paris institution.
The income from the fund is destined to support the restoration of works in the Louvre that were admired by Bacon during his many visits, some of which influenced his own work. That same year, I became a patron of the École du Louvre’s endowment fund by making a capital donation to enable it to carry on its work.
I was also the patron of an ambitious architectural project entitled “ÉCOLE DU LOUVRE 2021-2022” involving the refurbishment of its library, IT and documentation services and cafeteria, as well as the creation of a research centre, which was recently inaugurated in the presence of the French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin and Princess Caroline of Hanover.
It is the most significant funding ever provided to an educational establishment run by the Ministry of Culture. For this major project, I also provided the school with two sculptures by the British artist Antony Gormley, Witness VII and Witness VIII, as well as an easel that belonged to Francis Bacon and a photograph of the artist, bringing works of art into this study and research environment for the first time.
How do you view the cultural offering and the art world in Monaco?
Culture in all its forms has always played a fundamental role in the history of the Principality. The Ballets de Monte-Carlo, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Monte-Carlo Opera have been internationally renowned for over a century.
I have noticed a significant development in the cultural offering in the Principality over recent decades, in particular thanks to the opening of two establishments: the Grimaldi Forum which, along with its other attractions, hosts a major exhibition every summer that has become a must-see event, and the New National Museum of Monaco, which holds several exhibitions each year, promoting Monegasque heritage and its collection.
The Oceanographic Museum, by inviting major artists for its temporary exhibitions, has also contributed to this movement. This development was made possible thanks to the essential support of Prince Albert II and Princess Caroline of Hanover as well as the numerous initiatives by the Directorate of Cultural Affairs.
The Principality of Monaco has also become a pivotal centre for the art market with the arrival of the artmonte-carlo show but also thanks to the recent opening of prestigious galleries and the vitality of its auction houses. By creating the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, I wanted to make a further contribution to Monaco’s existing cultural landscape.
What are your tastes and choices as a collector?
I have dedicated my collection to the works of Francis Bacon but I have also acquired works by painters who worked alongside Bacon, such as Graham Sutherland, Roy de Maistre, Denis Wirth-Miller, Vladimir Veličković, César, Maggi Hambling and Louis le Brocquy, or who were influenced by the work of Bacon such as Ernest Pignon-Ernest or Robert Longo.
Majid Boustany © Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation
How Elaine Wynn Became the Grande Dame of Las Vegas
BY CHRISTINA BINKLEY | FEATURES | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL MAGAZINE | WEDNESDAY, 27 APRIL, 2022
On mornings in one of her four homes, Elaine Wynn likes to take her coffee beside Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud. She bought the paintings for $142.4 million at a Christie’s auction in 2013. That purchase, made anonymously at the time, smashed the record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction and created a frenzy of speculation as to the buyer’s identity.
In the hours after the auction, Wynn says reporters called her ex-husband, Steve Wynn, to ask if he was the mystery buyer. “They were saying it will probably be on the wall of a hedge fund guy or in the desert in Arabia,” Elaine Wynn recalls. “I remember being offended that speculation centered on men, and nobody thought that a woman would either have the money or the balls.”
On this February morning, she is wearing an old Giorgio Armani blouse and newish Gabriela Hearst slacks. To her right, the shimmering copper-tone towers of the Wynn Las Vegas casino resort dominate the view from her limestone-walled dining room. She recently redid her condo with the decorator of the Obama-era White House, Michael Smith. It sits in a complex that has been home to numerous casino titans and power hitters, including the former heads of Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Fontainebleau Resorts. It goes almost without saying that those titans have been men.
Wynn’s panorama is metaphorically rich. Wynn and her ex-husband designed and operated one Las Vegas casino after another for nearly 50 years. They brought fantasy to the desert town in the form of Mirage’s volcano, Treasure Island’s pirate battle, Bellagio’s fountains and the Wynn’s luxury. While she watches over the Wynn from her aerie, her ex lives far from his high-powered former life after having been ousted in a cloud of sexual harassment allegations from the company they co-founded. These days, he can often be found in Palm Beach, Florida, with his new wife, Andrea. Las Vegas itself has changed too, its founders replaced by hired fund managers and marketing executives.
Though Elaine Wynn is no longer an executive of the empire she co-founded, she is its biggest and most active single shareholder. This makes her the last of the dreamers whose gambling parlors transformed a small town into a global resort destination while they became high-profile casino moguls with political and financial clout ( Kirk Kerkorian bought MGM film studios; Steve Wynn became fundraising chair of the GOP). In one of the most testosterone-driven cities on earth, a woman outlasted and outmaneuvered them all.
Wynn, who has held a Nevada casino license since 1978, is worth an estimated $1.8 billion, according to Forbes, based largely on the value of her 8 percent share in Wynn Resorts. Yet for most of her adult life she has been known more for her philanthropic work in education, and as a supreme hostess with friends in high places (one of her former homes featured a mini Oval Office for visits from George H.W. Bush).
As she turns 80 in April, Wynn is coming to terms with the hand she was dealt when her husband divorced her, in 2010, and then left Wynn Resorts amid allegations of sexual harassment and rape (which he has repeatedly denied), revealed in a January 2018 Wall Street Journal article. Elaine Wynn became a primary catalyst in the company’s reform. She established new leadership on the board and testified in support of Wynn Resorts keeping a vital license to operate a new casino in Boston.
She has remade herself as a world-level art collector and a force in public art, supporting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and using her influence to help create a national monument designation to protect land around Michael Heizer’s City—a 1.25-mile-long earthwork sculpture in Nevada. She has taken her work in Nevada education to the national level: She is chairman of Communities in Schools, which provides resources to disadvantaged children. It recently received a surprise $133 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife.
She laughs that her taste is evolving as she learns to create spaces that aren’t mega casinos, and without pressure from her design-obsessed ex. Smith, she says, rejected some of her fabric choices as “too hotel” as they designed her Las Vegas home, which ended up, she says, without a single fabric that she chose herself. “There is a Wynn style that’s very much based on the hotels,” says Smith. “Elaine has a personal style also that we wanted to explore.” She is more confident in her fashion choices, and those have evolved too. Once a loyal client of Oscar de la Renta, she recently purchased a colorful oversize sweater from Christopher John Rogers and a zany embellished Libertine coat. “Fashion is the new art,” she says, pulling the looks from her room-size closet and describing her pursuit of an asymmetrical satin Balenciaga dress that she saw on a client at the brand’s flagship store in New York. When she’s in New York, she likes to shop at Linda’s, a boutique curated by Bergdorf Goodman’s well-known fashion director, Linda Fargo.
The Wynns have two daughters: Kevyn Wynn, a sometime fashion designer who was famously kidnapped in 1993 and released after her father paid a $1.45 million ransom, and Gilian Wynn, an entrepreneur and philanthropist. They have seven grandchildren, including 23-year-old Marlowe Early, who has begun working on an oral history of her grandmother, with whom she sided in the family split. Early says she believes that “Mouchie”—Elaine’s family nickname—has been under-recognized for her achievements in the face of dramatic personal and professional turmoil.
“I don’t think it’s fair that he gets to go on with his life,” Early says. “She is the person who has conducted herself with grace, value, consistency. Who is the real superhero in my eyes?”
Elaine Wynn had worked in and served on the board of the Wynns’ companies since 1967, maintaining an office and focusing her energy on everything from human resources to training to catering. She directed the Chanel-style uniforms for front desk employees when the Wynn resort opened in 2005 and persuaded Oscar de la Renta and Manolo Blahnik to open their only Las Vegas boutiques (at the time) there. But she has been credited only in recent years as a co-founder. Steve Wynn, as chairman and CEO, sometimes called himself the casinos’ “dada,” but her management roles didn’t fall into the standard executive titles.
