Francis Bacon News
Francis Bacon News
Perry Ogden’s photographs of Francis Bacon’s Studio
on show at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery
Inside 7 Reece Mews
SARAH DOUGLAS | | |
|THE ART NEWSPAPER
|SATURDAY 1 JANUARY 2002
Perry Ogden’s photographs are invaluable documentation of Francis Bacon’s studio at 7 Reese Mews in London, where he resided until his death in 1992. The studio was recently relocated wholesale and reconstructed in the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, to which John Edwards donated the studio in 1998.
Ogden’s colour photographs, taken while the studio was still in London, comprise a book describing the studio’s relocation, put out last year by Thames & Hudson, and now this suite of photographs is on view at Shafrazi Gallery. The studio proper, as captured by Ogden, is strewn with clues to the painter’s inspiration and daily existence—paint brushes sprout willy-nilly from old butter bean and caper cans; two medical photos of herpes simplex victims abut cardboard boxes and a pair of ice skates; a snapshot of a youthful Mick Jagger shares space with a political biography of Karl Marx.
The randomness is delicious, a real-world version of messy installation art like that of Jason Rhoades. Books piled among the debris document Bacon’s artistic inspiration: monographs on Munch, Rodin and, of course, Velázquez; a volume on Egyptian art with a fragment of a head on its cover.
All that is missing is Bacon himself, and he, as well as his ill-fated lover, George Dyer, are present in crumpled photos within photos, on the littered floor. Other photos document Bacon’s spartan kitchen, with studies tacked to its walls, the bare lightbulbs hanging in his bedroom, and even—a spooky touch—a few crumpled towels clinging to the rim of his bathtub.
Heir’s illness ends the battle between Bacon’s estate and his gallery
A High Court action brought by the estate of the artist Francis Bacon against his former gallery has been settled, lawyers announced yesterday.
By STEVE BOGGAN & TERRI JUDD | THE INDEPENDENT | SATURDAY, 02 FEBRUARY, 2002
A High Court action brought by the estate of the artist Francis Bacon against his former gallery has been settled, lawyers announced yesterday.
A line was drawn under one of the most acrimonious art wrangles in decades yesterday when Francis Bacon’s estate and his former gallery opted to settle amicably.
In the end it was human frailty that averted the £100m High Court battle. The estate revealed that its only beneficiary — John Edwards, 51, a former pub landlord whom the artist treated "like a son" — is seriously ill with lung cancer.
The estate had sued Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd and Marlborough International Fine Art (Mifa), based in Liechtenstein, which had vigorously defended the action.
Bacon, one of Britain’s greatest 20th-century artists, was represented by the international Marlborough gallery from 1958 until 1992 when he died in Spain from a heart attack, at the age of 82.
The estate took legal action, saying it was seeking a "proper accounting from Marlborough, so as to be able to establish that there was a fair balance struck between the interests of the gallery and Bacon".
Marlborough said it had enjoyed a "frank, close and mutually beneficial" relationship with the artist for 34 years.
A statement from the solicitors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer yesterday said: "The trial need not now proceed. Marlborough will release to the estate all documents still in their possession that belong to Bacon or his estate. Each side will pay its own costs."
The statement continued: "Professor Brian Clarke, the executor, was under a duty to investigate the concerns as to the relationship between Bacon and Marlborough, which he has discharged.
"It is with sadness that the estate has to announce that the sole beneficiary of the estate, John Edwards, has very recently been diagnosed as suffering from a serious form of lung cancer. This settlement has been agreed by the estate, against this background and on the basis of Professor Clarke’s assessment of the merits of the case in the light of documents and witness evidence released by Marlborough in the latter part of last year as part of the litigation process."
Professor Clarke said: "I am glad that the litigation has settled. We are now going forward with our long-planned establishment of the John Edwards Charitable Foundation, which will be for the furtherance of the study of Francis Bacon and his work."
Gilbert Lloyd, the son of Marlborough’s founder, said it was pleased to "draw a line" under the matter.
Sources involved in the settlement said: "Because of the length of time involved since Bacon died and since the litigation was begun, both sides were finding it extremely difficult to find evidence to back up their side of the claim.
"Coupled with that, when the news came that John Edwards was seriously ill it was decided that talks would begin with a view to reaching an amicable settlement. Since Mr Edwards is the sole beneficiary there seemed little point in entering into potentially acrimonious litigation. Each side will pay its own costs and both parties will walk away."
It is understood from other sources that no money will change hands as part of the settlement. This will be seen as a vindication of the Marlborough’s claim that it had treated Bacon fairly.
On the side of Professor Clarke, it is understood there is considerable satisfaction because during the legal process a number of paintings were recovered and vast quantities of correspondence and documents relating to the life of the artist were handed over by the gallery that will interest art historians for generations to come.
BBC News, Wednesday, 6 February, 2002
Christie’s in London sold the works by the Irish-born artist as part of a £7.4m sale called Post-War Art on Wednesday.
Man In Blue VII, Head, and Portrait of Man with Glasses IV went under the hammer for a total of £1,914,250.
But in terms of price, they were eclipsed by the top lot, a bright canvas entitled No 15 painted by Russian-born artist Mark Rothko, which was sold for £1.65m.
The Bacon paintings are regarded by critics as great examples of his most existential and angst-ridden work.
Bacon’s 1954 work, Man In Blue VII, was sold for £707,750.
The piece is the culmination of a series of pictures Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel at Henley-on-Thames, near the house of his lover, Peter Lacy.
Head, painted in 1962, the year Mr Lacy died, depicts the head of a surgeon with a lamp strapped to it. It was bought for £311,750.
Portrait of Man with Glasses IV, from 1963, was sold for £894,750, twice the expected price.
It depicts a man whose distorted face looks as if it has been very badly beaten.
Bacon was one of the last century’s most successful artists, earning about £14m before his death in 1992.
Violence was prevalent in much of his work, reflecting the turbulence of his own life.
His relationship with Mr Lacy was punctuated by fights that often resulted in Bacon’s canvases being vandalised.
A series of three paintings by Bacon of his long-time partner, John Edwards, sold for £3m in 2001, and Studies of the Human Body sold for £6m in New York last year.
In total, Post-War Art fetched £7.4m and included work by Erika Klein and Andy Warhol.
Bacon worked for 30 years at his Kensington studio
Christie’s Post War Art
6 & 7 February 2002
Inside Bacon’s Head
BY WILLIAM PATTON | CHRISTIE’S | 6 & 7 FEBRUARY, 2002
'Francis frequently slept on the sofa at my place underneath a painting he had given me, the small head of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead… Having slashed the larger [original] canvas… a friend persuaded him to let me have it… To my lasting shame and regret, I sold it when I was in my doldrums in Devon'.
So wrote Dan Farson, describing Head (Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1994, pp.251-52).
A Soho habitué and well-known television journalist, Dan Farson had met Bacon in 1951, beginning a long friendship that lasted until the painter’s death. Head was painted in 1962, a remarkably turbulent year for Bacon.
The opening of his momentous Tate retrospective had been overshadowed by the death of his lover, Peter Lacy, whose features haunt those of the surgeon in Head. Their tumultuous relationship was punctuated by fights, which often resulted in Lacy attacking Bacon’s paintings. This violence was complicated by Bacon’s complex enjoyment of a certain brutality in his relationships and trysts, a sado-masochism that constantly permeated his art, not least in the hulking figure of this surgeon.
Medical images often appear in Bacon’s work, deriving from his impressive archive of pictures in books on radiography, disease and deformity but they are always imbued with violence. Bodies are shown bandaged and mutilated, pierced by syringes. An element of torture taints Bacon’s use of the medical. In Head, the surgeon’s headlight suggests interrogation rather than inspection
The latent brutality implied by his bulk and distorted head is wholly detached from conventional images of doctors. Bacon’s decision to take Head from a larger canvas intensifies this brutality. The surgeon bursts forth from the small painting, dominating its composition completely. This surgeon — possibly a unique figure in Bacon’s œuvre — shows none of the healer’s compassion. Instead he appears as an aggressor, a hybrid of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is the harbinger of horror, occupying a role usually reserved for Bacon’s nightmarish zoomorphic Furies
The bodies Bacon depicted in his paintings tend to be those of victims or patients, but here the surgeon, as protagonist, stalks Bacon’s psyche in all his Neanderthal glory. He is not merely the embodiment but also the cause of the 'human cry' that Bacon sought to capture in his art, what he once described to Farson as the 'whole coagulation of pain, despair.
William Paton is a Researcher in the 20th Century Art Department at Christie’s King Street, London
POST-WAR (EVENING SALE)
London, King Street Sale Date Feb 06, 2002
Lot Number 13 Sale Number 6553
Head 1962 Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon (1909- 1992) Head
oil on canvas laid down on board
16 5/8 x 17in. (42.4 x 43.2cm.)
Painted in 1962
Estimate: 300,000 - 500,000 British pounds
Literature: R. Alley and J. Rothenstein, Francis Bacon, London 1964, no. 205, p.148 (illustrated p.248).
Provenance: Daniel Farson, London. His sale; Sotheby’s London, 14th December 1966, Lot 156 (sold for £ 2,400).
Painted in 1962, Head was a gift from Bacon to his friend Daniel Farson, a writer who would later become the artist’s biographer. Speaking of the house in Limehouse that he owned between the mid-1950s and 1964, Farson wrote, 'Francis frequently slept on the sofa at my place underneath a painting he had given me, the small head of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead... Having slashed the larger canvas… a friend persuaded him to let me have it. Years later, when it hung above the fireplace in my home in North Devon, Henry Williamson, the author of Tarka the Otter, studied it in amazement. 'That man is a great artist!' he whispered, though he had not heard of Bacon. To my lasting shame and regret, I sold it when I was in my doldrums in Devon' (Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1994, pp.251-52). Farson had met Bacon in Soho in 1951, and they struck up a long friendship that would last until the artist's death.
The early 1960s were a crucial period in Bacon’s career, especially the year that this work was painted. Bacon had recently signed a contract with Marlborough Fine Art, giving him both significant financial stability and increased exposure, and it was in 1962 that the Tate Gallery held the artist’s first retrospective. The previous year Bacon had changed studio, moving to the mews that he was to use until his death. Despite all these positive aspects to his life at this period, the success of the Tate retrospective was utterly punctured by the simultaneous death of his lover Peter Lacy.
Death and violence often formed the backdrop to Bacon’s life, and this translated forcefully to his art. In Head, the menacing hulk of the surgeon reeks with brutality. Bacon himself differentiated between the violence on and off the canvas, saying, 'I have been accustomed to always living through forms of violence — which may or may not have an effect upon one, but I think probably does. But this violence of my life, the violence which I’ve lived amongst, I think it’s different to the violence in painting. When talking about the violence of paint, it’s nothing to do with the violence of war. It’s to do with an attempt to remake the violence of reality itself' (Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.81). Bacon well remembered the atmosphere of suspense and latent violence in Ireland during his youth, when English and Anglo-Irish families like his lived in constant fear of death. This thread of violence continued in London through the two World Wars where he lived under threat of bombing and, importantly, witnessed the immediacy of the effects of the death and destruction wrought upon the people and the landscape — it is no coincidence that Bacon returned to painting during the Second World War. Likewise, violence played a large part in many of Bacon’s relationships, especially that with Peter Lacy. Their fights were often brutal. Bacon’s attitudes towards this violence were, however, mixed. Indeed, Bacon was known to enjoy suffering a certain brutality in his relationships. This was most obvious during his time in Tangier, where Lacy worked as a pianist and where Bacon would often be found, bloodied and bruised after an evening’s tryst. This mixture of fear and guilty enjoyment mingles freely in Bacon’s paintings. The violence of his imagery is mixed with an overt enjoyment of the sensuality of flesh, which he took great relish in painting. The smeared features in Head, the hallmark of Bacon’s work, are redolent with a fleshiness that is obtrusive to the point of nausea. The very application of the paint shows an appreciation of the sensual, the materiality itself imbuing the flesh of this menacing surgeon with an awesome presence, perfectly condensing the 'violence of reality itself'.
The implied violence of the surgical theme was of immense interest to Bacon, whose paintings often contained elements filtered from books on radiography, deformity, disease and other medical texts. Bacon himself often told of buying an antique book on diseases of the mouth while in Paris. The book was filled with exquisitely hand-coloured illustrations which he found beautiful. Bacon saw this same strange, horrific beauty in car crashes and other sights packed with the mixed colours and contrasts death and destruction. This fitted with Bacon’s fascination with violence, and especially violence wreaked upon the body. In Head, the surgeon, possibly a unique figure in Bacon’s oeuvre, is depicted during surgery, wearing what appears to be a surgical robe as well as the light on his head. Usually when medical elements appear in Bacon’s work, the subject appears to be the patient or victim — mutilated and deformed bodies people his paintings. The image here is all the more striking because it is the aggressor, the surgeon, an aspect complicated by the surgeon’s role as healer. It is clear from other paintings by Bacon that the surgical processes and implements, represented by bandages, mutilations and hypodermic syringes and recalled in many of his works by the slab-like supports upon which his subjects often languish, were sources of little comfort to the artist. Each medical element in his painting screams of horror and torture. In Head, the light on the surgeon’s head reminds the viewer more of interrogation than mere inspection. This Dr. Mengele ambiguity, the dichotomy between torturer and healer, cuts to the core of Bacon’s life, and especially to his relationship with Peter Lacy. Indeed, traces of Lacy’s features haunt this surgeon’s face. The pair often fought intensely, and Lacy often destroyed Bacon’s paintings in fits of rage, yet he also provided Bacon with great happiness.
