Francis Bacon News
Francis Bacon News
POST-WAR AND CONTEMPORARY
London, King Street Sale Date Feb 05, 2003
Lot Number 3 Sale Number 6692
Creator Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Study for a Portrait Francis Bacon
Estimate: £400,000 - £500,000 British pounds
Special Notice VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium
Pre-lot Text PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Lot Description: Study
for a Portrait Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Painted in 1979
signed, titled and dated 'Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1979' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas 14 x 12in. (35.6 x 30.5cm.)
Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Private collection, United States.
Anon. sale; Christie's New York, 20 November 1996, lot 22.
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner.
London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Small
Portrait Studies: Loan Exhibition, October-December 1993, no. 3 (illustrated
London, Olympia Exhibition Halls, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, February-March 1996.
Just as the people around Francis Bacon
formed the backbone of his life, so their portraits formed the backbone of his
work. Although Bacon painted animals and landscapes in some of his works, it was
the host of characters from his daily life who provided his main source of
inspiration and fuelled his works. Many of these paintings featured his friends
and lovers, be they dead or alive, and Study for a Portrait, executed in
1979, is marked with notable similarities to the pictures Bacon painted of his
partner John Edwards, whom he had first met in 1974. Even through the haze of
Bacon's hallmark distortions, these features are visible. Meanwhile, the arching
shape of the heavy eyebrow in particular is echoed throughout Bacon's portraits
of Edwards. This was also a feature of Bacon's own physiognomy, as seen in his
self-portraits, meaning that Study for a Portrait appears as a strange
and haunting fusion of the two men.
In fact, the distortions in Bacon's art lend the faces and flesh of his subjects an extra intensity. Bacon does not merely paint a portrait, he manages to smear life itself across his canvas. "The living quality is what you have to get," he explained. "In painting a portrait the problem is to find a technique by which you can give over all the pulsations of a person... Most people go to the most academic painters when they want to have their portraits made because for some reason they prefer a sort of colour photograph of themselves instead of thinking of having themselves really trapped and caught. The sitter is someone of flesh and blood and what has to be caught is their emanation... There are always emanations from people whoever they are, though some people's are stronger than others." (F. Bacon, 1982-84, in: D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact. Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York 1990, pp. 172-74.)
It is these emanations that mark Study for a Portrait. They seem to blur the face, to bruise it as though Bacon's rendering a portrait is in itself some act of violence, some assault. However, Bacon was a master of rendering flesh and character, and this work condenses both into an almost coagulated mass of humanity.
Bacon's early works were clearly influenced by Surrealism, and its legacy remained visible in his work throughout his career. Instead of merely representing the world and people around him, he tried to displace everything, to rip it out of context so that it could be examined in a new and stark light. This functioned on several levels: in Study for a Portrait, the facial features appear to have been dragged and blurred, for instance the nose which seems to have little connection to the face. At the same time, Bacon's means of framing the work with bands of orange creates a palpable sense of placing and display, as though the head were in a cabinet. The blue and beige background increase this effect, giving no clues as to the location of the sitter and yet adding a sense of dirt, a bruised darkness whose texture throws the flesh into contrast and thrusts it into the viewer's space.
Works on Paper by Francis Bacon
in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
T | | FEBRUARY
| THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE
|VOL. 145 NO. 1199
Francis Bacon lived and worked at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London, from 1961 until his death in 1992. One of a short row of converted coach houses on a quiet cobble-stoned lane. The house was small and utilitarian in layout. The ground floor was almost entirely occupied by a large garage where Bacon kept surplus items from the studio. An extremely steep wooden staircase, with a rope for a handrail, led to a landing. On the left was Bacon's spartan bed-living room. Ahead was an eccentric kitchen-cum-bathroom. To the right was the studio, the most important room in the artist's life.
Bacon said himself of his cluttered studio, "I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me." Bacon rarely painted from life and the heaps of torn photographs, fragments of illustrations, books, catalogues, magazines and newspapers provided nearly all of his visual sources. Some of the most significant studio items include seventy works on paper and one hundred slashed canvases.
The vast array of artist's materials, household paint pots, used and unused paint tubes, paint brushes, cut-off ends of corduroy trousers and cashmere sweaters record the diversity of Bacon's techniques. It is from here that Bacon's stature grew into that of the pre-eminent figurative painter of the late 20th century. While Bacon occasionally looked for a new, grander place to work, he continually returned to this awkward but familiar room.
When the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, received the donation of the entire contents of Bacon’s studio in August 1998, the subsequent cataloguing of every single item, amounting to 7,500 entries, proved extremely rewarding and a number of important revelations have been made about the artist’s life, inspiration, unusual techniques and working methods.
The most important discovery was a considerable quantity of works on paper by Bacon. These are significant for a number of reasons, not least because Bacon persistently denied that he ever made preliminary sketches for his paintings. This article explores the controversy surrounding the existence of these works on paper, their relationship to Bacon’s finished paintings and what they reveal about the artist’s thought processes and working methods.
The notion that Bacon did not draw derives from interviews between the artist and David Sylvester, the critic and curator most closely associated with the artist. These interviews were broadcast on both radio and television and, first published in book form in 1975, have been reprinted several times with the inclusion of additional interviews. In the first one, of October 1962, the following exchange took place:
David Sylvester: “And you never work from sketches or drawings, you never do a rehearsal for the picture?”
Francis Bacon: “I often think I should, but I don’t. It’s not very helpful in my kind of painting. As the actual texture, colour, the whole way the paint moves, are so accidental, any sketches that I did before could only give a kind of skeleton, possibly, of the way the thing might happen.”
This stance was maintained until Bacon’s death in 1992 and went relatively unchallenged. However, in David Sylvester’s “Looking Back at Francis Bacon” (2000), he referred to the artist’s drawing as his “secret vice”.