“I was always the wing lady,” Wynn says. “It wasn’t part of the push for me to be concerned about gender equity or recognition. I always viewed our work as partners.”
Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, says Wynn was a key figure in the 2015 creation of Basin and Range National Monument, which protects the 704,000 acres surrounding Heizer’s City. President Barack Obama approved the designation. “When [Elaine] started making calls to Congress,” Govan says, “somehow I was received in a different way.”
Wynn was one of the first major donors to support a controversial new LACMA building designed by reclusive Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. When Govan, hoping she would donate, invited Wynn to tour Zumthor’s work in Europe in 2015, they wound up that August on a four-day road trip from Cologne, Germany, and Bregenz, Austria, to Haldenstein, the tiny Swiss mountain village where the architect works, with Govan behind the wheel of a rented station wagon. Marlowe Early and Govan’s daughter Ariana came along, the teenagers lending a National Lampoon’s Vacation vibe.
Wynn soon pledged $50 million without requesting that the building bear her name. “Without that initial 50 there would be no project,” says Govan. Music mogul David Geffen later pledged $150 million, securing the naming rights. Wynn is now co-chair of LACMA’s board.
The Wynns once had Picasso’s famous Le Rêve in their dining room (Steve Wynn later put his elbow through the painting by accident), but Elaine Wynn says her own tastes ran to the crafty, such as basketry and weaving. At a cocktail party at Donna Karan’s home in New York, Wynn saw a Francis Bacon work on display that sparked her interest. “It got me by the gurgle,” she says.
“I decide I’m going to enter into the auction business myself and get me a Bacon,” she says, conceding she failed at her first attempt. She began fleshing out her collection with works by Édouard Manet and Lucian Freud, as well as contemporary artists including Lauren Halsey, Adrian Ghenie and El Anatsui.
Wynn was working with art dealer Bill Acquavella in 2013 when the Bacon triptych showed up in a Christie’s auction catalog. “I always do my 48-hour test where I leave the darn thing on a credenza somewhere and go about my business,” Wynn says. “Well, this thing just didn’t leave me alone.”
A basketball fanatic, Wynn was in Chicago for the Duke versus Kansas game at the State Farm Champions Classic tournament the day of the auction. She bid anonymously from her hotel room with Acquavella on the phone. “There’s a lot of action until we get up to $100 million,” she recalls wryly. When the gavel smacked at $142.4 million, “I had this moment, like, OK, OK,” Wynn says. “I get in the car to go to the game, and I am having the worst buyer’s remorse. What have I just done?”
Much has been written about Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts and the aftermath of the 2018 sexual harassment and assault allegations. Little is known about Elaine Wynn’s aftermath.
In 2018, she found herself an outsider, having been ousted from her office and the Wynn Resorts board after the divorce. She was now the largest individual shareholder, however, while the company was being investigated by Nevada and Massachusetts casino regulators. She was also locked in litigation with her ex and the company involving the control of her shares. Then she began to hear from women making the allegations about her husband. In a sign of the complexities of the relationships and notions of responsibility, Wynn says some described their experiences and apologized for not coming forward earlier.
“I don’t know how many other victims confess to the wives,” Wynn says. “But because of my unique situation, as being their employer-slash-mentor-slash, you know, mom—there were departments in that place that I helped put together…so I knew those people.
“People will always say, ‘How could she not have known?’ ” Wynn says. “Did I suspect that my husband could be mischievous and be, you know, a playboy?” She pauses. “All I did was apologize.”
Steve Wynn, who has said that any suggestion that he assaulted a woman is “preposterous,” declined to comment or answer any questions for this article, according to his attorney, Reid Weingarten.
Wynn’s face clouds as she discusses that year—the shame felt by her family, and the recognition that her net worth was tied up in a company that required wholly new corporate governance.
“I was really distraught by the behavior and the history that was unveiled,” Wynn says. When a longtime friend of Steve Wynn, John Hagenbuch, opted to remain on the board with the support of management, Elaine Wynn went rogue against the company she co-founded, waging a proxy fight to remove him that she says cost her “several” million dollars.
“Everybody, even her children, told her to stop,” Marlowe Early says.
Michael Klein, a banker and founder of the consultancy M. Klein & Company, was one of the advisers who accompanied her on a road trip to make the case to investors. He notes that Wynn was often received with suspicion, more as a vindictive ex-wife than a founder and shareholder. The proxy battle was bruising.
“To sleep at night, I’d say, I know I’m killing myself, but I can’t let this story end on their terms. I am the only one that’s being held accountable,” Wynn says.
In May 2018, Wynn won the proxy battle after investors and the three largest institutional investor advisory firms voted in her favor. But with critical regulatory investigations underway in Nevada and Massachusetts, the role of Wynn Resorts chairman was held by another of Steve Wynn’s longtime friends, D. Boone Wayson. Wynn saw that as a risk.
Wynn reached out to Phil Satre, the former chief executive of Harrah’s casinos, who had a reputation as the casino industry’s altar boy and was respected by regulators, whose support Wynn Resorts desperately needed. Satre was by then chairman of the board of Nordstrom In. Satre says that Wynn phoned him, then flew to Seattle, where he was attending a Nordstrom directors’ meeting, and convinced him to consider joining the Wynn board.
“The remarkable thing about Elaine is that a lot of people in her situation, in my opinion, would have taken her shareholder position and gone off and had a good time in Sun Valley and L.A. That’s not what she did,” says Satre, who resigned as chairman from Nordstrom and left other commitments to join Wynn Resorts that August. Wayson retired, and Satre became chairman in November.
“Her ability to finalize that last play on the chessboard—I’ve watched some fantastic tacticians in the corporate boardroom, but no one was thinking of Phil until Elaine,” Klein says.
Wynn says she is now pleased with the direction of the company. “The stock’s in the toilet but that’s OK. I’m here for the long term. We’re doing fine. And I do like the management now.”
With the casino drama settled, Wynn has turned her focus to her children and grandchildren, her life in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York (her Sun Valley, Idaho, house was under contract to be sold in April) and her work in education.
She continues to trade and collect art but says she will never sell the Bacon triptych. Yet she wishes to assuage her guilt, she says, for keeping such a valuable artwork to herself, so it will be part of her estate, destined one day for an as-yet-unnamed museum. “I’ll have had the pleasure of being a steward for a while,” Wynn says. “And that will clear my conscience.”
How much does Govan want it for LACMA? “What’s the scale?” he responds. “From one to 10? Eleven.”
Wynn recently watched a CBS Mornings interview in which Melinda French Gates reflected candidly on exiting her 27-year marriage to Bill Gates, and on the ways women are often left to answer for the men in their lives. “I had a lot of tears for many days. Days when I’m literally laying on the floor on the carpet,” French Gates told interviewer Gayle King after parrying several questions about her husband’s infidelities. “Days I certainly was angry.”
“Man,” Wynn says. “There I was right in that woman’s body, feeling what she was describing.”
Elaine Wynn likes to take her coffee beside Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud. She bought the paintings for $142.4 million at a Christie’s auction in 2013.
Skarstedt New York explores Francis Bacon’s
relationships in upcoming exhibition
WRITTEN BY DOM CARTER | ART & CULTURE | NEWS | CREATIVE BOOM | WEDNESDAY, 27 APRIL, 2022
A group of masterworks by Francis Bacon painted between the 1950s and 1970s are coming to Skarstedt Gallery in New York as part of an upcoming exhibition that explores the artist’s relationships with beloved friends and muses.
Running from 4 May to 11 June 2022 at Skarstedt Gallery in New York, Francis Bacon: Faces and Figures looks at the "poignant moments of loss and companionship" which were felt in the great painter’s personal relationships.