While surgical features often appeared in Bacon’s works, the surgeon himself is a theme of startling rarity. In many ways, he appears to be a rare, fully human manifestation of the Furies who often appeared in Bacon’s paintings, embodying an abstract sense of guilt and violence. The Furies feature throughout Bacon’s work, often taking strange, fleshy yet zoomorphic shapes. Here, Bacon has managed to translate this same animal brutality to the image of the surgeon. His thick, dark arms and sloping shoulders retain a sense of the simian. The surgeon’s menacing, elongated head is portrayed using Bacon’s hallmark methods of distortion, a means of intensifying the image and its reality. Bacon, in a televised interview with Melvyn Bragg, said that his work was a 'concentration of reality, shorthand of sensation' (The South Bank Show, London, 1985). By avoiding what he termed 'illustration' and disrupting actual shapes and sights, Bacon unveiled a subjective awareness of reality and horror. This is achieved both in his swirls of paint and the introduction of an animalism to the surgeon’s body. As Bacon himself put it a few years after Head was painted, he aimed to 'distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance… I think that the methods by which this is done are so artificial that the model before you, in my case, inhibits the artificiality by which this thing can be brought back' (Bacon, 1966, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.40).
As Daniel Farson pointed out, Head originally formed part of a larger picture. Bacon himself cut the head and shoulders from the painting and, judging by the drawing pin marks, stuck it up in a place of choice for some time. Bacon was known for his almost whimsical destruction of canvases that he felt were inferior or that he had ruined. However in Head, whatever happened elsewhere in the larger composition had evidently not affected this section enough to merit its obliteration. Although Bacon seems to have spent little care or attention in the cuts themselves, nonetheless he salvaged this part, a testimony to the artist’s own satisfaction. The haunting, stretched head has a peculiar and disturbing resonance intensified by its dominance of the picture’s new smaller size. This intimate scale and close-quarters depiction of the subject cut to the core of Bacon’s portraits in the present format. In retrospect, Bacon’s decision to remove this section appears judicious, as increasingly in the early 1960s he espoused brighter colours and a stark but more expansive sense of space in his larger paintings while the smaller ones tended to retain this darkness and customary claustrophobia. Head is similar to these smaller works in appearance and effect. The dark background and looming figure of the surgeon pack the work with intensity, almost inducing an existential nausea with its very presence. Bacon’s perceived reality finds a new strength in this small format, and Head becomes an icon to the horrors of existence.
POST-WAR (EVENING SALE)
London, King Street
Sale Date: Feb 06, 2002 Lot Number: 13 Sale Number: 6553
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Man in Blue VII
oil on canvas
60 x 42½in. (152.7 x 107.9cm.)
Painted in 1954
Estimate GBP 500,000 — 700,000
J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon, New York, 1964, p. 88, no. 87 (illustrated).
Venice, XXVII Biennale di Venezia, June-October 1954, no. 58a.
London, Redfern Gallery, Summer Exhibition 1961, June-August 1961, no. 9.
Lisbon, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Arte Britanica no Século XX, February-March 1962, no. 52 (illustrated).
Man in Blue VII, painted in 1954, is the culmination of a series of pictures with the same title that Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames. Although to some it seemed like an unlikely spot for the artist to reside, Bacon spent a great deal of time in Henley during the 1950s in order to be close to his lover Peter Lacy, who had a house there. Lacy, in fact, appears to be the model throughout the series, as is most evident in Man in Blue V, where the subject, filled with confidence, confronts the viewer with an intense gaze reminiscent of a photograph of him relaxing in Ostia. However, in Man in Blue VII there is less confidence. The depicted man seems oppressed both by his background and his situation.
During the early 1950s, Bacon had begun to abandon the expressionistic, dreamlike images he had earlier produced, paintings filled with zoomorphic horrors. Instead, he took as his main subject the human form. His palette became superficially more reserved, with dark backgrounds, blues and blacks, dominating his work. Beginning with his reinterpretations of the famous Velazquez Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bacon explored tortured humanity on an intimate level. In them, the 'Pope' sat, screaming, eyes fixed on the viewer. From these evolved intense images of men dressed in suit and tie, sometimes bespectacled, usually screaming. Despite the superficial normality of the businessman as subject matter, Bacon was far from developing a respectable pictorial process — what he termed 'illustration' had no part in his work. Instead, he was exploring increasingly recognisable subjects that he could manipulate in order to harness the anguish so central to his work. Apart from the Popes, Bacon tended to use photographs of people he knew as the subjects for his paintings, preferring to work from stills rather than live models. However, he always disrupted the scientific certainty of the images of the photographs he used, explaining that, 'I don’t think it's damage. You may say it’s damaging if you take it on the level of illustration. But not if you take it on the level of what I think of as art. One brings the sensation and the feeling of life over the only way one can' (Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.43).
The Man in Blue took this system of representation to a new scale. The figure is at the centre of a far larger composition, giving a sense of oblivion to the bleak surroundings. Where other figures filled their canvases, here the subject is stranded at the centre of his, helpless. Although in Man in Blue VII the figure is not screaming, nonetheless there is a huge tension as he stands in his suit as though in the dock at court. This adds to the sense that the subject is a defendant, the prey; although Bacon deliberately leaves the nature of his ordeal unknown. Bacon has emphasised the subject’s vulnerability with the introduction of the ghostly vertical stripes which resemble bars on a cage. There is a sense of confinement and imprisonment, but at the same time of complete negation, in that the figure appears absorbed into the nothingness of the background. In this final work in the series, Bacon has allowed the figure to be consumed by his surroundings — where he dominated the picture in Man in Blue V, now he is its victim. He appears disorientated, as though he is looking for some relief or respite from above infuses the painting with a sense of paranoia. The simple fact that there is nothing threatening within the painting except the atmosphere itself allows Bacon to imply that the predator, the source of menace, is elsewhere, not within the realm of the painting, but in the realm of the painter — the realm of the viewer.
It is only fitting that a painting that shows traces of the features of Bacon’s lover, Lacy, with whom he had a turbulent and at times violent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity. Indeed, the suit is so crisp that the viewer is forced to wonder in part whether the subject is a victim in the dock or a dictator on his podium. The uniform-like suit gives an air of authority, and the pose mingles an impression of restraint — his hands tied behind his back — with a pose of confidence. The mangled features combine the sad eyes of the persecuted with an almost rabid mouth, the fanatical orator frothing with ferocity and enthusiasm. However, the almost disembodied torso that blends into the background, while making this character something of an eminence grise, also lends him an insubstantiality inappropriate to the wilful tyrant. In turn, this phantom-like appearance accentuates the pale face and flesh tones, which are pushed into relief by the chiaroscuro, the tiny spot of flesh almost phosphorescent against the dark. This is Bacon at his most existential, painting the whole angst and fragility of life.
Man in Blue VII 1954 Francis Bacon
Buyers stampede for ‘bleak’ Bacons
MARTIN EVANS | |
|THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2002
THREE PAINTINGS by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon sold for nearly £2m at auction last night. The three works were snapped up during an auction of post-war art at Christie’s in London.
The bleak pieces have been described as demonstrating Bacon at his most existential and are good examples of the confrontational, angst-ridden style of the artist’s later years.
His 1954 work, Man In Blue VII, was the earliest of his paintings up for sale and was sold for £707,750. It was the culmination of a series of pictures that Bacon painted while staying in the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, near the house of his lover, Peter Lacy.
Head, painted in 1962, depicts the head of a surgeon with a lamp strapped to it. Described as one of his darker works, it was completed in the year Lacy died and was sold for £311,750.
The final piece under the hammer was titled Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV, painted in 1963. It fetched £894,750, more than double the estimated price. It depicts the image of a man whose distorted face looks as if it has been beaten to a pulp. Bacon’s reputation and standing have gone up markedly since his death in 1992, bringing higher prices for his work. His most valuable painting sold for more than £6m in New York last year.The sale comes the week after Bacon’s estate and his former gallery settled a long-running financial dispute.
Eggs, Bacon and jellied eels
Why did Francis Bacon leave his £11 million estate to John Edwards,
an illiterate barman from the East End?
Mick Brown meets him
MARK BROWN | |
|THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
|TUESDAY, 19 FEBRUARY, 2002
"And that," says John Edwards, pausing in front of the huge canvas at the top of the stairs in the South Kensington mews where Francis Bacon lived and painted for more than 30 years, "is me."
Portrait of John Edwards, 1986-87, which shows a figure seated cross-legged in a chair, dressed only in a pair of white underpants, is one of the 30 or more paintings that Bacon executed of Edwards, and is widely regarded as one of the artist’s last masterpieces.
"Actually," says Edwards, with a laugh, "some people have said I look like a monkey. But I didn’t mind. I mean, Francis was a lovely painter, wasn’t he?"
For 31 years, Bacon spent almost every day in his Reece Mews studio but, as Edwards admits, he would hardly recognise it now.
The cramped bed/sitting room, lit by four bare light bulbs, where Bacon slept and ate, is now an elegant lounge, all leather sofas and smoked glass tables. The detritus of dirty brushes, paint pots, mounds of newspapers and photographs that littered the floor of Bacon’s studio have been replaced by polished wood and splashy abstract rugs.
"Terrible mess, it was," says Edwards. "I remember the first time I saw it, I said to Francis: how can you work in here? But he said it was how he liked it. He couldn’t be bothered to clear it up. All he wanted was to have the peace and quiet to paint."
Edwards, the son of an East End docker, was working as a barman in a Wapping pub when he first met Francis Bacon in 1976. For the next 16 years, until the painter’s death from a heart attack, he was his closest friend and confidant - as Bacon put it, the only true friend he had.
When Bacon died in April 1992, he left everything — an estate valued at some £11m, including the mews studio in South Kensington — to Edwards.
But the legacy proved to be more tangled than it initially appeared. In 1999, the Bacon estate brought a case against the Marlborough Gallery, which had represented Bacon for most of his working life, alleging that the painter had been "wrongfully exploited" in his relationship with the gallery and seeking a "proper accounting" of his affairs.
The litigation, which threatened to become one of the most acrimonious — and costly — legal battles that the art world has ever seen, was suddenly withdrawn two weeks ago, in a "drop hands settlement", in which both sides agreed to pay their own costs. Marlborough has also agreed to release to the estate all the documentation that belonged to Bacon which is still in its possession.
The reclusive John Edwards has never before spoken publicly about Bacon and their relationship. Following the artist’s death, he moved to Florida and, for the past seven years he has lived a quiet, almost reclusive life in Thailand.
Last year, however, he was diagnosed with cancer, and returned to London for treatment.
He is 52, a genial man with dark, battered good looks, who speaks in a soft, unreconstructed Cockney accent, spotted with rhyming slang. "Don’t I know your boat-race from somewhere?" he asks. He offers Krug champagne — "it was Francis’s favourite" — and a "lah-di-dah" (cigar).
A Bacon triptych dominates one wall. On another are grouped a framed collection of French five franc stamps bearing Edwards’s image, painted by Bacon; a child-like picture dedicated "to Francis" and signed "Ronnie Kray, Broadmoor" ("He certainly knew Ronnie", says Edwards, carefully, "but I don’t think I’d describe them as friends"); and a scroll marking the award to Edwards of the Lord Mayor’s Medal by the city of Dublin.
This was in recognition of his donation of the contents of the Reece Mews studio to Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, where it has been painstakingly reconstructed, item by item, and now stands as a permanent exhibit. Bacon, Edwards says, "would have roared with laughter", to think of his discarded brushes and paints, his moth-eaten bedspread and rotted curtains preserved for posterity.
Edwards first met Bacon in the Colony Room, the famously raffish Soho drinking club where the painter would hold court. Edwards, at the time, was working as a barman in his brother’s East End pub, and he was friends with Muriel Belcher, who owned the Colony, and Ian Board who worked as the barman there.
A few weeks earlier, Edwards had been asked by Belcher to lay in some champagne as she intended to bring her "famous painter friend" to the East End. But they never came. When Edwards was eventually introduced to Bacon in the Colony Room, he "gave him some stick" for ordering champagne, then not bothering to turn up and drink it. "He liked the way I didn’t care about who he was supposed to be."
So began a relationship that would last until Bacon’s death. Bacon was homosexual and the popular misconception is that Edwards was his lover. But that, he says, was never the case. Edwards is also gay and has been with the same boyfriend for 27 years. His relationship with Bacon was one of deep emotional, but never physical, friendship.
"Francis was a real, true father figure to me. I was close to my own father. But Francis gave me all the guidance I needed, and we laughed a lot. And I think he liked me because I didn’t want anything from him. With everybody else, it was 'Francis this' and 'Francis that'."
It was, on the surface, an improbable friendship. At 66, Bacon was almost 40 years Edwards’s senior. He was also Britain’s most celebrated living painter; a man of mercurial intelligence and high poetic temperament.
Edwards knew nothing about painting or books. Chronically dyslexic, he had never learnt to read or write. But his lack of a formal education, his down-to-earth unpretentiousness, was one of the things that clearly endeared him to Bacon.
Edwards recalls that, shortly after their first meeting, Bacon took him gambling at Charlie Chester’s casino, one of his regular haunts. When Edwards was handed a membership form he confessed that he could neither read nor write. "Francis said, God, that must be marvellous. Because he hated filling in forms or anything like that."
Their life together followed a set pattern. No matter what time he’d been drinking until the night before, Bacon would rise at between six and seven o’clock and start painting. Around nine, he would telephone Edwards to say that he was ready for breakfast and Edwards would join him in Reece Mews, where Bacon would cook a fry-up. Bacon, he says, liked only egg white, Edwards only the yolk, "so it was the perfect relationship". His nickname for the painter was "Eggs".
Edwards would then sit with Bacon through the day while he painted — the only person the artist ever allowed to watch him at work — talking and helping him prepare his canvasses for collection.
"We’d talk about everything. He was a beautiful man; you’d be hypnotised by him. He’d talk to you and you’d just want him to talk more. Everything he talked about — his posh mates, the people he knew in the art world, it was all so clear."