He defended his own position by stating: “… I, for my part, wasn’t being entirely truthful with him when in that interview, as in others from 1962 on, I courteously refrained from mentioning a series of small pencil sketches for paintings which I had seen in the endpapers of his copy of a paperback edition of poems by Eliot.
However, I had been gullible enough not to have realized that these were the tip of an iceberg. Since the artist’s death, a considerable number of drawings, both by Bacon and attributed to him, have surfaced. In 1996, six drawings and one over-painted item were exhibited in the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris but these were seen as being rare examples.”
Then in 1997-98, the Tate Gallery in London acquired a number of Bacon drawings and these were exhibited there in early 1999. The provenance of the Tate drawings, some forty works in total, is of interest. In the 1950s, Bacon had given four of these drawings to the poet Stephen Spender who was a close friend and had written articles on the artist. The other drawings acquired by the Gallery were also gifts, in this instance to Bacon’s longstanding friends Paul Danquah and Peter Pollock who had kept them until after Bacon’s death.
Another archive of drawings and sketches, allegedly by Bacon, surfaced in Italy. Christian Ravarino, an Italian-American journalist, originally owned this material, but it has now been sold and dispersed among several Italian collector. Then there is the Joule archive, a controversial body of work consisting of sketches and over-painted material attributed to Francis Bacon, which emerged in 1996. Barry Joule, an amateur artist who met Bacon in 1978, claims that he was given the material shortly before Bacon’s departure for Madrid where he died in April 1992.
Although the material was first accepted as genuine by leading figures such as David Sylvester and David Mellor, its authenticity has since been questioned. A selection was shown both at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and the Barbican Centre, London. Further analysis and research is warranted before the authenticity of both the Ravarino material and the Joule archive is resolved.
Among various possible reasons why Bacon remained secretive about his drawings, one persuasive explanation was suggested by David Sylvester when he said that “ Early on [Bacon] decided that he couldn’t draw, and thereafter pretended that he didn’t”. Although Bacon was not a conventionally skilled draughtsman, drawing was often central to his admiration for several Old Masters and contemporaries. Indeed it was an exhibition of drawings by Picasso, seen by Bacon in Paris in 1927, that prompted him to become an artist. He profoundly admired Michelangelo’s drawings for “their grandeur of form and grandeur of image” and thought they were the greatest things he ever did. Of Giacometti he went so far as to say that “he never had any necessity to do sculpture or to paint, that he was able to do everything in his marvellous drawings”.
Another possible explanation for Bacon’s secrecy is that he may have believed that his own drawings, if shown, would be viewed unfavourably in comparison with the drawings of other artists. But most importantly, should he have admitted that he made drawings, Bacon would have dispelled the myth that his works on canvas were entirely spontaneous. However, on closer examination, the deliberate, studied quality of many of his paintings belies any notion that they were made without preliminary preparation or study.
More than seventy works on paper were found in Bacon’s studio. Given the rich diversity of this graphic material, several distinctions must be made between the different types of these works on paper. The most logical subdivisions are as follows: drawings on paper; hand-written notes by the artist; interventions that Bacon made on leaves torn from magazines, books, catalogues and photographs.
The drawings were executed on a variety of media including tracing paper, lined paper, chain-laid manufactured paper and the blank end-papers of books. Some are cursory sketches executed in either pencil or ink, including several earlier drawings.
Others are in ball-point or felt-tip pen and there are also some sketches in oil. Most are monochromatic and all the drawings are unsigned and undated. While there is an inherent difficulty associated with accurately dating these works, approximate dates can be assigned on a stylistic basis. Some bear close similarities to finished paintings, whereas in other instances the links are less obvious. Taken together, the material provides an excellent representation of the type of works on paper that Bacon produced from the 1930s onwards.
These works on paper, along with others by or attributed to the artist, indicate that Bacon’s approach to painting was far more premeditated than he cared to admit. While they may not compare favourably with works on paper by similarly significant artists, they have considerable value in illuminating Bacon’s method of selecting, defining and exploring his motifs as well as contributing to a fuller understanding of his creative process. His interventions on existing images reveal a direct engagement with his sources and offer intriguing insights when considered alongside his extant or destroyed paintings. His hand-written notes, which need further study beyond the scope of this article, provide an immediate, if sometimes obscure, record of his thought processes.
It is perhaps ironic that the best way to describe Bacon’s drawings is in his own words. When he said, “any sketches that I did before could only give a kind of skeleton”, he left us with a tellingly accurate description of his works on paper.
The almost life-long art studio and residence of Francis Bacon (1909-92) was recently donated and transported from 7 Reece Mews, London and placed on permanent exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland. John Edwards, Bacon’s sole heir, made the donation; the most significant since Hugh Lane was established in 1908. The relocation was carried out with all the care of a major archaeological dig, with each and every item—some several thousand in all—catalogued and exactly repositioned in the Dublin gallery.
The expense and energy required for the project created some controversy. Relocation and reconstruction cost in the vicinity of IE£1.5 million ($US2.02 million), partly provided by the National Millennium Committee, a state-funded body. An entrance fee of IE£6 ($US8) for over-18s also generated some debate because public art institutions in Ireland are generally free of charge. Some critics raised concerns about the dedication of permanent space to the studio because the Hugh Lane Gallery is quite limited in size; others suggested that the exhibit was not a work of art and therefore had no right to be located in the gallery.
These objections, however, do not alter the fact that the exhibit, which has attracted considerable interest and large crowds since opening in May 2001, provides a rich and meaningful insight into the work and life of this significant 20th century artist.
Despite its limited size, the Reece Mews studio was where Bacon was most at home. He had tried working in other, more practical studios but could not warm to them. More importantly, it constitutes the most extensive collection of visual reference material that inspired his work.
Physical access to Bacon’s principal place of work, therefore, is extremely helpful for anyone who wants to understand the makeup, methods and origins of his art. Along with the studio, the exhibit contains an interview with Bacon by Melvin Bragg, several new paintings, including his final unfinished piece, and a lush, complex interactive multimedia presentation establishing the context of many items in the studio.