Featuring depictions of some of Francis Bacon’s most beloved friends, lovers and muses — including Peter Lacy, George Dyer, Muriel Belcher, and Henrietta Moraes — the exhibition also doesn’t shy away from the fiery and tempestuous aspects of these relationships. Intimate self-portraits and a portrait of Pope Pius XII are also on display to round out the collection.
For admirers of how Bacon experimented with figures and distorted the human form in his expressive paintings, Francis Bacon: Faces and Figures also promises to offer up some rarities. Amongst them are the paintings of Muriel Belcher and Henrietta Moraes. While not usually associated with the romantic discourse which usually dominates his work, the two women played an essential role in his practice.
In particular, the muse of Henrietta Moraes gets special treatment. Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing and Three Studies for a Portrait will be shown side-by-side for the first time, which is fitting, seeing as both pieces were inspired by the 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour in which the lead actress appears with a piece of hair across her face.
“Here, Bacon uses it as a compositional device to split Moraes’s face in two while evoking the love, loss, and despair latent in the film and his own life,” Skarstedt Gallery explains.
However, Bacon’s muse was not always other people, and the artist started to turn to himself for subject matter later in his career when people around him started to die.
“Painted when he was nearly seventy, Study for Self-Portrait (1979) sees Bacon considering his own mortality after a life of so much loss and death,” says the gallery. “Hues of crimson, blue, and purple flicker across his face as if battered and bruised, tired from years of fighting.”
Man at a Washbasin (1954)
OBSERVER LETTERS | NEWS | THE OBSERVER | SUNDAY, 24 APRIL, 2022
Your article mischaracterises the material donated to the Tate by Barry Joule and the events that have taken place since (“Francis Bacon bequest will be sent to France is snub to Tate gallery”, News).
This is a collection of archival material from Bacon’s studio address, including documents and photographs, not finished works of art. It was accepted into the Tate’s archive as such, where it has been catalogued and made available for research at Tate Britain, and where some of the items have since been publicly shown in archival displays.
We have acknowledged and thanked Mr Joule, keeping an open dialogue with him throughout this period and our conversations with him about the material are ongoing.
Maria Balshaw, director, and Roland Rudd, chair of Trustees, Tate, London
Nicolas Cage faces off with a new foe: himself
BY JAKE COYLE | AP FILM WRITER | NEWS | THE INDEPENDENT | MONDAY, 21 APRIL, 2022
“Metropolis.” Bruce Lee. Woody Woodpecker. A pet cobra. All of these things have been inspirations behind Nicolas Cage performances — sometimes private homages that the actor has used like blueprints to build some of his most exaggerated, erratic and affecting characters.
A conversation with Cage, likewise, pulls from a wide gamut of sources. In a recent and typically wide-ranging interview ahead of the release of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” Cage touched on Picasso, Elia Kazan, Timothée Chalamet and Francis Bacon. A book of interviews with Bacon, “The Brutality of Fact,” for instance, helped Cage define his attraction to intense, even grotesque performance — “that which is not obviously beautiful,” he says — rather than naturalism.
“And I’ve kind of approached my public perception, as well as the way I design my film work, as an actor with that concept in mind — to not be afraid to be ugly in behaviour or even in appearance,” says Cage. “To create a kind of taste that you have to discover.”
With more than 100 films, the 58-year-old Cage — an Oscar-winner (“Leaving Las Vegas”), an action star (“Con Air”) and the source of countless Internet memes for his most theatrical moments in films like “Face/Off” — has long been one of the most particular tastes in movies. Yet by being “an amateur surrealist,” as he refers to himself, Cage has emerged — even after resorting to a string of VOD releases to pay off back taxes and get himself out of debt — as one of Hollywood’s most widely loved stars. As “Unbearable Weight” director Tom Gormican says, “the sight of his face sort of makes people happy.”
But for even the mercurial Cage, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which opens in theaters Friday, represents something different. In it, Cage plays himself. Or, rather, he plays a fun-house mirror version of himself that sometimes interacts with a younger version of himself. The movie is one big homage to Cage in which the actor somehow manages to both satirize perceptions of himself and act out those personas sincerely.
“The through line that’s always been there for me: No matter what I designed, and it has been a design whether it’s ridiculous — and it’s often ridiculous — or whether it’s sublime, it has to be informed with genuine emotional content,” says Cage.
“No matter how broad or what some folk like to call over the top, it had genuine feeling.”
But what to Cage constitutes over the top? This is the actor who, channeling Nosferatu in “Vampire’s Kiss,” gave one of the most bonkers recitals of the alphabet ever heard. He’s fond of answering: “Well, show me where the top is and I’ll tell you if I’m over it.”
“I grew up in a house where my mom would do things that if you put it in a movie, you would say that was over the top,” says Cage, whose mother, Joy Coppola, was a dancer and choreographer. His father, August Coppola, brother of Francis, was a professor of literature. “But what is the top? When you want to design something and you think about different styles — naturalism, impressionism, surrealism, abstract — then you start to look at it in a different way. It’s not going to be for everybody and it’s not necessarily going to sell tickets. But that’s OK.”
“Movies are a business and it was not without peril that I took this path, but it was important to me,” he adds. “I stuck by it and, sure, I got plenty of rotten tomatoes thrown in my face. But I knew that was going to happen so it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect.”
But what’s unusual about Cage is that many of those experiments HAVE sold tickets. A lot of them. Cage’s films account for nearly $5 billion in worldwide box office. Still, it’s been a while since he was front-and-center in a major studio film.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which Lionsgate premiered at South by Southwest to warm reviews, allows him to play around with the notion of a comeback. In the film, he’s desperate to score better parts than the birthday party he’s been offered $1 million to attend. The movie was an opportunity to wrestle — usually comically, sometimes physically — with his own exaggerated mythology.
“He would come up to me and say, (lowers voice) ‘Tom, there’s a guy who wears rings and leather jackets and he lives in Las Vegas and he would never say that line,’” recalls Gormican. “And I would go, ‘Oh, you mean you.’ He’d say, ‘Yes.’ And I’d be like, ‘Well, it’s not you. It’s a character based on you.’ And he’d go, ‘But he has my name.’ I was like, ‘Come on, man, just say the line.’”
“We’d have discussions about who understood Nick Cage more,” adds Gormican, laughing.
Gormican was initially turned down several times by Cage before a heartfelt letter finally convinced the actor to make the film. The issue was that Cage, even at his most outlandish, has never put quotation marks around his performances. He tends to invest fully in even the most unhinged characters. (Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans” comes to mind.) Cage initially feared Gormican’s film would be self-mocking parody, and while it has those elements, Cage steers it in more unpredictable directions.
“Without mentioning names, there were some actors that came out of the gate that I thought were really sincere and profoundly emotional and honest in the beginning and then became too high on their own supply,” Cage says. “They started winking at the audience and, in my opinion, it lost the emotional connection. It’s a slippery slope when you make the decision that you want to be emotional and raw.”
The actor does reach some gonzo heights in the film. After one scene, Gormican was honoured to hear Cage say: “That was the Full Cage. You got the Full Cage.” Another scene features the two Cages making out, after which the younger exclaims, “Nick Cage smooches good!”
Cage’s own exotic tastes — he once had to return a dinosaur skull he purchased that had been stolen from Mongolia — have contributed to his legend. But he insists that he is normal in his life so that he can be extreme in his work — and that some of his self-promotion, like an infamously nutty appearance on “Wogan,” was itself an act.
Cage last year married Riko Shibata, his fifth wife, and they are expecting a child. (Cage also has two grown sons; a sticking point in “Unbearable Weight” was that he not be shown as an absentee father — one fiction Cage wouldn’t permit.) After an unusually introspective press tour for the film, Cage is looking forward to returning to the desert outside Las Vegas, where he lives. He could use a break from “Nick Cage.”