"I think," says Edwards, "he felt very free with me, because I was a bit different from most people he knew. I wasn’t asking him about his painting or anything like that. Most people around Francis looked up to him, and he didn’t like that.
"I asked him once: what do you see in me? And he laughed and said: you’re not boring like most people.
"I remember once we were with the Duke of Devonshire, talking about all this and that, and Francis decided it was time to change the conversation, so he got me talking about running a pub and jellied eels. The nice thing about Francis was he wouldn’t let you roast."
"John was the only person in London who treated Francis as an absolute equal," says the architectural artist Brian Clarke, a close friend of both men and, for the past six years the executor of Bacon’s estate. "Whenever you saw John and Francis together you knew you were going to laugh a lot. John is a totally honest man. He would be very rude to Francis, which was a very enjoyable thing to see because nobody else had licence to do that. He’d give it to him straight, and Francis appreciated that. Even in the Colony Room, Francis was the king of Soho. But to John he was just 'My Francis'."
Clarke describes the friendship as "each looking after the other". Bacon had a famously cavalier attitude to money. He never carried a cheque book or a credit card, but always had a wad of cash, likened by one friend to "a bog roll" from which he would peel off notes to spend on gambling, meals at Wheelers, drinks at the Colony Room, or simply to give to friends.
Edwards took it upon himself to ensure that no one was "taking liberties".
Bacon, he says, didn’t mind being taken advantage of "up to a point". But beyond that point, he didn’t like it.
"He said I was a good judge of people, which I am," says Edwards. "There were always lots of people around Francis on the cadge. But they wouldn’t do it while I was around."
When they went gambling together, Edwards would carefully pocket some of the chips to ensure that Bacon had something left over at the end of the evening. Bacon, he says, was "a clever gambler", who "won some big lumps and lost some big lumps.
"I remember, one night, he won £15,000. I put some of it in his jacket and some in his trousers, so he wouldn’t lose it.
"The following morning, he phoned and asked if I had the money. I said no, I’d put it all in his pockets. We searched all over the flat and couldn’t find it anywhere. And then, a couple of days later, I came across it. He’d stuck it in a pair of old socks. He was so pleased, he gave me half of it."
Edwards’s guileless good nature was recognised by others in the painter’s circle. Sonia Orwell, the widow of George, and a close friend of Bacon, offered to teach Edwards to read and write. But she fell ill before they had the chance.
Stephen Spender was another of Bacon’s friends who became deeply enamoured of Edwards.
"I think that if I knew him well I would become obsessed by him, and I can well understand loving him," Spender wrote, in a letter to Bacon, in 1988.
"Of course, it is seriously marvellous to be untainted by what is called education. It means he moves among real things, and not newspaper things."
"Steve was a lovely bloke," says Edwards, affectionately.
This letter from Spender is among a significant cache of documents that have been returned to the Bacon estate during the course of the litigation, and which provide a fascinating insight into the painter’s friendships, affairs and his rackety personal life.
They include a cache of some 150 letters from such friends as Sonia Orwell, Hans Werner Henze, Peter Beard and the painter Victor Passmore, as well as numerous pleas for money from Daniel Farson, and a promise to return "the 50 quid you lent me" from Jeffrey Bernard. "Fat chance!" says Edwards with a laugh. "Jeff was terrible. I remember Francis once sitting in the Tate Gallery, signing books, and Jeff was there right beside him, trying to borrow money as he signed."
Clarke says that Bacon’s death left Edwards "completely devastated". For years, the painter had told Edwards that he intended to leave him everything, but he was totally unprepared for the attention the bequest brought him.
"I remember him telling me about opening the curtains at Reece Mews and seeing the mews full of photographers," says Clarke. "To a shy person it was the ultimate nightmare."
Edwards retired to a remote area of the Florida Keys for a year, and then to Thailand, where he lived quietly in a house on the beach, spending his days fishing and walking.
But, after five years, he realised that he had still not received a full accounting of his inheritance. He approached Clarke, who in turn introduced Edwards to his lawyer, John Eastman — the brother of the late Linda McCartney – who initiated the action against Marlborough.
Edwards is reluctant to discuss the case, except to say that he is relieved that it is now over.
"All that John wanted," says Clarke, "was to do right for Francis.
"Francis left John very well looked after. And John was prepared to spend every penny he had in the prosecution of this litigation, win or lose."
The documentation retrieved as a result of the case will form a substantial part of the material for a comprehensive catalogue raisonne of Bacon’s work that Edwards intends to commission, and will then go to the Francis Bacon archive at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.
Edwards is also establishing a charitable foundation that will be devoted to the promotion and study of Bacon’s work and life.
It is for other people, he says, to make an estimation of Francis Bacon the painter. He can talk only about Bacon the man."I think," he says, "that a lot of people misunderstood Francis. People get this impression".
John: ensured no one took liberties
Study for Portrait II — after the Life Mask of William Blake,
Francis Bacon (1955)
| | | |
|PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK
|SATURDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2002
Artist: Francis Bacon (1910-92), who once described his art as an attempt "to unlock the valves of feeling". To do this, he tore apart conventions of modern and traditional art, walking a tightrope between the figurative image and abstraction, returning to the early years of modern art and the example of his hero Vincent van Gogh
Bacon was a romantic — and also a reader. A more studious figure than Bacon the Soho low-lifer was revealed last year by the installation of his studio as an exhibit at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. In addition to well-thumbed volumes of Heidegger, Lacan, Freud, Joyce, Chaucer and Aeschylus, there is his copy of the life-mask of William Blake.
Subject: William Blake (1757-1827), author of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, engraver of The Ancient of Days. By his old age, when he had his life-mask taken, Blake was a cult figure among a small circle of Romantics. In September 1823, he let the sculptor James Deville immerse his head in plaster, with only a straw to breath through as it solidified.
Before photography, masks from moulds of living and recently dead faces were the most accurate way of preserving someone’s appearance. Deville probably learned the technique from his master, the sculptor Joseph Nollekens. Deville practised phrenology — reading character from the size and shape of the skull, as devised by J Spurzheim. Blake seems to have read Spurzheim, too. His drawing of the man who taught him painting in his dreams (c1819-20) resembles a phrenology diagram. Deville built up a collection of casts and wished to include Blake’s "as representative of the imaginative faculty". Because of phrenology, we have a quasi-photographic image of an artist who has become infinitely more famous since his death.
Distinguishing features: Blake is a pale film in the dark, a flayed face, features compressed like those of a bank robber with a stocking over his head. The features are brutally crushed, there and not there, eyes pressed shut, one eyebrow oddly raised, the lips pushed in. Although skin is vividly suggested in the sickening pink of the brow and cheek, this is not the outward man. White mist flows up the cheek and over the broad skull, dematerialising the flesh. It’s as if we are looking underneath the surface of skin at the ghostly presence of the man within. This is a portrait not of the flesh, but of the spirit.
Bacon made a series of paintings of Blake’s life-mask in the mid-1950s. The title, however, is generalised: "Study for Portrait" suggests this is an attempt to get at the essence of what a portrait is
Bacon kept his own copy of Blake’s life-mask next to treasured personal photographs. His painting feels as if it were based on a photograph. Bacon stresses the similarity of life-casting to photography, in order to reveal the deathliness and violence of both in rendering brute fact. His painting, however, apprehends something beneath the visible skin: an inner self, suffering in absolute isolation.
This is a passionate and finally mysterious tribute from one great London artist to another.
Inspirations and influences: There are models for this intense communion with a dead artist in Blake’s work. Blake portrayed, from life, the spirits who visited him. Blake’s spirit portraits include John Milton, and The Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20). There’s a similarity between Bacon’s Blake and Blake’s Flea in their fleshy, monstrous intensity, the authority of a vision seen in darkness.
Where is it? Tate Britain, London SW1 (020-7887 8008).
BY DOROTHY HO | NEWSWIRE | WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 2002
There’s a famous photograph of British artist Francis Bacon in his studio, sitting on a chair in a midst of a cluttered workspace. That image — taken by Michael Holtz — is one of 30 images of the artist to be displayed at a special exhibition in Arles, France.
The images of Bacon are to be exhibited with Bacon’s paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, a series of 12 paintings he created in homage to Van Gogh. But the black-and-white photographs of Bacon will speak as much about the artist as his work of Van Gogh.
Before Bacon died in 1992, a host of photographers had captured him in a variety of moods and poses. In fact, some say that Bacon referred to many of these photographs of himself when painting his self-portraits. Peter Beard, Harry Benson, Don McCullin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Perry Ogden and Michel Soskine were among the photographers whose images of Bacon alone, working in his studio, or with friends, will be shown at the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles from July 4 to October 6.
‘A Clear Compositional Link’: Francis Bacon’s Works on Paper
MARGARITA CAPPOCK | JOURNAL ARTICLE | IRISH ARTS REVIEW YEARBOOK | VOLUME 18, 2002
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) lived and worked in 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington from 1961 until his death in 1992. One of a short row of converted coach houses on a quiet cobble stoned lane, the mews was a modest dwelling and consisted of a kitchen-cum-bathroom, a bedroom, and a studio. In contrast to the rather spartan quality of the bedroom and kitchen, the artist’s studio was chaotic. Bacon said himself of his cluttered studio: 'I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me' (Fig l).1 He 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. Commenting on the wealth of photographic material in his studio, Bacon said that he looked at photographs for inspiration in the way that one looks up meanings in a dictionary.2 On the studio floor, reproductions of fine art paintings jostled with illustrations of crime scenes, skin diseases, filmstars, athletes and other imagery which clearly appealed to Bacon’s artistic imagination. Photographs by John Deakin, Cecil Beaton, Peter Beard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter Stark, and many others provide a fascinating insight into both the bohemian milieu in which Bacon operated and the artist’s method of manipulating his source material. The sheer range and diversity of Bacon’s interests is reflected in the types of books found in the studio. Books on subjects including art, sport, crime, history, photography, cinema, bullfighting, and parapsychology were found in pre carious piles on the studio floor and highlight the eclectic nature of Bacon’s influences. Other material found in the studio includes one hundred slashed canvases, correspondence, magazines, newspapers, vinyl records, and a vast array of artist’s materials.
When the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin received the donation of the entire contents of Francis Bacon’s Studio in August 1998, it marked the beginning of an unique project. While Bacon’s reputation as one of the foremost artists of 20th-century figurative painting is unquestioned, his studio contents and what they could contribute to current scholarship on the artist was a journey into uncharted territory. In order to interpret the material fully, every single item was recorded in detail on a specially-designed computerised database. With 7,500 entries, this is now one of the most comprehensive documentary archives of any artist, living or dead. Given the volume of material, the cataloguing of the studio contents and the reconstruction of the studio in the Gallery involved hours of painstaking work and was an extremely complex task. Nevertheless, this work has proved extremely rewarding and a number of important revelations have been made regarding the artist’s life, inspiration, unusual techniques, and working methods.
The validity of disassembling and reconstructing an artist’s studio is beyond the scope of this article and undoubtedly lengthy debates on this subject will continue long after the reconstructed studio opens to the public. In this article, I propose to focus on one of the most important aspects of the project — the discovery of a considerable quantity of works on paper by Francis Bacon in the Reece Mews studio. These are significant for a number of reasons, not least Bacon’s persistent denial throughout his life that he ever did preliminary sketches for his paintings. The following themes will be explored: firstly, the controversy surrounding the existence of drawings by Francis Bacon; secondly, the types of works on paper found in the Reece Mews studio, their relationship with finished paintings and what they reveal about Bacon’s thought processes and working methods; and, finally, approximate dates for these works.
Throughout his life, the existence of drawings by Francis Bacon appeared to be shrouded in secrecy. Although some of Bacon’s friends and contemporaries owned drawings by him, they seem to have accepted his desire to keep his drawings out of the public domain during his lifetime. In 1975, Henry Geldzahler wrote that: 'Very few drawings by Francis Bacon exist, or, to be more exact, very few of his drawings have been seen.'3 This was not always the case, however. In 1934, finding it increasingly difficult to persuade a gallery to display his work, Bacon organised an exhibition of his own work at the Transition Gallery in Sunderland House, London. It consisted of seven oil paintings and about five or six gouaches and drawings. This would indicate that at that time, Bacon considered his drawings to be works of art in their own right, an attitude that was soon to change. Apparently, two of these drawings, Composition (Figure) 1933 and Composition (Figures) 1933 were purchased by Bacon’s cousin, Diana Watson.4 The notion that Bacon did not draw stems from interviews between Bacon and David Sylvester, the distinguished British art historian most closely associated with the artist and the author of a number of publications and articles on the artist. Sylvester carried out a series of extensive interviews with Bacon which were broadcast on both radio and television and also published in book form in 1975. In the first interview, which took place in October 1962, the following exchange takes 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.'5 Bacon’s consistent denial that he produced drawings of any kind became a recurring theme in the countless interviews the artist gave during his life. In an interview with Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank Show in 1985, Bragg enquired as he stood in the Reece Mews studio, 'Do you do drawings beforehand?' to which Bacon’s reply was an emphatic 'No'. Bacon qualified this by stating that it is 'so much better to immediately attack the canvas with the paint.'6 In an interview with a French journalist in 1987, Bacon stated 'J'adore des dessins, mais je nen fais pas?1 This stance was maintained until Bacon’s death in 1992 and went relatively unchallenged.8 However, since the artist’s death, a considerable number of drawings, both by Bacon and attributed to him, have surfaced and with the emergence of these different bodies of work, the art world has been forced to re-evaluate Bacon’s oeuvre in a new context. In 1996, some Bacon drawings and over painted material were exhibited as part of a major Francis Bacon exhibition at the Centre 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 gave four of the drawings to the poet, Stephen Spender. He was a close friend and had written articles on Bacon. The other drawings acquired by the Gallery were also gifts, in this instance, to Bacon’s longstanding friends, Paul Danquah and Peter Pollock, who kept them until after his death.9
Another archive of drawings and sketches, allegedly by Bacon, has surfaced in Italy. Christian Ravarino, an Italian American journalist, originally owned this material but it has now been sold and dispersed amongst several Italian collectors.10 It is unclear what connection Ravarino had with Bacon or how the material was acquired. The Joule Archive, a controversial body of work consisting of sketches and over-painted material attributed to Francis Bacon, emerged in 1996. Barry Joule met Bacon in 1978 and a friendship ensued. An amateur artist in his own right, Joule claims that he was given the material shortly before Bacon’s departure for Madrid, where he died in April 1992.11 The material was first accepted as genuine by leading figures including David Sylvester but since then its authenticity has been called into question. A selection of the material has been exhibited at both the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Barbican Centre in London but further analysis and research is warranted before the issue of authenticity is fully resolved.