Francis Bacon, one of five children, was born in Dublin on October 28, 1909, to English parents, Edward Anthony Mortimer Bacon and Christine Winifred Firth. Bacon’s parents were of wealthy, land-owning descent and remained in Ireland until World War I, where after they moved between England and Ireland.
Bacon was born into a world undergoing tremendous upheaval. The Irish Republican Movement was torching English-owned properties in a campaign aimed at ending British rule, and Europe was beset with increasing tensions between Britain, Germany and France. At the same time, science and industry were making great advances and large numbers of working people were demanding a new political order with real improvements in their social existence.
Bacon, who was said to have been closest to his mother, was a frail child and frequently ill. His father, an austere, puritanical figure, regarded his son as weak and reacted with horror against the young man’s homosexual tendencies. (Homosexuality was illegal in Britain at this time and severely punished.) Shortly after the 17-year-old Francis was discovered dressed in his mother’s clothes in 1926 his father forced him out of the family home. Over the next few years he spent time in Berlin, Paris and other European cities, a period that defined his personal and artistic development.
The bohemian and more open post-WWI Berlin and Paris were dramatically different to the highly repressed and conservative Irish social life with which Bacon was familiar. His visits to these cities were defining experiences and he spent time passionately sketching in the transvestite bars of Berlin and on busy summer evenings in Paris’ Montparnasse district.
It was during a visit to Paris in 1927 that the 18-year-old Bacon saw Picasso’s drawings at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery. He later explained that these works had made a great impression. In fact, Bacon was to name Picasso as the most significant influence on his work. Michael Peppiatt, the art critic and author of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, described Picasso as a “father figure” to Bacon.
Although not as prolific or artistically varied as Picasso, one can see the connection between Bacon’s explorations of the figure and Picasso’s—for example, Bacon’s attempts to represent and capture far more of a person than the mere conventionally representable. But the similarities end there. Picasso was full of passion and the joy of life and simply could not stop creating. A dynamic and playful artist and person, he created in a multi-dimensional way. Bacon, by contrast, was far more introverted in his approach and his work radiates pain, confusion and uncertainty.
Bacon, who held his first solo exhibition in 1934, drew on many and varied sources of inspiration. He chose not to paint from life, but rather from memory and an eclectic collection of visual images. His portraits—even of close friends, whom he painted frequently—were derived from photographs. The aim of this practice, he said, was to “deform his portraits back into appearance,” because the presence of sitters in his studio would “disturb the deformation.”
The Reece Mews studio contains all the recognisable visual influences in his work: reproductions of Diego de Silva Velázquez’s painting of Pope Innocent X; the screaming woman from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin; and photographs of Bacon’s lover and long-time partner George Dyer.
But working through the maze of Bacon’s studio one comes into contact with an extraordinary range of images—virtually everything the 20th century had to offer. There are black-and-white reproductions torn from books and medical journals; x-rays and film stills; phonograph recordings; and images given to him from photographer friends John Deakin and Peter Beard. Bacon was also captivated with the carnal and the animal and the studio contains pictures of animals screaming in aggression and pain and includes many images from the great African plains and the predators found there. One can imagine him randomly drawing on these pictures in times of difficulty and low motivation.
Bacon, who had many dark sides to his imagination, was obsessively focused on the human figure and painted it in a compelling and complex style. This darkness was indicated by his fixation with disease, particularly of the mouth and skin, and manifest in one of his best-known works—Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)—an unsettling picture of a screaming, inhuman, blood-spattered pope.One long-standing and debatable habit of Bacon’s has blocked greater access to his artistic work. A passionate and explosive man, he would often erupt in anger and destroy any painting that displeased him or fell short of the mark. When asked by his friend, the writer and curator David Sylvester, about this practice, Bacon said he “liked to find accidents in the image and would often ruin a found image in the course of attempting to explore and develop it further”. While Bacon ruined many pieces, particularly those from the 1930s and early 1940s, he later regretted the destruction of some works, particularly an important early painting, Wound for a Crucifixion.
Although Bacon spoke at length about his work, he refused to discuss its significance or meaning. He did not adhere to any social, political or religious belief, at least not publicly, and shunned literal readings of his work, claiming they were unexplainable products of his sub-conscious. He once declared: “Talking about painting is like reading a bad translation from a foreign language. The images are there and they are the things that talk, not anything you can say about it.”
This approach, however, suggests that art cannot be understood by examining the social context in which it is produced. Notwithstanding this false assertion, Bacon’s artistic vision developed in specific political conditions and on the foundations created by the Dadaists, Surrealist movement and Sigmund Freud’s explorations into the subconscious.
By the time Bacon had reached “artistic maturity” and created his own unique and longstanding style in the mid- to late-1940s, he had lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and numerous betrayals of the Soviet and international working class by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Although it is not clear how much Bacon understood of these events—he largely isolated himself from other artists, both physically and ideologically—his work seems to be an intuitive but pessimistic and acquiescent response to them, a vision of humanity that is bleak and disturbing.
The Hugh Lane Gallery studio reconstruction certainly deepens one’s understanding of Bacon and his work. In fact, the dark negativity in his art seems to prefigure the present social and political climate and can serve to remind us that the background to his harrowing images—the onset of war and imperialist conflict—is in danger of being repeated.
Ex-Convict May Inherit £30m from Bacon’s Heir
ARTIST'S COMPANION DIES AND FORTUNE MAY GO TO 'PHIL THE TILL'
By Andrew Drummond in Bangkok, and Luke Leich, Arts Reporter
BY ANDREW DRUMMOND
& LUKE LEITCH | | |
|THE EVENING STANDARD
| WEDNESDAY, 5MARCH 2003
A CONVICTED criminal known as Phil the Till may inherit the multimillion-pound fortune of artist Francis Bacon.