But “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” wraps a chapter for the actor. He’s finally out of the red after making some 30 video-on-demand films over the last decade to pay off the IRS and his creditors. He makes no apologies for those films. They made him a better actor, he says.
“I was practicing. I managed to keep my access to my imagination at my fingertips. It was a much better way for me to get this financial crisis off my back than doing something like a Super Bowl commercial — and believe me they offered,” says Cage. “That was also a point for me, that I’m not a salesman, I’m an actor.”
Cage can also once again feel some mainstream momentum behind him. His performance in last year’s “Pig,” as a grizzled truffle hunter with a past, earned some of his best reviews in years. It was a more naturalistic performance than Cage is generally known for — and a reminder of his limitless range. Having started professionally at 15, Cage reminds that he’s been doing this a long time. To him, his path began, appropriately enough, with an audacious performance.
Cage’s father, the actor says, had a massive influence on him, exposing him to books, early films and paintings. But he could cut his son down with words.
“And I just wasn’t going to take it,” says Cage. “I knew that he thought more of me than he let on. I tricked him once and I did something that I’ve never done ever again. I lied. I said, ‘Dad, I wrote this song.’ And I played him Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” And he believed me. He said, “Wow, Nicky, that’s incredible.” Then I got the positive affirmation that I needed to believe in myself. That was the one time a lie saved me.”
Nicolas Cage, “Mandy,” 2018
Francis Bacon Confidant Reroutes Donation
to France Following Rift with Tate
BY ANGELICA VILLA | LATEST NEWS | ART NEWS | MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2022
A confidant of Francis Bacon has decided not to donate a trove of works by the postwar painter to Tate in London following a long-running rift with the British institution over its handling of a previous gift. Instead he will donate the works to the French state.
Barry Joule, a British man who befriended Bacon in 1978 while the two were living in London, rescinded his initial plan to donate the works after Tate had failed to exhibit an earlier tranche of works he had donated almost two decades ago, The Guardian reports.
The current donation is said to comprise around 150 drawings and 10 paintings, along with a trove of archival materials that include hundreds of photographs and 12 hours of audio recordings between Joule and Bacon. Joule maintained contact with Bacon until the artist’s death in 1992.
Now, Joule says he has already begun negotiations to donate the materials to the Centre Pompidou’s national archives in Paris. In 2019, the Pompidou organized an exhibition titled “Bacon: Books and Painting” that looked at the literary influences on the Irish-born artist’s work.
Joule has donated works to French museums before. In 2005, he donated 80 drawings by Bacon to the Musée Picasso in Paris, which displayed them in a large-scale exhibition that same year.
In 2004, Joule donated to Tate a near 1,200-item archive spanning drawings to photographs from Bacon’s studio that was worth an estimated £20 million at the time. When the announcement was made, Tate said it would catalogue the donation over a period of three years before making it available to be exhibited.
Joule has said he is considering taking legal action against the Tate over the museum’s failure to prominently showcase the collection as agreed, threatening to sue the institution in an email correspondence published in August 2021.
A representative for Tate did not immediately respond to Artnews’s request for comment.
But recently doubt has been cast over the bona fides of Joule’s 2004 donation, known as the Barry Joule Archive (BJA). Last September, the Bacon Estate published Francis Bacon: Shadows, which quotes an unnamed Tate curator as saying “the hand/s that applied the marks to the material may not have included Bacon to any substantial degree,” according to an article published by The Guardian at the time.
In Shadows, Sophie Pretorius, an archivist for the estate, adds, “The story of the material associated with Joule is riddled with exaggeration, half-truths and contradictions… Bacon’s work is not easy to mimic. But the author of the items in the BJA made a stab at it.”
Francis Bacon friend to snub Tate with French donation
BEN ELLERY | UK NEWS | THE TIMES | MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2022
A collection of art by Francis Bacon will not be given to the Tate and will instead go to France after a row between the gallery and one of the artist’s closest friends.
Barry Joule, a confidant of the artist, will no longer give the Tate hundreds of works after it failed to exhibit an earlier donation.
The second donation was to have included up to 150 drawings, ten paintings, hundreds of photographs and more than 12 hours of taped material in which the artist chatted with Joule about subjects including art and sex.
Joule has started negotiations to give the work to the French National Archives at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
He told The Observer: “The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters.”
In 2004 Joule gave the Tate 1,200 sketches, photographs and documents from Bacon’s studio in a gift estimated to be worth £20 million. At the time the gallery said: “Tate will undertake to study, photograph and catalogue the collection over the next three years, before displaying these items and making them available for loan.”
Joule has since threatened legal action after what he describes as its failure to display it in a proper exhibition, as agreed, although Maria Balshaw, the Tate’s director, wrote to him last year reiterating the gallery’s gratitude.
Last year Sophie Pretorius, archivist of the estate’s collection, wrote in a book about Bacon: “The story of the material associated with Joule is riddled with exaggeration, half-truths and contradictions . . . Bacon’s work is not easy to mimic. But the author of the items in the BJA [Barry Joule archive] made a stab at it.”
Joule said he was “fuming” and was considering legal action. He had lived near Bacon’s London studio and in 1978 they struck up a friendship that lasted until the artist’s death in 1992. Joule recorded several of their conversations. He said: “He [Bacon] signed a statement saying I could use it 12 years after his death. Many of those conversations feature him philosophising.
A Tate spokeswoman declined to comment on the gallery’s handling of the 2004 gift. Asked about Joule’s cancellation of a further gift, she said: “We can confirm we have received the letter and will be responding to it.”
Barry Joule, left, a confidant of Francis Bacon, has started negotiations to give the work to the French National Archives at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Friend of Francis Bacon snubs the Tate to give art works to Paris instead
Barry Joule says he is cancelling plans to donate a collection to the UK gallery because it failed to exhibit works in earlier gift
DALYA ALBERGE | CULTURE | THE OBSERVER | SUNDAY, 17 APRIL, 2022
An extensive collection of Francis Bacon’s art will be given to France instead of to the Tate following a row between the gallery and one of the artist’s closest friends.
Barry Joule, who was Bacon’s confidant, said he is so frustrated by the Tate’s failure to exhibit an earlier donation of the artist’s work that he has cancelled plans to donate hundreds more items to the gallery.
The further donation was to have included up to 150 drawings, 10 paintings, hundreds of photographs and more than 12 hours of taped material in which the artist chatted with Joule about subjects from art to sex.
Instead, he would now like the work to go the French National Archives in the Centre Pompidou Paris, and has started negotiations.
Joule told The Observer: “The Tate and Britain will be missing out on part of the nation’s art history of one of their most important painters. I turn my back on the Tate for ever.”
In 2004, he gave the Tate about 1,200 sketches, photographs and documents from Bacon’s studio in what was then described as one of the most generous gifts to the gallery, worth an estimated £20m. Its announcement stated then: “Tate will undertake to study, photograph and catalogue the collection over the next three years, before displaying these items and making them available for loan.”
Joule claims he has been driven to pursue legal action against the Tate over what he describes as its failure to do justice to that collection with a proper exhibition, as initially agreed, although the Tate’s director, Maria Balshaw, wrote to him last year, reiterating the gallery’s gratitude.
He has now told the Tate they won’t receive a further gift. “The gallery’s reaction? Nothing,” he said.
Joule had lived near Bacon’s London studio, and in 1978 they struck up a friendship that continued until the artist’s death in 1992, exactly 30 years ago this month.
He spent numerous holidays with Bacon and recorded a series of their conversations: “He [Bacon] signed a statement saying I could use it 12 years after his death. Many of those conversations feature him philosophising, often with his unmistakable no-nonsense comments,” he said.
He singled out a 1991 recording that gives insights into Bacon’s dismissal of his own success. At one point, he shouts the words “I am not rich!” – even though he was by then the most famous and richest painter alive.