A number of possible reasons why Bacon was so secretive about his drawings can be put forward but Sylvester probably provides the most logical explanation when, with the benefit of hindsight, he says, 'Early on, he decided that he couldn’t draw, and thereafter pretended that he didn’t.'12 Bacon’s drawings do not reveal him to be a skilled draughtsman but this did not pre vent him from professing great admiration for drawings by artists including Michelangelo, Ingres, Degas, Picasso, and Giacometti, often rating their graphic work as amongst their best work. It is also of significance that it was an exhibition of drawings by Picasso, which Bacon saw in Paris in 1927, which prompted him to become an artist and he believed that Picasso had 'a great gift as a draughtsman.'13 In addition, he deeply admired Michelangelo’s drawings for 'their grandeur of form and grandeur of image' and thought they were the greatest things he ever did.14 In fact, he even went so far as to single out the drawings of Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, as being superior to his sculptures. Bacon dismissively stated of the sculptor’s work, 'My own feeling about Giacometti is that he never had any necessity either to do sculpture or to paint, that he was able to do everything in his marvellous drawings.'15 Perhaps Bacon felt that a comparison between his own drawings and those of other artists would leave him in a rather second-rate position as an artist. Given his notorious lack of generosity in relation to other artists’ work, one can deduce that Bacon was insecure as an artist.16 In the 1960s, when Bacon’s stature in the international art world was growing and his works began to fetch higher prices, it would have been difficult for him to concede that he produced drawings. If he did, he might have been pressurised by his dealers, Marlborough Fine Arts, to allow some of these works to be sold. As it is, he signed a series of lithographs of his paintings for a time which Marlborough did sell.17 Most importantly, by admitting that he did draw, Bacon would dispel the myth that his work on canvas was entirely spontaneous. However, on close examination of paintings by Francis Bacon, the very deliberate, studied quality of many of the works belies any notion that they were spontaneous. Maybe it is a tribute to Bacon that he was so adept at creating the sense of spontaneity.
More than seventy works on paper were found in Bacon’s Reece Mews studio and they are now in the collection of the Hugh Lane Gallery. Given the rich diversity of the graphic material found, a distinction must be made between the different types of works on paper that Bacon produced. The most logical subdivisions are as follows: (1) drawings on paper (2) interventions that Bacon has 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 pencil, others are in ball point or felt-tip pen and some are oil sketches. Most are monochromatic. Nearly all the works are unsigned and undated but, stylistically, approximate dates can be assigned. Some bear close similarities to finished paintings, whereas in other instances the links are less obvious. Taken together, this material provides a very good record of the type of works on paper Bacon was producing from the 1930s onwards. The Hugh Lane collection of drawings is therefore more representative than the Tate collection which dates from the 1957-1961 period.
A certain sense of hesitancy is discernible in Bacon’s early drawings, indicating that he was not a natural draughtsman. One notes the influence of Picasso’s drawings from the late 1920s in Biomorphic drawing c. 1936 (Fig 2) but very little of the confidence of the Spanish master’s draughtsmanship. The figure is drawn with a circular head, eyes, open mouth, two arms stretching upwards and two or three tapering stilts balanced on a plinth. In this early work in black ink on lined paper, the lines are tentatively executed, possibly using a quill, and one notes that parts of the figure have been redrawn, most notably the mouth and the left arm of the figure. The circular head and clenched teeth of the figure can be linked to the central panel of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Fig 3), Bacon’s most famous painting, but the drawing also relates to a destroyed painting entitled, Abstraction, c. 1936 (Fig 4). It is likely that it was executed in the 1930s, making it one of Bacon’s earliest extant drawings.
The artist frequently worked in pencil on tracing paper and twelve drawings of this type were found in the studio. The earliest example of a drawing executed on tracing paper is Figure on plinth. 1930s (Fig 5) but in this instance Bacon has attached the piece of tracing paper to a torn sheet of bond paper. The subject of this drawing is difficult to distinguish due to the amount of overdrawing. It appears to show a figure on a plinth with outstretched arms. The background consists of vertical and horizontal lines with three window-like squares and resembles the central panel of Three Studies for a crucifixion, 1965. The shape of a ladder seems to be visible in the lower left foreground. The sketchy angular strokes have been applied with a soft dark graphite pencil. Stylistically it is close to other works on paper by Bacon dated to 1933-34 including Crucifixion, 1933, Composition, 1933 and Corner of the Studio, 1934. However, the bond paper has a water mark, 'Harelaw', which was used on bond paper from the 1940s. It also appears on a number of Francis Bacon sketches in the Tate Gallery which date from the 1950s.
The most striking example of a clear compositional link between a drawing and a painting can be found in Figure mounting step, another drawing on heavy grade tracing paper (Fig 6). In this drawing, the lower section of a striding male figure mounting a step within a rectilinear structure is portrayed. It relates quite directly to the central panel of Triptych 198718 (Fig 7) and more loosely to Figure in Movement 1985 and the central panel of Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, 1981, which feature figures in similar poses. However, it is difficult to establish whether the drawing was done as a preliminary sketch for Triptych, 1987 or after the painting was completed. That so many of the drawings found in the studio are executed on tracing paper is significant and may provide further insights into Bacon’s idiosyncratic techniques. Bacon kept many of his own exhibition catalogues in the studio and he often painted over plates from catalogues of his paintings, almost as if he were still experimenting with the completed painting. It is possible that he also traced over the plates and that these drawings are the result of this. Many of the figures in Bacon’s paintings feature repeatedly and this may have been a simple way of borrowing a figurative motif from one painting and using it as a basis for another painting.
Over six hundred books were found in the Reece Mews studio and Bacon frequently used the blank endpapers of books to exe cute drawings or make hand-written notes. One of the best examples of Bacon’s painted sketches can be found in the end papers of a catalogue for an exhibition of paintings by Chaim Soutine held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1950. Many parallels can be made between the work of Bacon and Soutine, whom Bacon held in high esteem. Both were untrained and valued spontaneity in painting. The Soutine catalogue in the Hugh Lane Collection contains two drawings by Bacon dating from the late 1950s or possibly the early 1960s. Stylistically, these monochromatic drawings in black paint are completely different from each other. The drawing at the front of the book shows a chair on a raised dais within a circular space (Fig 8). Two owl-like forms can be noted on the back of the chair. Elements of this sketch are found in a number of different paint ings from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The raised platform and mottled carpet effect in the circular area can be related to the left and right hand panels of Triptych inspired by T S Eliot’s poem 'Sweeney Agonistes'. The second drawing, on the inside pages of the back cover (Fig 9) closely resembles the work of French artist, Henri Michaux. Around 1966, Bacon acquired an untitled Indian ink drawing by Michaux dating from 1962. Characteristically, he quickly tired of the Michaux drawing and sold it.
Another drawing by Bacon can be found in the endpapers of a book on film (Fig 14). The book was published in 1947 and it is likely that the sketch dates from the 1950s or early 1960s. It is executed in ballpoint pen and features a figure, seated on a divan and enclosed in a box. Although it cannot be conclusively related to any particular painting, it can be loosely related to Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, 1964. The posture of the figure resembles that of Francis Bacon’s painting Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud (sideways) August 1974. The divan and ovals are prominent features in a number of paintings. Aside from drawings, hand-written notes on ideas for paintings often feature on the endpapers of books. In fact, the large number of notes in Bacon’s very distinct handwriting held by the Hugh Lane archive is particularly revealing. Many of these clearly refer to ideas for future paintings and this very personal form of artistic shorthand is an excellent record of Bacon’s thought processes as demonstrated by his hand-written notes in V J Stanek’s text, Introducing Monkeys (c.1957) (Fig 16).19 The notes on the right hand page are dated August 18th, 1958 and one extract reads as follows: 'Concentrate entirely on studies of human figure and on heads situate figure in attitudes of apes background brilliant colour - netting – brick – tiles – and corrugated iron keep figure nude.'
Sometimes these hand-written notes appear in conjunction with a small sketch as is the case with the sheet of 'RMS Edinburgh Castle' notepaper (Fig 17). This had been inserted into a book on wildlife written by Alistair Graham and published in 1973. The book contains illustrations by Bacon’s friend, American wildlife photographer, Peter Beard. The note and sketch almost certainly date from the 1960s. The note reads 'Plan for painted sculpture Remember bird of prey end of the game figure moving on circular steel frame.' The small drawing below consists of a circular structure with a figure crawling on it and in the foreground are two pedestals with what may be a bird on the left one and either a head or another bird on the right one. The drawing can be read as an illustration of the notes. Bacon was fascinated with Greek and Egyptian sculpture. The reference to 'painted sculpture' may link with the herm-like forms found in paintings such as Triptych – Two figures lying on a bed with attendants, 1968. In the lower right foreground of the left panel of this triptych, a bird in flight is seen on a pedestal. Bacon includes images of birds of prey in a number of his paintings and books on this subject were found in the Reece Mews studio. The reference to 'end of the game' can be linked with Beard’s book of the same title which first appeared in 1965. The book dealt with the destruction of African wildlife and Beard’s spectacularly beautiful photographs of animals impressed Bacon who particularly admired his aerial shots of dead elephants. The reference to circular steel structures can also be easily explained. Circular steel structures first appeared in Bacon’s painting in 1946 and occur most often in his paintings of the 1960s such as From Muybridge - The Human Figure in Motion: Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water/Paralytic Child walking on all Fours, 1965 (Fig 10). It is likely that the inspiration for these came from the ultra-modernist pieces of furniture Bacon designed during his brief career as a furniture and interior designer around 1930.21 Two other drawings feature similar structures. In Figures on Rail (Fig 11), one can identify one or possibly two figures balanced on a circular tubular frame supported by three legs. The drawing is executed in grey, blue, and red felt-tip pens on paper and is in a fragile state. A piece of sellotape attached to the right edge indicates that it may have originally been attached to a support. Bacon frequently attached cuttings and drawings to cardboard using either sellotape or paperclips. This meant that they could be placed on a small easel to the left of his main easel in the studio which enabled him to glance at them while painting. A second drawing in brown felt-tip pen (Fig 12) on blue chain-laid manufactured paper features a figure or figures on a raised rectangular structure surrounded by a circle and possibly the outline of a second figure in a rectangular structure on the right. It shares certain formal elements with Triptych inspired by T S Eliot’s Poem 'Sweeney Agonistes, 1967.
Like Picasso, Bacon made interventions on newspapers, magazines, leaves torn from books, and photographs. Of these over worked pieces, the Cinerama sketch (Fig 15) is perhaps the most striking. It consists of a perspectival box painted in blue paint over an illustration of a projected image of a suited man. The man’s image consists of thin vertical strips. The caption above it reads 'The Cinerama screen looks like an unbroken flat surface to the audience but is actually made up of hundreds of overlap ping strips.' The vertical striations or shuttered effect must have appealed to Bacon and they relate to a number of paintings from the 1950s including Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953 and Study for a Portrait, 1953. In the 1950s, Bacon did a series of paintings of men in suits.
On other occasions, the artist worked directly on to photographs. A series of contact sheets with black and white photographs of wrestlers has significant over-drawings in red, green, purple felt-tip pen (Fig 13). Apparently, Bacon directed the photography in the 1970s22 and the photographs are reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of nude wrestlers which deeply influenced him. Bacon has overdrawn circles, lines, boxes, and arrows and he has even isolated particular areas of the image. These relate to Bacon’s paintings of isolated limbs from the late 1970s and early 1980s, in particular, Painting 1978. In conclusion, taken together, these works on paper in the Hugh Lane Collection make a significant contribution to studies of the artist’s work. While they may not compare favourably with works on paper by other artists, they do have intrinsic value in that they help to reveal Bacon’s method and thought processes. It is perhaps ironic that the best way to describe Bacon’s drawings is in his own words: when he said that possible drawings could only provide a skeleton for his works, he inadvertently provided us with an accurate description of his works on paper.
Dr Margarita Cappock is Project Manager of the Francis Bacon Studio which opened at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin in May 2001.
Acknowledgements I would like to express my gratitude to the following people: Barbara Dawson, Christine Kennedy, Maime Winters, Alexander Kearney, Professor John Turpin, and Paul Spellman. I am grateful to the Estate of Francis Bacon, the Tate Gallery, London, Stedilijk, Amsterdam for permission to reproduce a number of the paintings.
1 D Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon (London 1993), p. 190.
2 Sides of Bacon, London Weekend Television; produced by D Bailey, directed by B Gowers, including interview with D Sylvester (London Nov 1975).
3 Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings 1968-1974, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York 1975), Introduction by H Geldzahler, p. 10.
4 J Rothenstein and R Alley, Francis Bacon, (London 1964). This book includes a catalogue raisonne of Bacon’s work, p.30. A complete catalogue raisonne of Bacon’s oeuvre has never been produced.