It follows the death in Thailand today of John Edwards, Bacon’s lifelong companion. Philip Mordue – known in his Thailand home as “Phil the Till” and among the south London crime fraternity as “Thailand Phil” – is speculated to be the major beneficiary of Edwards’s will.
Edwards, 53, who died of lung cancer in a Bangkok hospital, was Bacon’s close companion and muse, and inherited Bacon’s u11 million fortune after the painter died aged 82 in April 1992.
Now the bulk of that legacy – worth up to £30 million – may pass to Mordue, Edwardss close friend for nearly 30 years, Thailand sources say.
Edwards is also believed to have assigned some of his estate to help fund Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, where Bacon’s London studio has been reconstructed.
For the last eight years Mordue and Edwards shared a penthouse condominium near the Thai sex resort of Pattay.
Mordue, 45, has been living off the Bacon estate along with Edwards and is frequently seen on the Pattaya night scene. His local bar, The Winchester, is a favourite among visiting criminals from London.
In 1997 Mordue was shot through the neck during a bar fight in Pattaya, but was released from hospital after four days. He served time with David Courtney, a gangland friend of the Krays, in Wandsworth jail.
Edwards and Mordue knew each other for many years before they emigrated to Thailand.
Bacon first met
Edwards, the son of an East End docker, in 1976, and for the next 16 years the
men were close. Bacon described him as his “only
true friend” –
–but Edwards always maintained that they were never lovers. They met in the Colony Room, a Soho drinking club that has always been a popular artists’ haunt.
Edwards said: “He liked the way I didn’t care about who he was supposed to be.”
Bacon’s fortune has already been the subject of controversy. In 1999 the Bacon estate brought an action against the Marlborough Gallery which had represented the artist for most of his professional life. The case alleged that Bacon had been “wrongfully exploited” in his relationship with the gallery, and the estate sought a “proper accounting of his affairs.”
Edwards said before his death he would like to establish a charitable foundation dedicated to the promotion and study of the artist’s work.
Margarita Cappock of the Francis Bacon Studio in Dublin said today that she could not comment on any possible bequest. However, she said Edwards was a regular visitor to the studio during his last few years.
BACON’S LOVER DIES OF CANCER
Death in Bangkok sparks fight over artist’s £30 million.
ANDREW DRUMMOND | |
|THE DAILY MIRROR
|THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2003
gay lover of the late Irish artist Francis Bacon died yesterday in a Thai sex
resort, sparking what is expected to be a lengthy and bitter legal battle over
his pounds 30million (EUR43.5million) fortune.
John Edwards was pronounced dead at Bangkok's Bumrumgrad Hospital in Pattaya after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 54.
Within hours of his death, experts predicted the estate, the value of which has tripled since Bacon died in 1992, could be left to Edward's gay Thai lover. And it's feared he will carve it up and invest it in Pattaya's sex industry.
Edwards, 54, had already given his Thai boyfriend a luxury condominium, but regulars at a bar in the resort predicted a lot of the cash might end up in organised crime.
One bar owner said: "John Edwards was a quiet, unassuming and self-educated man.
"But you can bet your bottom dollar that some sex business is going to get a boost from Bacon's millions."
Before his death Edwards, who Bacon met in a bar in London's East End, is believed to have assigned cash to assist in tributes to the artist. One such project was the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where Bacon's London studio, 7 Reece Mews, has been reconstructed.
Friends said he had also set up trusts for family members in Britain.
When Bacon died in 1992 he left pounds 11million in his will and Edwards was the sole beneficiary.
Sales of Bacon paintings and investments have rocketed that fortune to more than
Bacon, who never hid his homosexuality, was one of the most flamboyant figures of his time and divided his life, as he put it, "between the gutter and Ritz".
Born in Dublin in 1909 of English parents, he was regarded by many critics as Britain's greatest painter.
Bacon met John Edwards in the Colony Room in London where Edwards was working as a barman.
Edwards, the son of an East End docker, said: "I was never his lover but I loved him as the best friend a man could have.
"He loved me like a son. I called him Eggs."
Edwards led a reclusive life, spending much of his time walking and fishing. He was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago.
Also believed to be among the beneficiaries is Philip Mordue, known in Thailand as "Phil the Till" and among the London criminal fraternity as "Thailand Phil".
Mordue, also 54, has been at Edwards' side since they were teenagers.
He ranks himself as a close friend of gangland enforcer David Courtney with whom he served time in Wands-worth Prison for burglary offences.
He also features in Courtney's autobiography, Raving Lunacy.
He will inherit the luxury penthouse condominium which he has shared with Edwards for the past 10 years, plus an unspecified but sizeable cash settlement, according to a friend who insisted on not being named.
A British bar owner in Pattaya said yesterday: "Using the Bacon fortune, he has been backing bar projects in the resort for many years.
"His name was frequently mentioned in connection with a bar called Butlin's, which had Thai girls dressed up as redcoats and offering sex services, but it bombed."
However, one regular at Mordue's local bar, The Winchester Club, denied Bacon money was involved in that project.
He said: "I remember when Butlin's opened but I know for sure the money did not come from John Edwards.
"But it is true, a lot of mystery money is behind sex bars in Pattaya now.
"Phil comes here a lot but he does not talk to the press. He keeps himself to himself, but he has been looked after in this place."
In 1997 Mordue was shot in a late night dispute outside a bar in Pattaya's main sex bar strip.
The bullet passed through his neck and he was released four days after surgery.
resident said Mordue heightened his personal security after the attack, adding:
"He now has a Thai policeman as a chauffeur and a bodyguard."
But Mr Mordue himself was unavailable for comment yesterday.
BBC News Thursday, 6 March, 2003
The ownership of dozens of Francis Bacon paintings is shrouded in uncertainty following the death of the painter's long-time companion, according to reports.
John Edwards, who died in Thailand on Wednesday aged 53, was Bacon's friend and muse for many years.
He inherited the artist's £11m estate when Bacon died in 1992. The estate included Bacon's house, studio, money and several paintings.