Joule said: “He was a self-deprecating artist who, strangely enough, never ever thought of himself as rich. Of course, he was rich, but he lived very simply. The only time he really splashed out was in expensive restaurants.”
In those recordings, Bacon talked about other artists, including Jasper Johns, dismissing his 1959 abstract painting, False Start – which had sold in 1988 for $17m (£12m) – as “such a ridiculous thing”: “It is nothing. It is just a … number of diagonal scratches going in different directions in red and blue,” Bacon said.
Joule, who now lives in France, noted Bacon’s love of Paris, although “he said he couldn’t work there because there were too many distractions”.
He previously donated about 100 Bacon drawings based on Picasso to the Musée Picasso in Paris, which exhibited them in a large Bacon-Picasso exhibition in 2005. Shortly afterwards, the French government awarded him the Chevalier des Ordres des Arts et des Lettres: “It’s the equivalent of a knighthood. I gave them one-tenth of what I gave to the Tate and they knighted me … I never got a cup of coffee out of the Tate.”
Joule’s donation to France will now include a dramatic painted head that musician David Bowie particularly liked: “Bowie had an art publishing company and personally chose what art catalogues they would publish. He immediately agreed to do the catalogue for the 2001 exhibition of my Bacon archive at the London Barbican. Bowie chose this image for the front cover. Of course the Barbican and I agreed,” he said.
He added: “Many of these Bacon images in my collection have an engaging story to tell. That art history and my intimate knowledge of Bacon will be lost to the UK.”
A Tate spokeswoman declined to comment on the gallery’s handling of the 2004 gift. Asked about Joule’s cancellation of a further gift, she said: “We can confirm we have received the letter and will be responding to it.”
Sunday 24 April 2022. For the record. UK news. This week’s corrections. An article (“Friend of Francis Bacon snubs the Tate to give art works to Paris instead”, 17 April, p22) referred to Bacon’s work going to “the French National Archives in the Centre Pompidou Paris”. The French National Archives and the Centre Pompidou Paris are two separate organisations; we meant the archives of the latter.
Francis Bacon and Barry Joule on holiday in Sicily in 1987. Bacon and Joule with Catharina Toto Koopman in Sicily in 1987.
Hilary Fannin: Francis Bacon offers a kind of therapy
Bacon’s bleak vision is more in tune with the times than Bond Street’s glitzy shops
HILARY FANNIN | LIFE & STYLE | THE IRISH TIMES | FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2022
At London’s Oxford Circus Tube station the concertinaed gates had been temporarily drawn closed, the platforms below too congested to take any more commuters. In search of the Victoria line to Brixton, we walked, the three of us, towards Piccadilly and then on to New Bond Street, en route to Green Park station. My two companions walked ahead, talking quietly, amicably, about their shared past, postwar babies both, strolling through the city of their birth. I trailed behind them, looking in the windows of the designer shops.
Dawdling past the displays of frigid opulence on that warm spring evening, the minimalistically exhibited luxury accoutrements seemed, in the light of the increasingly devastating international news, quite bizarre.
The items on show – mother-of-pearl inlaid watches, lambskin “poodle-curve” high-heel sandals (hand-stitched by elves in a forest of primroses), tiny gold-chained handbags that wouldn’t fit much more than a credit card, a tube of Dior Rouge, a condom and a packet of vintage Marlboro – all appeared, as a contusion of purple clouds gathered overhead and a light rain began to fall, particularly vulgar and gracelessly misplaced.
But what do I know? I’ve never shopped on Bond Street, never experienced the rush of pleasure or the sense of belonging that proceeding under the marbled portico of a designer boutique to purchase a yellow shearling handbag might bring. I haven’t experienced the sense of accomplishment that some, apparently, derive from consuming high-end goods.
I don’t know how much the little furry yellow handbag cost; there was no price tag in the window. “If you need to ask…”, as the saying goes.
There was a similar handbag a few shops down, also very small and fluffy and tethered to a golden chain. This one, in shades of tangerine and brown, looked like it might bite; looked indeed as if it might have a row of tiny incisors underneath its pelt to snap the hand off anyone who might try to snaffle it. Mind you, given that it was retailing at around three grand, you’d expect it to do something for its keep.
We’d been at the Royal Academy that afternoon to see the Francis Bacon exhibition, Man and Beast. The uncompromising savagery of some of the Dublin-born artist’s images – many painted and exhibited in the immediate aftermath of the second World War – made them feel like the work, once again, of a man for the times.
Anguish is everywhere in this exhilarating show. It is in the studies of the figures at the base of a crucifixion; in the emaciated howling monkey on its shocking pink background; in the aghast, almost severed-looking heads of the popes, melting like wax on the canvas; in the deformed, mostly faceless bodies with screaming razor-toothed mouths. There is carnage, too, in the circular room full of massive orange canvases depicting the bullfight, in the broken bodies of matador and taunted beast.
The retrospective, spanning decades, at times felt almost too much. But then there was always the distraction of observing the other spectators, standing stock still and silent in front of the work, themselves adding another component to the dramas on the walls.
Some visitors to the gallery even brought along small foldable stools and perched, seated, in front of the paintings, staring intently at their details.
I watched one elderly man, his eyes wet with emotion, sit and lean forward towards the canvas as if he was trying to read it, to decipher in its language signs of hope or revelation.
I watched a magnificent woman with long dark hair, dressed in the palest yellow silk, her slim feet in jewelled shoes, stand in front of a painting called Two Figures in the Grass, in which two hunched lovers are coldly observed as if by a huntsman watching game.
Even if I was desperately rich; rich enough to schlep about in poodle-curve slingbacks with a tooth-baring reticule over my arm, I wouldn’t have paid to have a private view of this exhibition.
Although I’m aware that paying a few quid for the thrill of its unyieldingly bleak vision is itself a form of consumerism, experiencing it with other silent watchers gave me a momentary sense of belonging which, to be fair, I don’t think I’d get from purchasing a pair of diamante-encrusted sunglasses.
At Green Park station, the newspaper billboards told a grim story. I followed my companions down the escalator, dropping into the bowels of the city, reassured once more by the murmur of their equitable conversation, by the ordinary, unremarkable rhythm of our homeward journey.
‘Anguish is everywhere in this exhilarating show’. Head VI by Francis Bacon (1949). Man and Beast exhibition, Royal Academy, London.
Norman Scott has the last word on a very English scandal
The hypocrisy, class bias and establishment cover-up throughout the Thorpe affair is fully
revealed in Scott’s long-awaited memoir
WRITTEN BY ROGER LEWIS | LEAD BOOK REVIEW | THE SPECTATOR MAGAZINE | SATURDAY, 9 APRIL, 2022
I’m glad Norman Scott can say he has ‘always had the ability to laugh at the absurdity’ of his existence because, as detailed here in a long-awaited memoir, I too couldn’t stop shrieking, he is so tragic. When he came home unexpectedly as a youngster, for example, and witnessed his mother having sex in the lounge with a telephone engineer, he was so shocked he dropped his tortoise. ‘The terrible guilt over my tortoise stayed with me,’ he writes – maybe until just the other day. Scott is now 82.
He’ll always be remembered of course for the Jeremy Thorpe trial, when the judge, Mr Justice Cantley, called him a fraud, a sponger, a whiner and a parasite; and Scott’s haplessness is truly in a class of its own. I know he was played on television tenderly and sensitively by Ben Whishaw, but the personality in An Accidental Icon is more Jim Dale when, in one of the Carry Ons, he zoomed about tethered to a floor-polisher or clattered down steps on an iron bed frame. I lost count of the times Scott wakes up ‘strapped to an iron bed’, whether in psychiatric wards or when romantic assignations go awry: ‘I couldn’t move. My wrists and ankles were tied.’