5 D Sylvester (as note 1), pp. 20-21.
6 F Bacon, Interview with the artist by Melvyn Bragg, South Bank Show (LWT 1985).
7 Interview with Henri-Francois Debailleux, Liberation (Paris 29 Sept 1987) as quoted in Art REVIEW, 'Bacon’s Unseen Sketches', E Lucie Smith, p. 40.
8 In D Sylvester’s most recent publication, Looking Back at Bacon (London 2000), pp. 205-206, Sylvester refers to Bacon’s drawing as his 'secret vice'. He defends 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 realised that these were the tip of an iceberg.'
9 On his return from Tangier in the autumn of 1955, Bacon lived with Danquah and Pollock at Overstrand Mansions in Battersea until 1961. He also had a studio there and it is thought that all the Tate drawings were made in this studio. It has been suggested that the drawings were a gift to Danquah and Pollock instead of paying rent. After this period in Battersea, Bacon moved to Reece Mews, where he lived for the rest of his life.
10 Art REVIEW (as note 7) , p. 40.
11 The ground floor at Reece Mews was entirely occupied by a large garage where Bacon kept surplus items from the studio. It was here that Bacon allegedly brought Barry Joule to give him an old photograph album from which the snaps had been removed but which had been filled with drawings, oil sketches, collages, and paintings, including an early self-portrait. He also had books, bundles of old magazine pages, and photographs which had been worked over. Bacon helped Joule carry the material out to place in the boot of Joule’s car. Joule drove Bacon to the airport to get a flight to Madrid. On the way, he asked Bacon what he wanted him to do with the material to which Bacon replied 'You know what to do with it.' Joule asserts that if Bacon wanted him to destroy the material he would have said so in a clear, direct manner. Whether these sketches, drawings, and over-drawings are all by Bacon or whether there is another hand at work has not yet been resolved.
12 D Sylvester (as note 8), p. 208.
13 M Archimbaud, Francis Bacon, In conversation with Michel Archimbaud (London 1993), p. 33. 14 M Archimbaud (as note 13), p. 37.
15 D Sylvester (as note 8), p.245.
16 A large number of artists including Holbein, Bruegel, Bosch, Vermeer, Poussin, Klee, Dali, Ernst, Pollock, Hockney, and Sutherland came in for harsh criticism by Bacon.
17 M Gale, Francis Bacon, Working on Paper, Tate Gallery Publishing (London 1999), Introductory essay by David Sylvester, p. 10.
18 The original painting was inspired by a poem by the Spanish poet, Lorca, entitled 'Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias', a funeral song for the death of a torreador. Bacon was fascinated by bullfighting and did at least two other paintings on the subject.
19 Tate Gallery, London recently acquired a copy of V J Stanek’s Introducing Monkeys (c.1957) which also belonged to Bacon. In the Tate volume, Bacon’s notes on the endpapers are dated 11 Dec 1958. Using the same ballpoint pen he made most of the notes on 13 and 17 Dec. These continued at the front in different ink on 26 Dec and (in pencil) 9 January 1959. An inserted sheet is inscribed 10 Dec 1957. The notes on the Hugh Lane copy of this book pre date the Tate ones.
20 Bacon first met Peter Beard at the Claremont Club in London in 1965 for the launch of Beard’s book. A large amount of material relating to Beard was found in Bacon’s studio. Bacon also painted nine portraits of Beard who was strikingly good-looking.
21 On his return to London from Paris around 1928-1929, Bacon started to design furniture and carpets. In 1930, The Studio magazine published a feature on Bacon’s furniture designs under the heading 'The 1930 Look in British Decoration'.
Harrison, Francis Bacon, Paintings from the Estate 1980-1991, Points of
Reference, p. 18.
Three Bacon paintings up for auction
MAEV KENNEDY | ARTS & HERITAGE CORRESPONDENT | THE GUARDIAN | THURSDAY 10 JANUARY, 2002
Three angst-filled paintings by Francis Bacon including an ominous portrait of his lover, representing a traumatic period in the artist’s life, come up for auction in London next month.
Each is estimated by Christie’s at under £1m, but could well soar far past that: the world record for a Bacon is over £6m, paid at a Sotheby’s auction in New York last year, and a series of three portraits of his last companion, John Edwards, sold for just over £3m at Christie’s in London.
One of the paintings, Head, the contorted image of a surgeon with a lamp on his forehead, was given as a present to his friend, the writer Daniel Farson. Four years later, in 1966, Farson sold it – in his own words to his "lasting shame and regret" – for £2,400: it is now estimated at up to £500,000.
Bacon’s relationship in the 1950s with a former fighter pilot, Peter Lacy, was marked by fights which frequently became violent, and sometimes led to Lacy physically attacking Bacon’s canvases. Head was painted in 1962, the year of Lacy’s death.
A second small canvas was painted the following year, Portrait of Man with Glasses IV, and shows a face so distorted and apparently blood-spattered that it appears to have been beaten to a pulp: it is estimated at up to £400,000.
The painting expected to attract most interest is a portrait of Lacy himself, Man in Blue VII, estimated at up to £700,000. It was the culmination of a series painted in 1954 when Bacon was staying at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames, to be near Lacy’s house.
Christie’s specialist Fernando Mignoni said yesterday: "It is only fitting that a painting that show’s traces of the features of Lacy, with whom Bacon had a turbulent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity. This is Bacon at his most existential."
Bacon’s reputation has continued to soar since he died in 1992 of a heart attack, leaving his entire fortune, then estimated at £11m, to John Edwards, a former East End barman.
His chaotic studio, often knee-deep in litter, has been treated as a shrine, and recreated in his native – but hastily abandoned – Dublin.
Three paintings by Francis Bacon, including a portrait of a tortured-looking Peter Lacy, a homosexual lover, are expected to fetch up to £2m at auction in London next month.
Nearly 10 years after the death of Britain’s finest post-war artist, competition is expected to be intense for Man in Blue VII, part of a series Bacon painted in the early Fifties with Lacy as a model.
The tension-filled portrait shows the subject in a dark suit, standing as though in the dock of a courtroom. Bacon emphasises his subject’s vulnerability by ghostly vertical stripes in the background, which resemble cell bars.
The 60in by 42in (150cm by 105cm) oil on canvas is estimated to fetch about £700, 000 at Christie’s on 6 February. A second, much smaller Bacon, a haunting and disturbing painting called Head and given by the artist to his friend, the writer Daniel Farson, in 1962, is estimated at up to £500,000. Farson, to his "lasting shame and regret", sold the painting in 1966 for £2,400 when he found himself "in the doldrums".
A third Bacon, Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV, painted in 1963 and showing a distorted face reminiscent of the nanny shot in the head in the Russian film classic Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, should make up to £400,000. It is being offered for sale by a private collector.
The Man in Blue portrait, for which competition is expected to be fiercest, was painted in 1954 while Bacon was staying in the Imperial Hotel, Henley-on-Thames, to be close to Lacy, who had a house in the Oxfordshire town. Fernando Mignoni, a Christie’s specialist, said yesterday: "It is only fitting that a painting showing traces of the features of Lacy, with whom Bacon had a turbulent and at times violent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity.
"This is Bacon at his most existential, painting the whole angst and fragility of life."
Last year, three 1984 portraits by Bacon of another lover, John Edwards, fetched more than £3m at Christie’s in London. The world record for a Bacon is $6.6m (£4.6m) for a 1966 portrait of a previous lover, George Dyer, who killed himself in 1971. Edwards met Bacon in 1974 and stayed with him until the artist’s death. He was, like Dyer, an East End boy much younger than Bacon.
Next month, the High Court in London will hear allegations that Bacon was blackmailed into staying with the Marlborough Fine Art gallery in London. The Pace Gallery in New York offered to pay Bacon £50,000 a painting in 1978, but its owner, Arnold Glimcher, claimed that Bacon stayed with Marlborough after it allegedly threatened to stop his access to his Swiss bank account and expose him to higher income tax.
The court ruling will settle a £100m battle waged by trustees of the Bacon estate to establish exactly how much the artist was paid in his 34-year relationship with Marlborough.
'7 Reece Mews, Francis Bacon’s studio'
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
119 Wooster Street
Through Jan. 26
By ROBERTA SMITH | ART IN REVIEW | THE NEW YORK TIMES | FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 2002
Francis Bacon had the studio from hell: famously small, never cleaned and unrepentantly messy. After his death in 1992, it was donated to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin, which transported it scrap by scrap, smear by smear, and brush by filthy brush from London to the artist’s country of birth.
The disassembling and reassembling of this setting, including walls and especially the ankle-deep debris of printed matter, photographs and art materials on the floor, was something of an archaeological tour de force. For better for worse, it set a new standard for the preservation of artists’ studios.
The project began with Perry Ogden’s meticulous color photographs of the site. Already published in a book and in a Hugh Lane catalog, they are now being presented as art, part of the growing photographic subgenre straddling art and documentary. The images first strike the eye as generic and familiar, a kind of lazy-man’s collage. But soon the forests of dirty brushes, the walls abloom with color tests, the paint-encrusted easel and most of all the detritus underfoot specify the context to an utterly engrossing degree.
There are snapshots of Bacon and reproductions of his art and the art of others. There are all manner of photographs, including reproductions of Eadweard Muybridge’s ''Human Locomotion'' series; books on bullfighting and sports; strong-man magazines; a biography of Karl Marx. The importance of both photography and personal relationships to Bacon’s art is reflected in an image centered on a creased, torn photograph of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, standing in his underwear in Bacon’s studio — next to a wall pinned with photographs.
Like its preservation, these photographs could be said to fetishize the artist’s studio. But they also provide an unusually tangible tour of Bacon’s brain. In the process they reveal art-making as a process of tremendous, hard-won distillation, fed by incalculable amounts and many different kinds of knowledge, work and looking.
All of this was in pursuit of paintings that Bacon intended people to see. That his studio’s chaos was intrinsic to the artist’s process and possessed an order of its own is suggested by Mr. Odgen’s photographs of Bacon’s modest, neat-as-a-pin living quarters, just outside the studio door.
HENRY LYDIATE | ARTLAW | ART MONTHLY | ISSUE NUMBER 253 | FEBRUARY 2002
The new year ushered in several important judicial decisions dealing with artlaw matters, including the Bacon Estate.
It will be recalled that Francis Bacon died in 1992 and left his estate to his friend John Edwards, naming Brian Clarke as one of his executors. The case is being brought by Clarke against Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd and Marlborough International Fine Art (Liechtenstein). Clarke is alleging that Bacon was dealt with inappropriately by his gallery, specifically (and amongst other things) in relation to payments for his work.
Late last year, Clarke applied to the London High Court to include in his claim a specific allegation that when Bacon was considering changing his dealer (from Marlborough to the Pace Gallery) in the expectation that he might increase his income from sales, Marlborough’s then Director Frank Lloyd pressured Bacon to continue with them: in particular, by suggesting that if he left Marlborough he might then experience difficulty in accessing money in his Swiss bank accounts, and might encounter future difficulties in dealing with the UK’s Inland Revenue. Shortly after this alleged encounter, Bacon decided to remain with Marlborough. The High Court allowed those accusations to be included in Clarke’s claim.
This decision does not mean that the judge has accepted that the accusations are proven, or likely to succeed; simply that there appears to be on the face of the evidence presented a real issue to be dealt with at the full hearing. Marlborough argued strongly against the inclusion of this latest claim, which it will now contest at the full hearing, likely to be held in coming weeks.
© Henry Lydiate 2002
Francis Bacon and Dealer Settle a Two Year Suit Over Pricing
By CAROL VOGEL | THE NEW YORK TIMES | SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2002
In the eve of what could have been one of the art world’s nastiest trials, the estate of Francis Bacon and the artist’s dealer mutually agreed to withdraw a two-year-old case in England over whether the dealer had fraudulently earned tens of millions of dollars by consistently undervaluing many of Mr. Bacon’s paintings.
Under their agreement, the estate and the dealer, Marlborough U.K. and Marlborough International, will each bear its own legal costs and be spared the risk of losing a bruising case and having to pay both sides’ legal fees, which could have come to more than $15 million.
Also adding to the estate’s decision not to go to trial was the fact that John Edwards, the sole heir, was recently found to have lung cancer.
"It was going to be a long, tough case," said John Eastman, one of the estate’s lawyers. He said the estate’s executor chose to conclude the case with the uncertain outcome among the uppermost things in his mind.
Mr. Bacon, who died in 1992, left his estate to Mr. Edwards, a reclusive character with whom he had a filial relationship. Over the years Mr. Bacon’s paintings of distorted, anguished figures brought as much as $6 million at auction and made him one of Britain’s most celebrated postwar artists.
The suit contended that Marlborough controlled the most minute aspects of Mr. Bacon’s financial and personal life — to the point of paying his laundry bills and handing him spending money — and so could buy paintings from him at greatly reduced rates and quickly resell them for substantially higher prices.
Stanley Bergman, a lawyer for Marlborough, called the charges baseless, saying the estate "realized it was without merit."Mr. Eastman said that the executor, Brian Clarke, is completing plans to set up the John Edwards Charitable Foundation for the study of Francis Bacon and his work.
POST-WAR (EVENING SALE)
London, King Street Sale Date Feb 06, 2002
Creator Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Lot title Portrait of Man with Glasses IV
Portrait of Man with Glasses IV Painted in 1963
oil on canvas 14 1/8 x 12in. (36 x 30¼cm.)
Provenance A gift from the artist to the present owner.
Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 154, no. 220
John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1985, p. 123.
Estimate 300,000 - 400,000 British pounds
Painted in 1963, Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV was one of a series of four pictures depicting the same man at slightly varying angles. In the early 1960s, Bacon increasingly used small canvases to paint bust portraits, sometimes executing small series reminiscent in their variations of the sequence photography of his much admired Edward Muybridge.
Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV shows a distorted face looking as though it has been beaten to a pulp. The mangled glasses even have a spray of red, implying blood. The head looks battered and bruised. The glasses make this an image reminiscent of one of the most important sources of inspiration to Bacon, the nanny shot in the head in Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin, where the woman’s twisted glasses are shattered, blood on her face, her mouth open in a scream. Of this film, Bacon said, 'It was a film I saw almost before I began to paint, and it deeply impressed me — I mean the whole film as well as the Odessa Steps sequence and this shot. I did hope at one time to make — it hasn’t got any special psychological significance — I did hope one day to make the best painting of the human cry… it’s much better in the Eisenstein' (Bacon, 1966, quoted in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1990, p.34). Here, Bacon has eschewed his quest for the human cry, instead presenting a haunting image of a beaten man. The dark abysses in place of the eyes create a skull-like effect, while the mouth, so detached from any scream, seems to show the man’s resignation, his facial expression appearing as hollow as his eye-sockets.
The dark background in Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV pushes the flesh to the fore, as does the composition. The unpainted areas meld with the man’s body and hair. Bacon often used contrasting thick and thin paints, heightening the almost plastic effect of the flesh, but here he has taken it to an extreme, the small areas of raw canvas adding both colour and texture to the painting. Using this technique on the hair and torso of the man serves to make the pallid flesh all the more striking, sensuous yet repellent. Portrait of a Man with Glasses: 'had passed between them, like a snail, leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events, as the snail leaves its slime. I think the whole process of this sort of elliptical form is dependent on the execution of detail and how shapes are remade or put slightly out of focus to bring in their memory traces' (Bacon, quoted in The New Decade, New York, 1955, p.63.)
The Estate of Francis Bacon drops legal action against Marlborough
No evidence of blackmail, and video shows the artist satisfied with his gallery
MARTIN BAILEY | THE ART NEWSPAPER | FRIDAY 1 MARCH 2002
The Bacon Estate has dropped its legal action against the Marlborough
Gallery, just days before the full hearing was due to begin. Executor
Professor Brian Clarke had initiated the case because of concerns that the
London gallery and its Liechtenstein subsidiary had not paid Francis Bacon
properly for his pictures, resulting in a loss which could have amounted to
as much as £100 million. The Estate also suggested that Marlborough had
“blackmailed” the artist to prevent him moving to New York’s Pace Gallery (The
Art Newspaper, No.121, January 2002, p.3).
Last month the Estate said it was “pleased to announce that it has settled its litigation with Marlborough.” Both sides are paying their own legal costs, which altogether could amount to £10 million. It was also revealed that the Estate’s sole beneficiary, Bacon’s close friend John Edwards, 51, is suffering from a serious form of lung cancer. The Estate explained: “This settlement has been agreed, against this background and on the basis of Professor Clarke’s assessment of the merits of the case in the light of documents and witness evidence released by Marlborough in the latter part of last year.” The three-month trial, due to start on 18 February, was abandoned at a formal hearing on 6 February.
Marlborough was also delighted with the outcome. Gallery head Mr Gilbert Lloyd commented: “We are pleased that the Estate has finally accepted that the entire case is completely without foundation. The case was totally unsustainable. Contrary to the Estate’s claims, no paintings are missing, no fraud took place and there was no attempt at blackmail. The result of the action is that the Estate has needlessly wasted millions of pounds on legal costs.”
A key factor behind the dropping of the case was the question of evidence of the blackmail which is alleged to have taken place in 1978. Pace director Mr Arnold Glimcher, who had heard about the allegation at the time, believed that his source had probably been Michael Peppiatt, an art historian and close friend of Bacon. Initially Mr Peppiatt did not wish to become involved in the recent legal case, but last month he met Marlborough and told them that he had no knowledge about the alleged blackmail. According to Marlborough’s record of their meeting with Mr Peppiatt on 4 February 2002: “Neither blackmail nor any suggestion of blackmail was ever mentioned by Mr Peppiatt, Mr Glimcher or by Bacon [in 1978]. The first time Mr Peppiatt remembers blackmail being mentioned was in late 1999. The word was first mentioned by Brian Clarke when he was telling him of the various misdemeanours of which he suspected Marlborough.”
The Estate puts a different gloss on the situation. In a statement, it said that although Mr Peppiatt had no knowledge of blackmail, “there remains an unresolved conflict of evidence; Mr Glimcher is clear and detailed as to what he was told; Mr Peppiatt has made it plain that he could not have been the source of that information.”
Further evidence to support Marlborough’s argument that Bacon had been treated properly by the gallery came in the form of a video film made by Francis Giacobetti shortly before the artist’s death ten years ago. In the video, Bacon describes the system under which Marlborough sold his paintings, an arrangement with which he appeared satisfied. This evidence would have proved helpful to the gallery if the case had proceeded.
Speaking after the claim had been dropped, Professor Clarke told The Art Newspaper: “We now intend to focus all the Estate’s resources in creative enterprises relating to Bacon rather than the time-consuming investigation of the relationship between artist and Marlborough.” To this end the John Edwards Charitable Foundation is being set up to advance the study of Bacon and his work. It is expected to be chaired by Professor Clarke. Although the Estate was valued at £11 million a decade ago (in paintings and other assets) and has since grown, millions of pounds were spent on legal fees. It is therefore possible that pictures may have to be sold to fund the foundation’s work in the years to come. The most ambitious project will be the publication of a catalogue raisonné of Bacon’s oeuvre. Professor Clarke has already identified eight art historians who might be a suitable editor, and a decision will be made shortly on who should lead the project. A book on the relationship between Bacon and photography is also expected to be commissioned later this month and other publications are likely to follow. Professor Clarke points out that the information which surfaced during the legal proceedings will “cause almost every book on Bacon to have to be reassessed in some ways.” The Estate, which owns a number of important paintings, has already had requests to participate in 14 Bacon exhibitions, including two major retrospectives planned for the next couple of years.
The difficult question now is whether the Estate and Marlborough will be able to work together. The Estate may need access to Marlborough’s photographs of lost and destroyed works for its catalogue raisonné. The gallery, on its side, will only have limited rights to reproduce Bacon paintings which it wishes to sell. In theory, the two sides would benefit from cooperation. However, relations between the Bacon’s Estate and his life-long dealer are now strained and it may be some time before they can work constructively together.
A photograph of Francis Bacon taken by his sole heir, John Edwards
HENRY LYDIATE | ARTLAW | ART MONTHLY | ISSUE NUMBER 254 | MARCH 2002
On February 6, 2002, the High Court in London dismissed the claims brought by Brian Clarke against the Marlborough Gallery, on behalf of the Estate of Francis Bacon, who had decided not to pursue the matter. The Judge, Mr Justice Patten, was told that the parties had managed to resolve their differences, and would not require the court to conduct an estimated three month trial of the issues, which had been set to start on February 18, 2002
Bacon died in 1992 and his will named Clarke as one of two executors of his Estate, responsible for managing his affairs and ensuring that Bacon’s friend John Edwards received the artist’s assets remaining; after all expenses and taxes had been paid.
The first legal issue arose when the High Court ordered the removal of Clarke’s co-executor, who was a Director of the Marlborough Gallery. There was an apparent conflict of interest between the duty of the executors (to maximise the value of Bacon’s estate) on the one hand, and the duty of Marlborough’s Director (to act in the best interests of the Gallery), on the other hand. It would have been unfair to both the Gallery and the Estate for the Director to continue to act in both capacities. This decision left Clarke as sole executor, and he had no such conflicting interests, being a friend of Bacon in his later years and wishing merely to do his best for the Estate.
As the nature and extent of Bacon’s dealings with the Marlborough Gallery over five decades (from around 1956) began to emerge, Clarke’s concerns over the artist/gallery relationship began to develop. Eventually, Clarke’s concerns drove him to launch proceedings against Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd and Marlborough International Fine Art (Liechtenstein); he sought clarification of the nature and extent of the contractual relationship between the artist and gallery over 40 years. The Gallery resisted Clarke’s claims that it had dealt with Bacon inappropriately.
One of the major issues in the case was whether or not Bacon was subjected to undue influence by the Gallery, and this and other issues were complicated by the paucity of clear documentary evidence of the terms of the contract between them. The particulars of claim served by the Estate asserted that ‘the artist was bohemian lacking in business and financial experience without the benefit of any independent advice’; which claim the Gallery disputed.
The Estate also asserted that the Gallery owed the artist a high duty of care, attention and transparency in its commercial dealings with him, and had failed in these respects; for example; by paying Bacon £6,000 for a work and re-selling it for seven times as much; the absence of clarity as to whether works were ‘bought in’ by the Gallery and then re-sold for a profit it determined, or were sold by the Gallery on behalf of the artist as his agent; and that many paintings were unaccounted for. Marlborough strenuously resisted all such claims, and contended amongst other things that Bacon’s works were purchased ‘in arm’s length’ transactions.
Late last year the case took a dramatic turn when the High Court allowed Clarke to include in his claim a specific allegation: that, when Bacon was considering changing his dealer (from Marlborough to the Pace Gallery, New York), Marlborough unduly influenced the artist to continue with it by suggesting that he might then experience difficulties both in accessing money in his Swiss bank accounts and in his future dealings with the UK’s Inland Revenue (see AM 253).
This latest assertion appears to have flowed from a recent dialogue between Clarke and the well-known art historian Michael Peppiatt (a friend of Bacon), in which they had discussed Peppiatt’s recollections of his liaising with Arnold Glimcher, the Chairman of the Pace Gallery, New York around 1978. Peppiatt had evidently acted as honest broker, relaying to Bacon that Glimcher was interested in representing him and attending a meeting which was then arranged between the artist and Glimcher at which sale prices and Bacon’s shares thereof were discussed. Nothing came of this exchange and Bacon remained with Marlborough.
Days before what became the final High Court hearing on February 6, Peppiatt formally clarified to Marlborough’s solicitors that in his discussions with Clarke he had not encouraged Clarke to believe that there was any substance in the suggestion that Bacon had been blackmailed by Marlborough. And it was this event which triggered the settlement of the dispute and the formal dismissal of the Estate’s claims; the terms of the settlement are not public knowledge.
At the heart of this sorry saga lies the absence of clear documentation recording the nature and extent of the respective contractual duties and obligations of artist and gallery. For the past 25 years or so (and throughout roughly half the length of Bacon’s contractual relationship with Marlborough) this column and other informed commentators have increasingly and continually stressed the need for such clear documentation between artist and gallery; covering, amongst other things:
* parties’ names and contact data
* dealer’s engagement (exclusively or otherwise) to promote and represent the artist by one or any combination of:
1 selling work
2 arranging commissions
3 arranging showings
4 arranging lectures, talks and media appearances
*which works are included: all; only paintings; only works on paper; sculpture alone, and so on; existing and/or future work
*copyright: who owns it, manages and licenses reproductions and on what terms
*moral rights: who can allow works or reproductions of them to be altered or amended in some way
*geography: the limit of the dealership’s territorial representation (worldwide; only EU; EU and North America and so on)
*length of representation: whether for a fixed term (normally no more than two years) or periodically renewable with written notice on either side
*sales: pricing strategy: timing of release into primary marketplace; gallery’s commission; VAT arrangement
*consigned works: details of finished or future works to be deposited with (consigned to) the gallery for sale/not for sale
*bought-in works: how many and which ones will or may be bought in by the gallery; prices including discount to the gallery.
Crucially, such deals also need to clarify: when and how the artist will be paid, and for statements of account to be given by the gallery; details of all transactions including names of purchasers, prices, commission, and so on, and whether cash advances or stipends are to be set off against future income: the artist’s rights to have access to the gallery’s accounts and records, for the purpose of independent auditing (if ever required by the artist).
Finally, agreement as to what should happen to the works, benefits and obligations covered by the deal in the event of the artist’s death or the dealer’s bankruptcy or ceasing to trade. Sadly, the creation and regular updating of such documentation or similar records continue to be avoided by many artists and their dealers/galleries – often in the belief that they are unnecessarily bureaucratic and time-consuming matters. In truth, they are necessary ‘good housekeeping’ chores; every good home should have them.
© Henry Lydiate 2002
FRANCIS BACON STUDIO
BARBARA DAWSON | LETTERS | THE IRISH TIMES | FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2002
Sir, — Victoria White's Front Row of January 31st was somewhat confusing in its comparisons between the National Gallery of Ireland and the Hugh Lane Gallery.
The excellent exhibition, Monet, Renoir and the Impressionist Landscape, at the National Gallery of Ireland is a temporary exhibition and, like all shows of impressionist paintings, has a broad appeal and will achieve high visitor numbers, as such exhibitions do in any city.
The Royal Academy's recent Monet exhibition in London was a case in point.
The Francis Bacon Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery is a permanent installation built to house a fascinating collection of items which provide unprecedented insights into the mind of one of the most significant painters of the 20th century.
The studio has been a major critical success and has received positive and lengthy reviews both in Ireland and abroad, the most recent being in the New York Times and the Washington Post (January 20th).
Francis Bacon’s studio is a unique installation. It consists of a superb series of rooms designed by David Chipperfield which house the studio, a small cinema screening the celebrated Melvyn Bragg interview with Francis Bacon, a micro-gallery with seven touch-screen interactive terminals to allow the visitor to explore the studio contents, and a gallery of unfinished paintings which have never been previously exhibited, making it one of Dublin’s top cultural attractions.
The studio has also won two prestigious awards: the Best Larger Museum Award from the Gulbenkian Foundation in association with the Heritage Council and Museums Council of Northern Ireland; and the Interpret Ireland Award from the Association for Heritage Interpretation (UK).
Contrary to what Victoria White suggests, we are very happy with our visitor numbers.