Several newspapers speculate that Mr Edward's boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, is now set to receive part, or all, of the inheritance.
But it is unclear how much of Bacon's fortune still remains, and whether it still includes the paintings.
Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards lived together in a luxury flat in Pattaya, one of the leading tourist destinations in the country.
Mr Edwards is thought to have sold some paintings through galleries in New York and London, the Guardian reports.
He is also thought to have bought several properties in the UK for family members, it adds.
However, the Daily Telegraph said reports in Thailand also suggested the Bacon fortune might have swelled to £30m.
An administrator of the Francis Bacon estate refused to comment on the question of the inheritance on Wednesday.
Mr Edwards, who denied he and Bacon were ever lovers, was the artist's closest friend and companion for 16 years.
He also became Bacon's favourite subject, and inspired more than 30 portraits.
Bacon was one of the last century's most successful artists, earning about £14m before his death aged 82 in 1992.
A series of three paintings of Mr Edwards by Bacon sold for £3m in 2001, and Studies of the Human Body sold for £6m in New York in 2001.
now for Baco
Questions over works after friend loses cancer fight, reports Nigel Reynolds
NIGEL REYNOLDS | |
NIGEL REYNOLDS |THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
| THURSDAY,6 MARCH, 2003
John Edwards, the long-time companion of the artist Francis Bacon and the sole heir to his tangled fortune, died yesterday. Ownership of the dozens of paintings he inherited is now clouded in uncertainty.
Bacon astonished the art world by leaving his £11 million estate to Mr Edwards, the illiterate, homosexual son of an East End docker who was 40 years his junior, when he died in 1992.
Speculation rose yesterday that Mr Edwards, who died in Thailand after a long fight against lung cancer, aged 53, may leave all or part of the inheritance to his boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, another East Londoner.
Mr Edwards and Mr Mordue, 54, nicknamed "Phil the Till" in Thailand, shared a luxury penthouse in Pattaya for the last nine years.
Bacon, who was hailed as Britain's greatest painter in his lifetime, had an extraordinary friendship with Mr Edwards. Though both were homosexual and frequented drinking clubs in Soho, Mr Edwards in an interview with The Telegraph a year ago, insisted that they were never lovers.
The uneducated Mr Edwards would visit Bacon's South Kensington mews house and studio every morning to make the artist breakfast and sit with him almost every day while he painted. For 16 years, Mr Edwards was his closest friend and confidant and, as Bacon put it, the only true friend he had.
The size of Bacon's inheritance now is unknown. Reports in Thailand yesterday suggested that it might have grown to £30 million. But in London an acquaintance of Bacon and Mr Edwards, who asked to remain anonymous, said he believed that it might have shrunk to very little.
Mr Edwards is thought to have bought properties in Suffolk for his parents and other members of his family. It is also believed that he has sold paintings through galleries in London and New York.
"I think that Edwards spent a lot of the money," said the art world acquaintance. "Bacon was not the sort of man who was ever going to leave his money for artists' almshouses. I think he would be very tickled that much of his fortune has trickled down into the East End."
Since his death, Bacon's works have sold at up to £7.5 million though it is thought that the paintings bequeathed to Mr Edwards were all late works which are less well regarded by critics.
Liz Beatty, administrator of the Francis Bacon estate, refused to comment on the death or the question of inheritance yesterday.
A long-standing Soho friend of Mr Edwards said of him: "He was a typical East End 'diamond geezer'. If you crossed him he wouldn't want to know but he was also very loyal and generous. He was incredibly upset when Francis died, and he and Philip moved abroad then to get away from the press."
According to reports in Thailand, Mr Mordue was shot outside a bar on Pattaya's main sex bar strip in 1997. The bullet passed through his neck but he was released from hospital four days later after surgery.
Mr Edwards inherited Bacon's house and studio, a large sum of cash and an unknown number– several dozen, according to friends – of paintings. Bacon had painted Mr Edwards more than 30 times.
But the inheritance proved to be a complicated web. In 1999, the estate brought a case against the Marlborough Gallery in London which had represented Bacon for most of his working life, alleging that the painter had been "wrongfully exploited" in his relationship with the gallery and seeking "a proper accounting of his affairs".
The litigation was suddenly withdrawn last year and both sides agreed to pay their own costs. Marlborough said afterwards: "The entire case was without foundation and totally unsustainable."
Marlborough agreed to release to the estate all the documentation that belonged to Bacon which was still in its possession.
Mr Edwards died at the Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bangkok. Prof Brian Clarke, the British architectural artist, a close friend and Bacon's executor, was with him at the time of his death.
Prof Clarke said: "He showed no self-pity and joked with friends to the last".
Mr Edwards's body will be flown to London for a private service. In last year's interview with The Telegraph, Mr Edwards said that he planned to use some of his money to set up a charity to commemorate Bacon and to further studies. It is not known whether this happened.
He also gave Bacon's studio to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where Bacon was born. The famously messy studio, which included around 100 canvases that Bacon had cut up because he was not satisfied with them, has been faithfully recreated in the gallery.
John Edwards: Obituary
John Edwards: Obituary
| THURSDAY,MARCH 06, 2003
In one of the more improbable relationships even in a life so extraordinary as that of Francis Bacon, John Edwards became, for a period of 15 years, the painter’s closest friend, from the mid-1970s until Bacon’s death in 1992. To the astonishment of the wider world, though not to those who knew both men well, Bacon left Edwards £10.9 million, the bulk of his fortune.
Both men were homosexuals, though Edwards always denied that their relationship was a sexual one. What the glue was that cemented their friendship was, then, more difficult to define. Edwards was an illiterate East End barman who, to the end, defied well-meaning attempts — though not by Bacon — to get him to read and write.
By all accounts Bacon simply liked the fact that, from the outset, Edwards refused to put him on a pedestal, to think of him as any more than a “good mate”, though the age difference between them was close on forty years. The relationship began in the Colony Room, that renowned Soho club which was in those days imperiously presided over by the redoubtable Muriel Belcher.