A commingling of horror and farce is never distant. An unhappy childhood sets it all in motion: desertion, insecurity, violence. Scott had a stepfather who ‘got hold of Mummy by her hair and threw her down the stairs’. The nuns at his convent school were bullies. Friends were few. He had a stammer and curvature of the spine. He wet the bed; and any adult he met fiddled with his flies. ‘The sense of something unkind and unpleasant about to happen was always present.’
His mother was no support. She wanted to have him taken into care: ‘I can’t control him. He’s just difficult.’ Scott’s salvation was horses: ‘They didn’t see me as weak or vulnerable or someone they could manipulate.’ No, they simply threw him off, bucking like mad in ‘a nightmare of flailing hooves, sky, brown earth, splinters of wood’, leaving him concussed and with shattered vertebrae.
Scott is undoubtedly brave, mastering these vigorous creatures. He has spent his professional life in the equestrian world of dressage, three-day eventing, jumping and racing, and was employed as a stable lad and groom by many a ghastly old snob, bore, lunatic, sadist, bankrupt or associate of Princess Anne. One morning on his way to work he fell off his scooter, breaking limbs, which caused him to reflect: ‘I had found myself gripped by a bleak premonition that nothing would ever go right for me.’ Nor did it. The doctors put him on high doses of tranquillisers and antidepressants and he found it impossible to sustain relationships.
In one typical sequence he moves in with someone in the Cotswolds. Their mental anxieties clash and soon everyone is ‘placed in a psychiatric clinic’. They escape, rent a flat in Oxford and ‘within a week Jane had slashed her wrists’; the other person, Brian, gets drunk and hurls a pass (‘he was a big, strong man and at first I was very scared of him’), before somebody else switches on all the gas taps. Scott throws a chair through a window and goes for a walk with Brian, who tries to drown them both in the canal. Later on the gas trick is tried again, and Brian was ‘standing over me, holding a knife’.
This sort of caper happens every day. Friends vanish and turn up in Australia or commit suicide in Wales. Scott is always getting the wrong train, or finding himself stranded in the middle of nowhere, his luggage lost. Businesses close down, leaving him in the lurch. Helicopters buzz his bungalow. Pranksters phone up pretending to be Michael Heseltine. Doctors he trusts are struck off. One minute he is a male model in London, sharing premises with Margot Fonteyn (‘she spoke about her involvement in the Panamanian revolution’), the next he is in Dublin, being intimate with a member of the Dáil and Elizabeth Taylor’s secretary – Taylor and Richard Burton having ‘returned to the yacht to be with their pet dogs’. If this is meant to be 1964, the only time the Burtons were in Ireland, then it’s worth mentioning they didn’t acquire a yacht until May 1967.
I relished this book’s celebrity cameos. In a Dulwich flat filled with ‘flamboyant and extrovert’ sorts, Lord Snowdon is glimpsed. Scott’s mother’s best friend was Dorothy Squires. When Scott was (very briefly) married in 1969, he spent his honeymoon in a cottage owned by Terry-Thomas and there were elderly Czech refugees hiding in the bathroom. Scott says he slept with Francis Bacon, who snored, and next morning said: ‘You’re not my usual type.’ Scott’s favourite West Country pub was run by the son of Fanny Cradock.
Thorpe, who first encountered Scott at one of those grisly stables, was intrigued enough by the sound of this picaresque existence to give him his telephone number – and Scott, who during one low ebb ‘ended up sleeping in the men’s lavatories in Barnstable’, was naive enough to believe that Thorpe could rescue him. He appeared at the House of Commons, where the MP ‘put his arm round me in a warm friendly gesture’. Thorpe took Scott home to meet his mother, a grim old trout called Ursula, who knew the score. The abuse began immediately. Scott relates how ‘he held me down with great force as he thrust violently into my body. It hurt so much I was gasping with pain.’ Thorpe took full advantage of a vulnerable, medicated person. ‘I was forced,’ says Scott, ‘into non-consensual, illegal, agonising sex by a man in a position of considerable power and influence... I was just a vessel for his pleasure.’ One interesting fact emerges: Thorpe had nodules on his balls.
Scott had no redress. No one was interested in his complaints. ‘I just don’t believe you,’ said David Steel. ‘I don’t believe this could have happened.’ Evidence went missing. Briefcases containing letters were stolen. The authorities treated Scott as a blackmailer. Several times he was roughed up by the police or security services. ‘If you don’t cooperate, I have the power to lock you away and you won’t see the light of day for 14 years,’ he was told, before having his head banged against a cell wall. Thorpe kept Scott’s National Insurance cards, in an attempt to control him, and Peter Bessell, the Liberal member for Bodmin, paid Scott a weekly retainer to ensure his silence. Thorpe, meantime, seduced sailors at Dan Farson’s pub on the Isle of Dogs. He was thoroughly homosexual, despite two marriages. Being with a woman was ‘like making love to cold rice pudding’, Thorpe claimed. On one occasion he sodomised Scott against Selwyn Lloyd’s garden wall.
The bungled murder attempt on Exmoor is well known, but increasingly bizarre in retrospect. The failed assassin, Andrew Newton, who’d later become a rubber fetishist, initially went to Dunstable, mistaking it for Barnstaple. After he shot Rinka, the Great Dane, the gun jammed, so he fled. ‘They have shot my dog and they tried to shoot me!’ said Scott, covered in Rinka’s blood. Owing to his homosexuality – thus ‘hysterical, vindictive’ and ‘a dreadful pervert’– he was accorded little sympathy. That was the cruel line taken by George Carman, defending Thorpe at the subsequent trial in 1979. Scott’s evidence was worthless because he was weak, soft, poisonous and paranoid. Thorpe, by contrast, was ‘a statesman of courage and truth’ and, despite documentation of his lies, manipulation and financial embezzlement, was acquitted.
It was the greatest miscarriage of justice of modern times – Thorpe getting away with his murderous conspiracy through class bias, homophobia, hypocrisy and establishment cover-up. Scott says there was even talk of Thorpe’s wanting him chucked down a Cornish mine or dumped in the Florida Everglades. He is to be applauded, therefore, for surviving to have the last word. He deserves a medal for his resilience.
Norman Scott, An Accidental Icon: How I Dodged a Bullet, Spoke Truth to Power and Lived to Tell the Tale, Hodder, pp. 336, £20
Howard Jacobson’s Diary: Home-front warriors
and Francis Bacon’s waning shock value
The spectacle of genuine horror unfolding in Ukraine throws into
perspective our more synthetic outrages.
BY HOWARD JACOBSON | DIARY | THE NEW STATESMAN | WEDNESDAY, 6 APRIL, 2022
So now we know what tyranny actually looks like up close and personal, we must wonder what those intrepid warriors who faced the might of Priti Patel to defend their right not to wear a paper mask have to say about their struggle. “I suppose we were being a mite silly”? Not a bit of it. “We stand vindicated” is my bet. “See? Isn’t this exactly what we warned against? Allow them to stick a needle in our arms today and they’ll be occupying the Isle of Wight tomorrow.”
And what of those who’ve been bowdlerising Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare lest it creates panic in the playground? How are they explaining the horrors of war to their little ones? “Darling, they’re only lying down to take a rest. It’s a game, like paper, stone and scissors, only don’t use the word scissors in this house. Now dry your eyes, turn off the television and get back to reading that comic of King Lear I bought you, the one without the naughty daughters, the rude clown, the bad weather and the blinding scene.”