I think Dublin is fortunate to have the opportunity to host a world-class Impressionist exhibition at the same time as the superb installation of Francis Bacon’s Studio. — Yours, etc.,
of Modern Art,
FRANCIS BACON STUDIO
STAN GOGGIN | LETTERS | THE IRISH TIMES | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 2002
Sir, — The letter of March 8th from Barbara Dawson, director of the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, contained the sad news that she considers the Francis Bacon Studio to be a permanent installation at the Municipal Gallery. I sincerely hope not.
Installed, perhaps, in a Dublin house, owned by the Bacon family, it might serve as some form of monument to the artist. Installed in the Municipal Gallery, it is a monumental error.
Minimalist works, soiled beds, lists of past lovers, animal bodies in formaldehyde and elephant dung arrangements are, at least, planned by their originator to have some contrived effect on the beholder. The studio "happened” through years of sheer neglect. Dublin gained a cleaner’s worst nightmare and, in exchange, lost a small but long-admired showing of Roderic O’Connor’s work, which — dare I suggest, from an Irish and tourist point of view — was every bit as important as the well advertised and over-vaunted “Impressionist” exhibition at the National Gallery.
As regards the National Gallery extension, I have read glowing “architectural” reports. They seem to ignore the “mean streets” entrance, the labour exchange lobby, the darkest, most characterless shop I’ve ever seen, the labyrinthine passageways to the old gallery and the truncated and now claustrophobic old shop.
Perhaps someone might give an opinion on whether the external stone facing is completed! — Yours, etc.
The art of loss
Paul Bailey on a collection of portraits of creative gay lives:
Love in a Dark Time:
Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar by Colm Tóibín
Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar Colm Tóibín 288pp, Picador, £16.99
PAUL BAILEY | THE GUARDIAN | SATURDAY, 13 APRIL, 2002
In the introduction to this perceptive collection of essays, Colm Tóibín admits to an "abiding fascination with sadness...and, indeed, tragedy". It should be stressed that this is a sympathetic fascination, not a morbid or mawkish one, as his brief accounts of the painful lives of Elizabeth Bishop and James Baldwin – two of the best pieces here – testify.
What Tóibín admires about the
painter Francis Bacon is his life-long refusal to play the role of "tragic
queer". He is properly scathing about the three biographies that appeared, with
indecent haste, after Bacon’s death –
–by Andrew Sinclair (scissors and paste), Michael Peppiatt (dull when it isn’t prurient) and Daniel Farson (a hotchpotch of sexual tittle-tattle). "It is one of the problems of biography that it seeks out the colourful and the dramatic at the expense of the ordinary and true," Tóibín observes.
Bacon’s relationship with George Dyer wasn’t all gloom and drunken doom – at least, not in the beginning. Tóibín prefers to look at the paintings, with apt quotations from Bacon’s conversations with David Sylvester, Michel Archimbaud and the shrewdly observant John Russell. He reminds us how hard Bacon worked, and that the real danger he had to cope with was that of repeating himself and burning himself out. This is more interesting, though less amusing, than his remark – which was intended to be heard by the posh women seated nearby – that he wanted to be buggered by Colonel Gadafy.
Tóibín’s other subjects are Oscar Wilde, Roger Casement, the poets Thom Gunn and Mark Doty, and the film director Pedro Almodóvar. This last, a reprinted article from Vanity Fair, is the one really weak chapter in this otherwise fine and thoughtful book. One wants to know more about this man who thrives in an atmosphere of chaos. Tóibín, for once, provides only a sketch, instead of the customary rounded portrait.
Paul Bailey’s most recent book is Three Queer Lives (Hamish Hamilton).
Obituary: Graham Mason 1942-2002
Denizen of Soho, journalist
OBITUARIES | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | TUESDAY, 9 APRIL, 2002
GRAHAM MASON, the journalist who has died aged 59, was in the 1980s the drunkest man in the Coach and Horses, the pub in Soho where, in the half century after the Second World War, a tragicomedy was played out nightly by its regulars.
His claim to a title in bibulous misbehaviour was staked against stiff competition from Jeffrey Bernard and a dedicated cast of less-celebrated but formidable drinkers.
Mason was a fearsome sight at his most drunkenly irascible. Seated at the bar, his thin shanks wrapped around the legs of a high stool, he would swivel his reptilian stare around behind him to any unfortunate stranger attempting to be served and snap: "Who the fuck are you?"
Unlike his friend Bernard, though, Mason did not make himself the hero of his own tragedy. His speciality was the extreme. In one drinking binge he went for nine days without food. At the height of his consumption, before he was frightened by epileptic fits into cutting back, he was managing two bottles of vodka a day.
At lunchtime he would walk through the door of the Coach and Horses still trembling with hangover, his nose and ears blue whatever the weather. On one cold day he complained of the noise that the snow made as it landed on his bald head.
His practice of "boozer’s economics" meant dressing in the shabbiest of clothes, many of them inherited from the late husband of the woman with whom he lived. He wore a threadbare duffle coat with broken toggles. One day it was inexplicably stolen from the pub coat hook. Bernard took the opportunity to combine kindness with condescension by buying a replacement of much grander design and cloth.
From the 1960s on, Mason was a friend of many of the painters, writers, actors, layabouts, retired prostitutes, stagehands and hopeless cases that then gave Soho its flavour. He enjoyed talking to Francis Bacon in the Colony Room Club because Francis Bacon was funny; and, until they finally had a row, Francis Bacon enjoyed talking to him.
In a couple of hours one evening in February 1988 he had loud altercations with John Hurt ("You’re just a bad actor"); with a law writer nicknamed the Red Baron, who was later murdered ("You know I don’t like you. Go away and leave me alone"); and with Bernard (who stood up and shook him by the lapels).
Michael Heath often featured Mason in his comic strip The Regulars. In one episode he is shown apologising for being so rude the night before: "You see, I was sober."
Amid the violence of Soho arguments he became a friend of Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian author of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a book about her lover George Barker, the poet, who became another friend. Mason also succeeded in liking Francis Bacon’s final close friend, John Edwards, which some people did not.
Mason felt at home in the Colony Room Club in the years before homosexuality was decriminalised because no-one who drank there minded one way or the other.
Mason’s own closest friendship was with Marsh Dunbar, the widow of an admired art director at The Economist. He lodged with her at first in a fine early 19th-century house in Canonbury Square, Islington, where she was bringing up three sons. She had herself fallen into Soho after the war, knowing everyone from John Minton to Lucian Freud. Though enthusiastically heterosexual, she lived with him until her death.
In the days before licensing liberalisation, he resorted in the afternoon when pubs were closed to drinking clubs such as the Kismet, a damp basement with a smell that wits identified as "failure"; it was known as "the Iron Lung" and "Death in the Afternoon". Mason admired the diminutive but firm presence behind the bar, known as Maltese Mary. But his favourite resort remained the Colony.
Graham Edward Mason was born in Cape Town, South Africa. He had been conceived on a sand dune and to this he sometimes attributed his abrasive character.
He was educated at Chingola, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), and then joined a local newspaper. From there, as a bright and promising 18-year-old, he was recruited for the American news agency UPI by its bureau chief in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe).
He learnt fast as a reporter of the civil war in Congo, finding the veterans from the Algerian war among his colleagues both kind and helpful. He witnessed a line of prisoners executed with pistol shots to the head and was himself injured in the thigh and chin by a mortar shell. Among those he interviewed were Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe; he did not take to the latter.
Posted to the UPI office in London in 1963, he set off in a Land Rover with three friends and no proper map through Tanganyika, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, and then on an East German ship via Trieste to Hull.
From UPI’s London office in Bouverie Street, Mason soon discovered Soho and, like many before him, felt he had come home. He continued as a foreign correspondent, taking a year out in 1968 to work for 20th Century Fox on feature films, which he hated.
With BBC Television news he reported from the Northern Ireland troubles and in 1975 took another year out to run a bar in Nicosia. It happened to coincide with civil war and he and Dunbar were lucky to be evacuated by the RAF. From then until 1980 he worked for ITN. One day he was found asleep under his desk, drunk. It was something of a low point.
He was living with Dunbar in a flat in Berwick Street, Soho. A fire there sent them, fleeing bills, to a rundown council tower block on the Isle of Dogs. The compensation was a view of a sweep of the Thames towards Greenwich. He worked while he still could, managing Bobby Hunt’s photographic library.
Mason cooked Mediterranean food well and liked classical music and fireworks. After Dunbar’s death in 2001, with almost all his friends dead, he sat imprisoned by emphysema in his flat, with a cylinder of oxygen by his armchair and bottles of white wine by his elbow, looking out over the Thames, still very angry.
“Cheerio” ... Francis Bacon, Graham Mason’s friend and fellow-drinker, in one of their favourite watering holes.
Francis Bacon and the Death of Art
British painter Francis Bacon has been dead for ten years, and, in a way, so has art—at least the kind that makes known the wounds we inflict on one another and on ourselves. Now we get that other British bad boy, Damian Hirst, chopping up animals and distilling them in formaldehyde.
Bacon painted people as though they were hit with force-ten storms and knifing rains. Their anxiety chokes them purple. Their edges appear in fitful blurs. Color is so loud that it comes across like hostility. Even the pigment looks racked. You feel assaulted by an unknown dread when you see it. You try to make sense of it. Bacon said not to try:
"Hardly anyone really feels about painting. They read things into it—even the most intelligent people—they think they understand it, but very, very few people are aesthetically touched by painting." Culture critic Susan Sontag said something similar. Too many intellectualize art at the expense of sensory experience. She called it the "erotics of art."
The "erotics of Bacon’s art" is raw flesh. Ripping past the skin, past surface reality, he pictured that level of existence within us that has no visible reality—the panic brought on by estrangement—not from others, necessarily, but from ourselves. His paintings are us, inside out.
And Bacon’s point in regard to aesthetics is about the other part of us, our outsides. Aesthetic form is our physical form—the symmetry of our limbs and face parts, the contrast of skin to hair to teeth, which is probably why good composition in art attracts us. We seek out what we are, what we know.
There’re plenty of our physical selves in Bacon’s work. Without it, his expression of emotion would be just a tantrum made graphic—boneless and featureless. Like us, Bacon’s paintings are aesthetically structured. While the derangement he illustrates is barefaced, his configuration of colors and shapes is a physical monument to order. Call it a mix of truth and beauty. Beyond the psychic scars that he exposes with color and shape, beyond his urge to express a state of mind, is the urge to sort it out and put it right. And that’s where art comes in: crystallizing/controlling the chaos that is life.
Georges Seurat showed the same urge in his painting, La Grande Jatte. The sublime arrangement of tiny dots, made with machinelike precision, is really Seurat describing the joylessness of middle-class life. Empty faces and starched, separate bodies are his icons of alienation in modern life. The dot matrix magnifies the anonymity of that life.
Like Seurat, Bacon conveyed the
modern experience of isolation. His Study After Velasquez: Pope Innocence X is
a 17th century figure passed through the 20th century experience. As if weighed
down by the pressures of orthodoxy, the figure sits on a throne of gold, looking
caged, Bacon’s vertical brushwork approximating prison bars. Yet the
architecture of the picture—the weave of his paint swaths—comes across like a
steady rain, the yellow of the throne looking like the rays of a sun breaking
Bacon’s Crouched Nude shows the same architecture—the caged setting and the look of a downpour. In much the same way, in his One of Three Studies for a Crucifixion, the splattered blood-reds—resembling shafts of light dropped by a morning sun—seem to paint a new day, the smooth background reds signaling the unspoiled air.
All of which makes the crown of gloom over Bacon’s work, by contrast, appear all the more wretched—like a bad traffic accident on a pretty day.
This is a long way from the Luis Buñuel film that is said to have influenced him. By the incoherent, unconnected slices of life in Un Chien Andalou—such as dead donkeys lying on two pianos—Buñuel can be said to have held more sway over Hirst than Bacon. Consider Hirst’s mindless display of an actual pig carcass cut length-wise, its halves suspended with one inching back and forth on a mechanized tract so the carcass looks like it’s being constantly sliced.
However disturbing Bacon’s work
is, however it pokes out our eyes with edginess, it’s not the shock art of a
Hirst and other artmakers in the ’90s who functioned like a work party of Larry
Flynts, depicting bodily functions and sadomasochistic acts of gore. Granted,
toward the end of his life, Bacon showed a splatter of blood on the floor of an
otherwise bare room in Blood on the Floor. But by giving it a context of
an empty room, Bacon heightened the sense of lost life. He made you feel the
Bacon’s shock art, then, never is the stuff of, say, that plastic facsimile of puke that showed in the ’90s at the Whitney in New York. Or the bed frame there covered by muslin burned through with hot irons—the burn marks standing for answers to a sex survey: "More than once a week. Once a week. Two to three times a month." Bacon also gave us a bed scene with his Three Studies of Figures on Beds. But while he shows couples twisted in knots of need, burying themselves into one another, he gave them context. Bare walls, lumpy bare mattresses and a naked light bulb heighten the air of unleashed hunger and abandon, which is far and away from illustrated answers to a sex survey.
Some say that shock art has a point, that it’s meant to jolt us into realizing and solving our problems. It doesn’t say enough to do that. It just entertains or enrages us. Bacon’s art says something. He saved his work from the merely shocking with that mix of truth and beauty in which color reveals our nervous system and smeary shapes record our cries.
In the autobiography Flaw in
the Glass by Noble Prize winner Patrick White, Bacon’s appreciation of
beauty got a mention: "One afternoon at Battersea, crossing the river together
by a temporary footbridge while the permanent structure was under repair, he
(Bacon) became entranced by the abstract graffiti scribbled in pencil on its
timbered side. Alone, I don’t expect I would have noticed the effortless
convolutions of line he pointed out for me to admire."
Of course, beauty without truth in art is just as empty as shock art. Impressionism makes the point, its fleeting brushwork being about surface things, about our eye, as if that’s all we are about: style. Bacon had us covered. He said, "It’s really a question in my case of being able to set a trap with which one would be able to catch the fact at its most living point.… I want to make a thing of sense, of reality, yet unlock the vowels of feeling."