In the mid-1970s Edwards was working as a barman in his brother’s East End pub, the Swan, an establishment also frequented by Belcher. On one occasion she promised to bring her “famous painter friend” into the pub after one of his jaunts to the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, where he liked to drink with Joan Littlewood. Belcher asked that champagne — not the normal East End pub tipple of the era — should be laid on. As junior doggie, John Edwards was put in charge of getting in a special delivery of the bubbly.
Alas, the great man did not show up, and the Swan’s junior barman was not amused at being lumbered with a cache of bottles that could not be easily unloaded on the pub’s clientele. When he next found himself in the Colony Room where Bacon was also drinking, Edwards marched up to the painter and without further preamble demanded: “Why don’t you turn up when you are supposed to turn up for this f---ing champagne?”
Intrigued and enchanted by the handsome young roughneck’s approach, Bacon immediately asked him to have lunch at Wheeler’s. Fish, however, was not to Edward’s taste, but he settled for some caviar. To his astonishment, the next time he called at Bacon’s studio, the painter showed him a portrait of him which he had just completed. It was one of many studies of Edwards that Bacon was to paint between then and his death.
John Edwards was one of six sons of an East End docker. Chronically dyslexic, he had been incapable of benefiting from a school education. Menial employment seemed likely to be his lot until the beginning of his relationship with Bacon at the age of 24. Edwards knew nothing of painting or books, nor pretended to. But it was, perhaps, precisely a lack of any pretension on that score that endeared him to a man accustomed to being sponged off by sycophants and toadies. Shortly after their first meeting Bacon took Edwards gambling at Charlie Chester’s casino, and was charmed — as a man who hated filling in forms himself — at his complete inability to fill out a membership.
Thereafter their lives followed a seldom varying routine. At around 9am, having painted for a couple of hours, Bacon would phone Edwards and ask him to join him for breakfast at his studio in Reece Mews, South Kensington. Edwards would then sit while Bacon painted and talked. He had a rare ringside view of a notoriously private artist at work. “When Francis painted there was always a drama,” he would recall. “It always seemed to me as if he was fighting with the canvas.”
Nor was his own role always merely passive. “When Francis was unhappy with a painting, either he or I would destroy it by slashing the canvas with a Stanley knife from top to bottom, then side to side until it hung in shreds. Sometimes we’d stamp all over it. The smaller pictures he’d destroy himself by cutting the face from the stretcher. There was never any doubt about the paintings he wanted to keep and those he wanted to destroy.”
When they went out drinking Edwards took upon himself the role of minder, making sure the unwary didn’t “take liberties” — in time-honoured East End parlance. Though Edwards had every respect for Bacon’s talents as a gambler, he was aware that the great painter had a reckless ability to lose as much as he won as the drinks went down. During the course of an increasingly bibulous evening he would secrete dollops of cash about his patron’s person so that the painter would not awake destitute of ready funds to continue his potations next day.
Edwards’s straightforward good nature gained him many other admirers among Bacon’s extensive circle. Stephen Spender, for instance, was particularly fond of him, drawing a response no more passionate than “Steve was a lovely bloke” from the object of his affection.
Among Bacon’s numerous studies and portraits of Edwards was a study painted for his Moscow exhibition of 1988, which featured on the cover of the catalogue. A detail of this was chosen by the French Post Office to represent British art in a series of stamps showing the work of contemporary European painters.
On April 29, 1992, Bacon died of a heart attack in Madrid. The painter, who had already bought his friend and confidant a small Georgian farmhouse in Suffolk, now made Edwards the beneficiary of a will whose net value was £10,923,900.
The estate included Bacon’s mews studio in South Kensington, but the extent of the rest of the legacy became a matter of some dispute. When, after five years, Edwards realised that he had still not received a full accounting of his inheritance, he approached the Bacon trustee Brian Clarke, who in turn introduced Edwards to his lawyer, John Eastman — the brother of the late Linda McCartney. An action was initiated against the Marlborough Gallery, which had represented Bacon for most of his life. The upshot of this action, resolved in February 2002, was that the gallery released to the estate all documents still in its possession that belonged to Bacon or his estate, and each side agreed to pay its own costs.
In 1998 Edwards presented the studio at 7 Reece Mews to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where it has been reconstructed. It is accompanied by seven thousand items of Bacon’s, including photographs, drawings, books, artists’ materials and studio furniture.
Edwards had, in the meantime, retired to the Florida Keys where he lived for a year before moving on to Thailand, where he settled at a beach resort. There, last year, his lung cancer was diagnosed, and he died in hospital in Bangkok.
In 2001 a Bacon triptych, Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards, was sold for £3 million at auction at Christie’s in London.John Edwards, friend and confidant of Francis Bacon, was born in London in 1950. He died of cancer in Thailand on March 5, 2003, aged 53.
Francis Bacon Study for Portrait of John Edwards
Francis Bacon Study for Portrait of John Edwards 1989
Ex-convict gets the spoils of
Bacon’s £30m legacy
| THURSDAY,MARCH 06, 2003
IT BEGAN as the intriguing case of the painter, his lover, the former convict and a multimillion-pound inheritance.
Last night it ended with claims that a large tranche of the estate of Francis Bacon, one of the towering figures of 20th century art, has been invested in the bars and brothels of one of the seediest resorts in Thailand.
When Bacon died 11 years ago, at 82, his works were fetching millions, and since then they have changed hands for up to £5.5 million each. Every penny of Bacon’s £11 million fortune was left to his long-term partner, John Edwards, the dyslexic son of a London docker. By the time Mr Edwards died of cancer in a hospital in Bangkok yesterday, aged 53, the inheritance had grown, by some estimates, to almost £30 million.
He is understood to have left a substantial amount to the man who shared the last ten years of his life: Philip Mordue, better known among London’s underworld as Thailand Phil, and to his associates in that country as Phil the Till.