I can’t pretend I’ve been any more heroic myself. I too was waking wet-cheeked until I stopped doom-scrolling before bed. In fact, what I was doing was more like false-solace-scrolling. Tell me the Ukrainians have shot down the entirety of the Russian air force. Tell me the Russian people have suddenly begun to wonder why opposition politicians in their country are always going away and not coming back. Tell me Zelensky’s flying in to do Live at the Apollo. Sing me a nice hymn. “All things bright and beautiful…”
Writing is reality
Beyond that, I’m making a reasonable fist – sorry, sorry, not fist, job – of following Kingsley Amis’s advice to writers to forget all about a book the minute they finish writing it and get stuck into a new one. This is to forestall the disappointment that invariably waits on publication. The world will look no different the day it appears in print, he warned. And he’s right. A few appreciative words from an astute reviewer, a handshake dipped in Novichok from an embittered fellow writer, someone mistaking me for Alan Yentob on Regent Street, otherwise all is as it was before.
So it’s back to the desk and the pleasure of actually writing, which must never be confused with the siren distractions of praise or dispraise, publicity or the lack of it, and worry about one’s legacy. A writer’s only legacy is the sentence that comes after the one before.
Paint and politeness
I suspect Francis Bacon would have agreed with me. My only subject is paint, he said to someone. By which I take him to have meant his only lasting purpose and pleasure was paint. As opposed to getting sloshed in Soho. I usually leave it too late to go to the great art shows in London, which must bespeak some deep reluctance to see them, or at least to being told I must, but I made it just in time to catch Francis Bacon: Man and Beast at the Royal Academy, on the way to which I was mistaken twice: once for Waldemar Januszczak and, for a second time, though not by the same person, for Alan Yentob.
It was a bold, well curated show with informative wall notes in the English language, rather than that academic socio-speak that squeezes the vitality out of every canvas it describes in the name of precisely those abstractions art abhors. How much I like Bacon’s work I can’t decide. There’s some disconnect that bothers me between the raw animality of what he paints and the serenely civilised demeanour of those looking at it. What beasts we are, except when we’re looking at Francis Bacon!
You can’t blame him for the way he’s looked at, of course, but you can wonder why work so obviously intended to be disturbing barely disturbs a hair of his admirers’ heads. How do I know that? Well, put it this way: it barely disturbs a hair of mine. Are we too used to it now? Has Bacon dated already? Or was it always less harrowing than it purported to be – more kitsch than horror, more partygate than Mariupol?
We play happily with plasticine bestiality until the real thing bursts into the nursery. Suddenly I find myself thinking Boris Johnson’s not so bad. When hell unlooses demons, what’s a scoundrel more or less?
Howard Jacobson’s memoir “Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings” is published by Jonathan Cape
David Lynch once named his favourite artist of all time
SWAPNIL DHRUV BOSE | FILM | FAR OUT MAGAZINE | TUESDAY, 5 APRIL, 2022
David Lynch has always maintained that he is not just a filmmaker. Even though he is considered to be one of the greatest pioneers of surrealist cinema, Lynch has actively ventured into other areas of artistic expression such as music and painting. In fact, a major part of Lynch’s cinematic vision has been deeply influenced by his formative training as a painter.
During his college years, Lynch decided that he was going to pursue a career in painting and had even travelled to Europe in order to learn from the famous expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka but it never ended up happening. Upon returning to America, Lynch found a different kind of liberation in making short films after being moved by the grotesque surrealism of Philadelphia.
In many interviews, Lynch has stated that he conceptualises the artistic process as something very similar to fishing. According to the legendary director, one has to bait ideas as if they were elusive fishes. “If you catch an idea that you love, it is a beautiful, beautiful day,” he declared. Adding to his comments, Lynch explained: “In the other room, the puzzle is all together but they keep flipping it one piece at a time.”
These conceptualisations are very familiar to those who have seen Lynch’s work, especially incomprehensibly alluring projects such as Eraserhead and Twin Peaks. While Lynch drew from the contributions of other directors like Werner Herzog, he was also motivated by masters of painting. Specifically, Lynch named the enigmatic painter Francis Bacon as a chief source of inspiration.
Lynch’s films have been described as paintings themselves by many people, including Jeremy Irons who compared Lynch’s works to Rothko paintings. However, the influence of Bacon throughout the filmography of the director is pretty apparent. Lynch discovered the works of Bacon early on in his life, being moved by them for the first time at a gallery in 1966.
According to a popular myth, Lynch’s interest in filmmaking was generated when he asked himself “How would I do a moving painting?” after one of his paintings was moved by the wind. The unsettling art of Francis Bacon played a major role in showing Lynch how visual images can have emotional momentum and can even project movement.
Looking back on the experience of discovering Bacon, Lynch described it as “a beautiful storm” and “thrilling”. Later on, he would use Bacon’s paintings like Portrait of a Man and Two Figures at a Window for visual inspiration in Twin Peaks. While the iconic Red Room of Twin Peaks was also directly influenced by Bacon, Lynch based the look of the protagonist of his 1980 masterpiece The Elephant Man on Bacon’s Self-Portrait 1969.
Lynch based the protagonist of The Elephant Man on Bacon’s Self-Portrait 1969.
Spying an opportunity – how Francis Bacon made it to Moscow
WILLIAM DUNBAR | REVIEWS | APOLLO | THE INTERNATIONAL ART MAGAZINE | TUESDAY, 5 APRIL, 2022
As his plane touched down in Moscow in 1986 the young English gallerist James Birch saw ‘low grey clouds, military vehicles and […] apparently endless birch forest’. It was, he says, ‘exactly what I expected to see’. Birch was there on a wing and prayer, trying to get some of his stable of young contemporary artists, which included a nudist collective and a young Grayson Perry, a gallery show in the Soviet Union. This, he soon realises, was never going to work, but when his KGB minder-cum-cultural-collaborator, Sergei Klokov – who serves as the book’s amoral anti-hero – introduces him to some penniless Soviet artists, they soon all have the name of the same Western artist on their lips: Francis Bacon. As it happens, Birch has known Bacon since childhood, and an idea takes root.
Birch’s account of his struggle to stage the show, the first of a living Western artist ever to exhibit in the Soviet Union, barring Chagall, who was after all born in the Russian empire, reads as if he were recounting it to you over drinks at the Colony Room – which, it seems, is where almost everything got done in the London art world of the 1980s. As well as an intriguing portrait of Bacon himself, there are cameos from Soho sleaze baron Paul Raymond, Grayson Perry and Grisha Bruskin, as well as (inevitably) a raven-haired Russian beauty, the fashion designer and KGB informant Elena Khudiakova, and the great textile expert and scholar of Dagestan Robert Chenciner, whose idea it was for Birch to go to the Soviet Union in the first place.
But beyond being a garrulous yarn of a memoir (the word ‘rollicking’ is used twice on the dust jacket), the book is a record of an extraordinary encounter at a momentous time. Based on Birch’s journals, letters from Bacon, Klokov and others, and illustrated with the author’s pictures of Russia and a gazetteer to the Bacon exhibition, with reproductions of all the paintings, there is some proper art history being smuggled into this book, like a bottle of scotch entering the USSR.
Birch gives an engaging account of his struggles to stage the show. First, dealing with an opaque Soviet system in which nothing makes sense: machinations involving the Union of Artists, the delegation to UNESCO and mysterious, unseen wielders of influence. All this would seem like so much Cold-War cliché until he gets back to London to deal with the capitalist equivalent: insurance companies, cultural grandees and gatekeepers from Bacon’s gallery and the British Council – as well as the vanities and resentments of the great man’s inner circle, which ultimately meant that Bacon never travelled to the Soviet Union to see his own triumph.
The exhibition itself – at the Central House of the Union of Artists in Moscow in 1988 – was a watershed, a set-piece of perestroika, and an indication of what Gorbachev wanted the Soviet Union to become. It would now be called cultural diplomacy, an expression of ‘soft power’ but, as the memoir shows, Russia in the 1980s exerted its own soft power on those from the West, not least James Birch, who later comes to realise he has developed the ‘Russia bug’.