The exact size of Mr Mordue’s inheritance was unclear last night, but it is thought to include several of Bacon’s portraits of Mr Edwards. Mr Mordue, 43, is a well-known figure in the resort of Pattaya, a town 100 miles east of Bangkok which is teeming with prostitutes, where the streets are lined with go-go bars, and where the English-style pubs display signs declaring: “Lager louts welcome.”
Pattaya has long been a haven for sex tourists, but today local people complain that it is also packed with members of the Russian mafia, the Japanese yakuza and, most visibly, gangsters from London. After Bacon’s death, Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards divided their time between a six-bedroom Victorian house surrounded by several acres of Suffolk countryside, and a luxury seafront penthouse in Pattaya. There has long been speculation among expatriates in Thailand that some of Bacon’s millions have been invested in the Pattaya sex industry.
A British bar owner in the town said yesterday: “Phil hasn’t worked for ten years and will not need to work again. But using the Bacon fortune he has been backing bar projects in the resort for many years.
His name was frequently mentioned in connection with a bar called Butlins. (It) had Thai girls dressed up as redcoats and offering sex services but it bombed.”
At Mr Mordue’s local, the Winchester, named after the bar in the television series Minder, one regular denied that any of Bacon’s money had been invested in Butlins. But he added: “A lot of mystery money is behind sex bars in Pattaya now.”
Mr Mordue and Mr Edwards knew each other long before the latter met Bacon in 1976 at the Colony Room, the artist’s favourite watering hole.
Mr Edwards said in an interview last year: “I think (Bacon) felt very free with me because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn’t asking him about his painting. He liked the way I didn’t care about who he was supposed to be.” Neither man made any secret of his homosexuality, but Mr Edwards denied that he was Bacon’s lover, describing their friendship as more akin to a father-son relationship, even after they were photographed kissing in a Soho street. Mr Edwards would stay with Bacon through the day while he painted. He was the only person the artist ever allowed to watch him at work.
Their life together followed a set pattern each day. Even after a hard night’s drinking, Bacon was always up by 7am to start work.
Around 9am he would telephone his companion to say that he was ready for breakfast. As Bacon only liked egg white and Edwards preferred the yolk, Edwards used to joke that they had the perfect relationship. His nickname for the artist was Eggs.
He became Bacon’s favourite model, inspiring him to put brush to canvas in more than 30 portraits. His Portrait of John Edwards (1986-87), which shows a seated figure dressed only in a pair of white underpants, is regarded as one of the artist’s last masterpieces.
Mr Mordue describes himself as a close friend of Dave Courtney, a gangster-turned-author who has described in his autobiography Stop the Ride I Want to Get Off how they first met in prison. Mr Mordue, he said, was a “real character and proper class”. It is unclear what offence Mr Mordue had committed to find himself in prison, however, and last night he could not be contacted to comment on his new-found wealth.
He has kept a low profile in Pattaya since he was shot in the neck during a dispute in the red-light district six years ago. Since emerging from hospital he is said to have employed a Thai former policeman as a chauffeur and bodyguard. At Mr Mordue’s farmhouse in a village near Bury St Edmunds, where his neighbours include Terry Waite, a young man describing himself as the housekeeper said that Mr Mordue visited little more than once a year.
Whatever the truth about what has happened to Bacon’s estate, it seems clear that the artist himself would not have cared. He earned very little money until he was in his fifties, and even then lived and worked in a chaotic two-room mews house illuminated by naked light bulbs.
He once said: “I’d be quite happy going back to the income I had as a young man, when I worked as a cook and general servant.”
Bacon’s legacy in doubt after heir dies
COLIN BLACKSTOCK | |
|THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2003
The artist Francis Bacon's long-time companion and muse, John Edwards, died yesterday in Thailand, throwing the ownership of the dozens of paintings he inherited after Bacon's death into uncertainty.
Mr Edwards was the sole heir to Bacon's tangled fortune and was left an £11m estate after the artist died in 1992.
Mr Edwards, 53, died after a long battle with lung cancer. It is thought he may have left part or all of the inheritance to his boyfriend of 27 years, Philip Mordue, who like Mr Edwards is from east London.
The two men have lived in a luxury penthouse in Pattaya for the past nine years. Although the size of the inheritance is now unknown, reports have it ranging from as much as £30m to very little.
Mr Edwards struck up a friendship with Bacon and would visit the artist's South Kensington mews house to make him breakfast every morning and sit with him while he painted. Bacon had described Mr Edwards as the only true friend he had. Both men were gay, but Mr Edwards said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph a year ago that they were never lovers.
Whether much of the inheritance remains is unclear. Mr Edwards is understood to have bought properties in Suffolk for his parents and other family members, and he is also believed to have sold some paintings through galleries in New York and London.
An administrator of the Francis Bacon estate refused to comment on the question of the inheritance yesterday.
Mr Edwards is understood to have moved to Thailand with Mr Mordue after Bacon's death to get away from the press. Reports in Thailand said that Mr Mordue, nicknamed "Phil the Till" in Thailand, was shot in a bar on Pattaya's main sex-bar strip in 1997. He was in hospital for four days after a bullet passed through his neck.
Mr Edwards was taken to Bumrumgrad hospital in Bangkok and was with Brian Clarke, a friend and Bacon's executor, when he died, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Prof Clarke, the British architectural artist, said: "He showed no self-pity and joked with friends to the last." The body will be flown to London for a private service.
Artist and muse: Francis Bacon & John Edwards
John Edwards, 53, Francis
John Edwards, 53,
Francis Bacon Confidant
ALAN RIDING | | |
ALAN RIDING |
|THE NEW YORK TIMES
|FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2003
John Edwards, an illiterate former barman from the East End of London who was
the artist Francis Bacon's closest friend in the last 16 years of his life and
the sole heir to his paintings and properties, died on Tuesday in Bangkok. He
The cause was lung cancer, lawyers for the estate said.
Mr. Edwards, who was the model for at least 30 of Bacon's late portraits, met
the painter in 1976 at the Colony Room, a drinking club in the Soho district of
London that had long been popular with artists. Although the men were gay, Mr.
Edwards always said that he had no sexual relationship with Bacon, who was 40
years his senior and at the time one of the most celebrated painters in Britain.
''Francis was a real, true father to me,'' Mr. Edwards told The Daily Telegraph
of London in a rare interview a year ago. ''I was close to my own father. But
Francis gave me all the guidance I needed, and we laughed a lot. And I think he
liked me because I didn't want anything from him.''
After Bacon's death in April 1992 at 82, Mr. Edwards was distraught to find
himself the center of news media attention, friends said, and he moved briefly
to Florida. In 1994 he settled in the Thai resort of Pattaya with his partner,
Philip Mordue. London newspapers speculated today that Mr. Mordue, 43, was the
likely beneficiary of Mr. Edwards's estate.
The value of the estate that Bacon left to Mr. Edwards had a net worth of nearly
$17 million. In 1999, however, the estate sued Marlborough U.K. and Marlborough
International, which had long managed Bacon's affairs, charging that they had
''wrongfully exploited'' him. The suit was dropped early last year when both
sides agreed to pay their own costs and Marlborough released all its documents
about Bacon .
In 1998 Mr. Edwards gave the contents of Bacon's famously disordered studio at 7
Reece Mews in South Kensington, London, to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin,
where it has been reconstructed down to the tiniest detail, including remnants
of canvases that Bacon destroyed. The gift also included photographs, drawings,
books, artists' material and furniture.
Mr. Edwards, the son of an East End longshoreman, was born in 1950 within the
sound of the bells of St. Mary le Bow Church, which made him a true Cockney. He
had dyslexia and never learned to read or write. He was working in a pub in
Wapping, a London neighborhood, when he met Bacon. The next day, Mr. Edwards
recounted, he was invited to Bacon's studio and was surprised to discover that
the artist had already sketched his portrait.
''Terrible mess, it was,'' Mr. Edwards later said of the studio. ''I remember
the first time I saw it, I said to Francis, 'How can you work here?' But he said
it was how he liked it. He couldn't be bothered to clear it up. All he wanted
was to have the peace and quiet to paint.''
John Edwards, an illiterate former barman from the East End of London who was the artist Francis Bacon's closest friend in the last 16 years of his life and the sole heir to his paintings and properties, died on Tuesday in Bangkok. He was 53.
The cause was lung cancer, lawyers for the estate said.
Mr. Edwards, who was the model for at least 30 of Bacon's late portraits, met the painter in 1976 at the Colony Room, a drinking club in the Soho district of London that had long been popular with artists. Although the men were gay, Mr. Edwards always said that he had no sexual relationship with Bacon, who was 40 years his senior and at the time one of the most celebrated painters in Britain.
''Francis was a real, true father to me,'' Mr. Edwards told The Daily Telegraph of London in a rare interview a year ago. ''I was close to my own father. But Francis gave me all the guidance I needed, and we laughed a lot. And I think he liked me because I didn't want anything from him.''
After Bacon's death in April 1992 at 82, Mr. Edwards was distraught to find himself the center of news media attention, friends said, and he moved briefly to Florida. In 1994 he settled in the Thai resort of Pattaya with his partner, Philip Mordue. London newspapers speculated today that Mr. Mordue, 43, was the likely beneficiary of Mr. Edwards's estate.
The value of the estate that Bacon left to Mr. Edwards had a net worth of nearly $17 million. In 1999, however, the estate sued Marlborough U.K. and Marlborough International, which had long managed Bacon's affairs, charging that they had ''wrongfully exploited'' him. The suit was dropped early last year when both sides agreed to pay their own costs and Marlborough released all its documents about Bacon .
In 1998 Mr. Edwards gave the contents of Bacon's famously disordered studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London, to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where it has been reconstructed down to the tiniest detail, including remnants of canvases that Bacon destroyed. The gift also included photographs, drawings, books, artists' material and furniture.
Mr. Edwards, the son of an East End longshoreman, was born in 1950 within the sound of the bells of St. Mary le Bow Church, which made him a true Cockney. He had dyslexia and never learned to read or write. He was working in a pub in Wapping, a London neighborhood, when he met Bacon. The next day, Mr. Edwards recounted, he was invited to Bacon's studio and was surprised to discover that the artist had already sketched his portrait.
''Terrible mess, it was,'' Mr. Edwards later said of the studio. ''I remember the first time I saw it, I said to Francis, 'How can you work here?' But he said it was how he liked it. He couldn't be bothered to clear it up. All he wanted was to have the peace and quiet to paint.''
The men soon became inseparable, with Bacon summoning Mr. Edwards to breakfast most days and having him accompany him on his frequent nighttime drinking and gambling binges. One of his jobs, Mr. Edwards later said, was to make sure that Bacon did not spend all his money. But, invited to keep Bacon company while he painted, Mr. Edwards also became a rare witness to the artist at work.
''When Francis painted, there was always a drama,'' he once recalled of the tortured forms that Bacon produced. ''It always seemed to me as if he was fighting with the canvas.''
On occasions, Mr. Edwards was also recruited to destroy unsatisfactory works, sometimes by slashing them with a knife.
In his interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr. Edwards discussed the relationship further. ''We'd talk about everything,'' he said. ''He was a beautiful man; you'd be hypnotized by him. He'd talk to you and you'd just want him to talk more. Everything he talked about— his posh mates, the people he knew in the art world — it was all so clear.''
As for his own appeal to Bacon, he offered an explanation: ''I think he felt very free with me because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn't asking him about his painting or anything like that. Most people around Francis looked up to him and he didn't like that. I asked him once, 'What do you see in me?,' and he laughed and said, 'You're not boring like most people.' ''