Some 400,000 people visited the exhibition during its six-week run, many queuing for hours for a chance to see Bacon’s disturbing vision of humanity – his twisted forms the polar opposite of the smiling-but-sexless musclebound workers and peasants of so much officially sanctioned art. Indeed, only one painting was forbidden by the Soviet censors, Triptych from 1972, which depicts gay sex. Birch had been warned by Klokov not to include too many ‘cock-exalting’ pictures, and Klokov later provided the excuse to the Independent that its inclusion might have led Soviet society to dismiss the entire show. Even so, the reception was not universally positive. Included as an appendix are selections from the visitors’ book: ‘I haven’t seen anything like this before in my life,’ ‘The exhibition reminds me that madness is real,’ and, most memorably of all, ‘We want bacon, not Francis Bacon.’
We all know what happened next. Within four years, the USSR would be no more, although Birch would get one more exhibition in just below the line; he brought Gilbert & George to Moscow in 1990, but does not record what the Soviets thought of their underpants. The borders would open – for those who could afford travel – and the entirety of Western modern art would become available to the peoples of the Soviet Union. It was a two-way street of course. Russian artists such as Bruskin would become millionaires and move to New York, while some of Klokov’s circle (though not Klokov himself) would become billionaires and furnish their London homes with paintings by Bacon. James Birch would become rich and successful, though as this book shows he would never lose his roguish, self-deprecating charm, and has never left the demi-monde of the Soho art scene.
There is a particular pathos reading Bacon in Moscow now, as Russian aggression flattens cities in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions cut off Russia from the West more than at any time since Birch’s first visit in 1986. The Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine shows that the experiment that began during perestroika has definitively failed. The country is again becoming the secretive pariah state in which Birch landed all those years ago, with KGB-style surveillance, low grey clouds and military vehicles on the runway.
Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Picasso: Inside their studios
Meticulously tidy or a horrible mess? To really know an artist, just look at their studio
WALDEMAR JANUSZCZAK | ART REVIEW | THE SUNDAY TIMES | SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 2022
One of the perks of being an art critic is that you get to visit artist’s studios. Sometimes, I manage to inveigle my way into the alchemist’s lair for the simple reason that I’m dying to see it. Studios are such fascinating and telling sites of work.
When I interviewed Yoko Ono in New York, she showed me the spaces in the Dakota Building in which she and John Lennon had lived and worked. In a big white room was the big white piano on which she and Lennon had recorded Imagine. Next to it was a looming golden sarcophagus containing an unwrapped Egyptian mummy!
But the really telling moment came in the kitchen. Next to the large table where she did most of her work was a fridge plastered with photos, attached with magnets. I looked closer. They were private photos of John. Polaroids. Kodak snaps. Yoko makes cool, purist art. Most of it is strikingly white. But the loving emotions that hide behind her purist whites were laid bare on the fridge of her working kitchen.
When you get inside an artist’s studio, you get inside their intimacy zone. Studios are mini museums not just of the artist’s materials and methods, but also of their minds. And the really marvellous thing, the miraculous thing, is what happens when the materials and the minds coalesce to illuminate the art.
The other day I went to interview David Hockney in his studio in Normandy and was struck by the dramatic sense of order in his converted barn. Everything was in exactly the right place. Hundreds of tubes of acrylic paint were arranged in perfectly neat rows, like those army parades you see in footage from North Korea. Every brush was spotlessly clean and standing to attention in a glass jar. Here, clearly, was an 84-year-old artist determined not to waste a second that was left to him. The studio was as ready to go as an Olympic sprinter in the blocks.
That, then, is one kind of workplace: neat and minutely organised. I bet Vermeer’s studio was like that. Or the studio of Ingres. It’s an arrangement that fills me with respect and admiration. But, hand on heart, it is not the kind of studio that sends the pulse racing. For that to happen you need mess.
A classic example is Francis Bacon’s germ-filled and chaotic work room, which we’ll come to in a moment when we visit The Artist’s Studio, the new show at the Whitechapel Gallery. I never made it into Bacon’s abattoir, but I came close when I interviewed Louise Bourgeois in her profoundly disordered studio/home in Greenwich Village.
Bourgeois was in her eighties. Every inch of her tall, thin brownstone was packed with drawings, manikins, plaster casts, reams and reams of cloth and materials. If a cat died somewhere in the clutter you would never have found it. Had she not been an artist — one of the greatest the world has seen, I think — social services would have been called in to put her in a home. But that’s the thing about studios: they are not part of the “normal” world.
It’s a point that keeps being made by the Whitechapel’s appropriately chaotic event. Looking back on a century of artist’s studios, from 1920 to 2020, this crowded, throbbing parade has evidently had serious difficulty managing its subject. As a show it’s all over the place. Some of this chaos comes with the territory. But not all. Some is down to contemporary overthinking.
What they seek to present us with here — it’s announced in the opening wall texts — is the studio not just as a private place of work, but also as a public domain. We will be visiting not only the places where artists make art but also the ways in which they present themselves to the public. These are two reasonable ambitions. Each would make a reasonable show. But they are not the same ambition, and the divide between them keeps derailing this event.
We begin with a moody Bourgeois sculpture, one of her atmospheric cages, inside which two marble carvings of the artist’s hands sit atop a roughly hewn altar, surrounded by mirrors. As an artistic statement — a tribute to the artist’s hands — it’s powerful and resonant. But to feel these powerful meanings you need to concentrate on the hands and forget the studio.
The busy journey ahead — 80 artists! — is packed with such detours. For every tangible evocation of a studio, like the grubby but fascinating recreation of the pictorial compost in which Bacon worked, there are intrusions of a different kind of subject matter. The Nigerian artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode takes subfusc homoerotic photographs styled deliberately on Caravaggio. They’re beautiful. But they say nothing tangible about artist’s studios. The Egyptian painter Inji Efflatoun stares soulfully at us from a self-portrait. It’s nice to discover her. But the image clearly belongs in a self-portrait show.
As the display bounces between its confusing ambitions we keep getting glimpses of artist’s studios and then having them taken away. It’s the sort of problem that regularly afflicts contemporary theme shows. In their urge to get away from traditional, one-directional, masculinist tellings of a story, they end up saying nothing solid.
Here, though, it needs also to be admitted that the studio of today is not what it used to be. The cost of urban hire has turned them into expensive luxuries. And modern methods of communication have done away with much of the need for fixed art spaces. The old idea of a sacred locus in which artists could work their magic has been replaced by a shifting reality where artists plan their art on portable workstations and travel the world with their MacBook Airs.
The Artist’s Studio makes a point of noticing these changes. Indeed, it is as much a celebration of them as a record of the old ways. I find that sad. Others will not.
The Artist’s Studio, Whitechapel Gallery, London E1, until June 5
Lovingly preserved, piece by piece, Francis Bacon’s famous studio was moved from London in 1998 and is now on show in all its notorious squalor at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.
BY ASTRAGAL | NEWS | THE ARCHITECTS’ JOURNAL | THURSDAY 24 MARCH 2022
This month Foster + Partners said it would stop working in Russia, as it ‘deplored’ the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The announcement came a week after similar statements by Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield Architects.
Given that the Russian ruble has lost 43 per cent of its value against the pound since the start of the year – and sanctions are targeting a growing number of Russian companies, including banks – this may not be quite the principled sacrifice it appears.
Either way, Foster + Partners chairman Norman Foster is still making ends meet, having also this month sold a triptych by painter Francis Bacon. The artwork features, among other things, a blood-soaked sheet on the recording equipment of Leon Trotsky, the Marxist revolutionary Ukrainian assassinated by the Soviet state in 1940. The 1987 piece sold at Christie’s auction house for its minimum asking price: £35 million.
Bringing Out The Beast At Royal Academy’s Francis Bacon Exhibition