In Pope Innocent X, Bacon seems to be saying that each of us is the Pope, staring from way inside like a scared animal looking out from a bad hiding place. A passage in Willa Catha’s Death Comes for the Arch Bishop could pass for a description of the painting: "His mouth was the very assertion of uncurbed passion...the full lips thrust out and taut, like the flesh of animals distended by fear or desire."
How important is Bacon? Think over how much art today reflects on the voltaic and cybernetic—movies, magazines, television. And think over how shades of meaning get lost in the electronic glare. Conditioned by this exposure, too many artists work like photoelectric sorters, scrambling for new images as fast as video programs roll over, 20-plexes change their lineup and newsstands restack. Sealed off from the rich air of actual life, their images are sterile—like all things vacuum-packed. Bacon’s pictures are a relief for mass-media-sore eyes. What you see is not what you get. What you get is beyond seeing: a state of mind—timeless and placeless.
Wait, there’s more: Bacon’s originality. Remember that one-of-a-kind thing that art used to be, when artists told us how they felt about what they saw, when Mike Bidlo wasn’t copying Picassos out of art books and Richard Pettibone wasn’t copying Stella and Warhol and Elaine Sturtevant wasn’t copying Liechtenstein, Oldenburg and Segal and Sherrie Levine wasn’t copying Malevich and Schiele and Julian Schnabel wasn’t copying Rodchenko? Bacon didn’t copy anybody. He daydreamed, he said. "Pictures drop in like slides. The way I see them is not necessarily related to the way I paint them."
Did you get that? Bacon doesn’t even copy his daydreams. And even while Bacon shared the need to express inwardness with 20th century’s big gun, abstract expressionism, he never gave up on representing the seeable. Coming through in his characteristically frenzied brushwork is everyman crazily furious.
It’s hard to think of an artist who does that now. Bacon’s 10-year absence is enough to move one to prayer:
Hello, God? Could you send Francis Bacon back, please? It’s getting pretty bad down here.
Francis Bacon Study for Self-Portrait 1976
119 Wooster Street, SoHo
Through May 18 2002
If you were depressed by the joyless art of Gerhard Richter at the Museum of Modern Art, you might not think a visit with Francis Bacon would be much help. Bacon is popularly thought of as the pontiff of existential horror, his most famous image being of a screaming Pope Innocent X based on a portrait by Velázquez. What Bacon produced, however, was more a kind of black comedy; increasingly as time passed he realized it in suavely designed, vibrantly hued, generously spacious compositions.
Far from depressing, the late paintings
in this show combine the sensuous and the visionary to exhilarating effect. All
of the large canvases from the 1980’s feature the painter’s familiar iconography
of smeary lumps of humanity – –
–or, in one case, a dangling, plucked chicken
–in empty rooms. They are like updates of Christian altar paintings. The largest work, a triptych in which a vignetted male pelvis has wounded areas circled or pointed to by a small graphic arrow, refers unmistakably to the Passion, even as the third panel with the silhouetted head of a bull adds pagan resonance.
In anyone else’s hands such imagery would be unbearably heavy. But Bacon managed his traumatic vision with a light, almost Pop-style touch. He paints the space around his deftly distorted figures with the hedonistic delight of a Color Field painter. In the triptych and two related paintings, broad fields of scrumptious Creamsicle-orange are balanced by windows of sweet sky blue. The ultimate effect is of a zany and voluptuous beauty.
Tate takes Bacon archive at last
DALYA ALBERGE | ARTS CORRESPONDENT | THE TIMES | THURSDAY, 2 MAY, 2002
The Tate is accepting a gift of a Francis Bacon archive containing more than 1,000 sketches and annotated photographs, four years after it rejected the offer.
Barry Joule, the owner and a friend of the artist, has struggled for years to prove the authenticity of a collection that he says Bacon gave to him days before his death, and which, with 1,500 items, has been valued at £20 million.
The artist’s estate has declined to authenticate the archive, threatening legal action when the Barbican Centre in London exhibited it last year.
Ten years after Bacon’s death, Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate’s director, now says he will recommend to the trustees that they acquire it. The collection includes hoarded paint-splattered photographs, clippings, pages torn from magazines and books and scribbled sketches. The images range from cyclists and boxers to a portrait of Mick Jagger over which outlines of figures have been rehearsed.
Mr Joule, who was Bacon’s chauffeur and handyman, says that one of his duties was destroying works with which Bacon was not satisfied. He said that the artist handed him a bundle of papers to destroy, but, realising their importance, he had instead kept them.
KEN JOHNSON | REVIEW | ART GUIDE | THE NEW YORK TIMES | FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2002
A selective listing by critics of The Times of new or noteworthy art, design and photography exhibitions at New York museums and art galleries this weekend. Addresses, unless otherwise noted, are in Manhattan. Most galleries are closed on Sundays and Mondays, but hours vary and should be checked by telephone. Gallery admission is free. * denotes a highly recommended show
* FRANCIS BACON, Tony Shafrazi, 119 Wooster Street, (212) 274-9300 (through May 18).
Large canvases from the 1980’s feature Bacon’s familiar iconography of smeary lumps of humanity – or, in one case, a dangling, plucked chicken – in empty rooms. In his later years, Bacon handled his traumatic vision with a light, almost Pop-style touch and painted broad flat areas in succulent hues a Color Field painter could envy.
The effect is less of existential terror than of a zany and voluptuous beauty (Johnson).
“The End of the Line 1953,” a painting by Francis Bacon in an exhibition of his work at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in SoHo.
|Tate to acquire Bacon collection after rejecting it|
The Times, Friday 1oth May 2002
The Tate is accepting a Francis Bacon archive of more than 1,000 sketches and annotated photographs four years after it rejected the offer.
The collection, said to be worth £20m, is owned by Barry Joule, who was Bacon’s chauffeur and handyman.
Joule is said to have struggled for years to prove the authenticity of a collection he says Bacon gave to him days before his death.
The artist’s estate has declined to authenticate the archive, threatening legal action when the Barbican Centre in London exhibited it last year.
Ten years after Bacon’s death, Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate’s director, now says he will recommend to the trustees they acquire it.
The Times says the collection includes hoarded paint-splattered photographs, clippings, pages torn from magazines and books and scribbled sketches.
The images range from cyclists and boxers to a portrait of Mick Jagger over which outlines of figures have been rehearsed.
Mr Joule says one of his duties was destroying works with which Bacon was not satisfied.
He said the artist handed him a bundle of papers to destroy but he realised their importance and had kept them instead.
The Tate Gallery has asked us to make it clear that, whereas it is looking forward to discussions about Barry Joule’s Bacon archive (The Times report, May 2 2002) it has not yet received, or accepted, a formal offer.
Philips de Pury & Luxembourg
Contemporary Art & 14 Duchamp Readymades
3 West 57th Street 7pm, Monday, May 13, 2002 Sale NY865
Lot 30 Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes by Francis Bacon, oil on canvas, 78 by 58 inches, 1964
Art Auctions By Carter B. Horsley, The City Review, 2002
The announcement earlier this year by Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg that it was canceling its spring Impressionist & Modern Art auction came as a great relief to Sotheby’s and Christie’s but also raised serious questions about the future of Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. The aggressive entry of the Phillips auction house into the big leagues of fine art auctions under the guidance of Bernard Arnault’s LVMH conglomerate stole a lot of business away from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both of which were under antitrust investigations that created serious financial problems for them and made them appear to be quite vulnerable to new competition.
One of the auction’s highlights is Lot 30, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, a 78-by-58-inch oil on canvas by Francis Bacon (1909-1992). A classic and major Bacon, it was painted in 1964 and has an estimate of $5,000,000 to $7,000,000. It sold for $6,712,500.
The catalogue notes that Bacon’s convoluted reshaping of the human body sometimes conjures chopped-up carcasses and that in this work the woman’s body "appears played, and the passages of gray and red pigment suggest bruises and blood respectively." "Yet the morbid suggestion of raw, exposed flesh is countered by an opposing sense of the sitter’s vitality. Moraes’ voluptuous figure seems to throb and pulsate before one’s eyes, as though it were releasing a powerful visceral energy."
Evening: New York 7 PM, May 15, 2002
Sale: 7797 Lot: 41
Study From The Human Body Francis Bacon
signed, titled and dated July 1981 on the reverse
Estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000 Unsold
Lot 41, Study from the Human Body, Francis Bacon, 1981
The beginning of the 1980’s saw Francis Bacon embark upon a series of Studies from the Human Body, made in conjunction with a number of Self-Portraits and landscapes as well as more abstract works that depicted, for example, running water. Seen together, these works from the early 1980’s find a number of connections, even though their subject matter is wildly different. Technical, stylistic and chromatic patterns emerge that connect the group as a whole. This connectivity is further compounded by Bacon’s visual vocabulary: light cords, screens, tables, and arrows appear throughout these works, greatly contributing to the homogeneity of the 'series' as a whole. Whilst it is not correct to position the present work as part of a series, it is rewarding to see it in the same light as a number of, seemingly, very different paintings. A continued passion for the human form, as well as a development in the cubistic frames Bacon used that would simultaneously imprison and project his figures, come to light. An emphasis on sensuous texture, on a more sophisticated pigmented ground as well as a dryer brush work delineating a more fragmented and dislocated body seems apparent.
The present work is an outstanding example from this later series of explorations into the human male form, positioned within the fabric of Bacon’s pictorial language. The paraphrase of form here seems to step into a dark screen, as if into another dimension. The spatial dynamic of the composition is cleverly problematized here as Bacon has allowed most of the screen to almost fall out of the picture plane. The three-dimensional form indicated by the frame leg on the left is negated by the diagonal in the centre of the composition, breaking down the screen into two parts. The second 'half' then slopes away, making no solid connection with the pregnant ground Bacon has painted. The motif of the 'double-screen' may be seen as a development of Bacon’s cage-like constructions from the 1950’s that served to encapsulate and condense the human figure, thereby exaggerating the emotions Bacon depicted. Screams became louder; cries became deeper, more angst-ridden. The present screen form is seen, in various manipulations, in other paintings, such as Study for Self-Portrait (1981, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal). The black ground framed by this screen is mirrored in Bacon’s use of opened doors leading into unknown chambers of black as clearly seen in his Triptych from 1981 inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus. Moreover, Bacon used the black background in his earlier triptychs, Triptych. August. (1972) and Triptych. May-June. (1973), both depicting the moment of George Dyer’s eventual demise. These pseudo-cubistic frames here serve to deliberately drain the composition of any perspectival logic: the figure shifts in and out of the artificial spaces that lend a sense of urgency to struggle and flux. Any sense of perspective is further disturbed by Bacon’s use of the light cord in the right-hand section, and the two crimson arrows, pointing towards the figure, but for no apparent reason.
The figure seems to enter in one section and then exist from the other, and it is very noticeable that the morphology Bacon adopts is extraordinarily elastic. There is nothing to anchor the figure to a recognizable character. His portraits of George Dyer or John Edwards, for example, are clearly 'readable'. Here the figure is anonymous; what interests Bacon are the shapes of legs, buttocks, backs and shoulders. The fragmentation of the body is continued with other Studies of the Human Body from 1982: a male version, wearing cricket pads and a female version, based on a drawing by Ingres from the same year. Both these fleshy forms act as erotic quotations: buttocks, genitals and breasts are morphed together to create hybrid-like forms set against bright orange grounds. These forms are static, whereas, through the use of arrows, and the ensuing sense of movement to the figure, here the form seems much more active.
Bacon’s choice of color is magnificently subtle, yet powerful upon contemplation. The sandy ground holds ochres, golds, pinks, graphites and beiges that all coalesce together to form a densely pigmented floor. The ground must therefore be connected to Bacon’s more abstract experiments with pure texture that one sees in works such as Sand Dune (1981) and Water from a Running Tap (1982). The powdery surface seems to crystallize in front of the viewer, continuing the sense of motion inherent to the figure in the most sophisticated fashion. The robust flesh tones of the 1960’s have now been replaced with lighter mauves and lilacs, accented with passages of orange and enlivened through sweeps of white pigment that activates the form. The deeply saturated black ground further projects the figure out of the pictorial space, and provides the most glorious contrast to the ground.
Study from the Human Body is a glorious example of Bacon’s late work. It insists on a stark, down-to-earth realism that is contained with a lightness of touch rare in Bacon’s oeuvre. This work powerfully exemplifies Bacon’s aesthetic ideal: one which he called 'the brutality of fact', and one which possesses an innate grandeur that marks this painting as a wonderfully intelligent contemplation of the human body.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING
26 JUNE 2002 | 7:00 PM BST | LONDON
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies for a Portrait
each: titled and dated 1976 on the
oil on canvas, in three parts
ESTIMATE £1,400,000 - £2,000,000
LOT SOLD Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium: £1,546,650 GBP
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris
Marlborough Galleries, Inc., New York
Charity Auction: Dublin, Artists for Amnesty, 19th May 1982, Lot 31 (Acquired by the present owner)
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Francis Bacon: Oeuvres Récentes, 1977, no. 8, illustrated in colour
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno; Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Francis Bacon, 1977
New York, Marlborough Fine Art, Francis Bacon Recent Paintings, 1980, p. 29, no. 12, illustrated in colour
New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art (Extended loan since 1982)
"The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards, the scene of some of Bacon’s most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them.'' (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99)
As part of the constant questioning of his ability to transcend mere
representation in his work, to record the self beyond the expression, Bacon’s
small portrait studies became the lifeblood of his oeuvre. In his unbounded
quest for the ultimate immediacy of depiction, the intimate size and proportions
of these canvases allowed him to experiment endlessly with the potency of his
brilliant painterly gesture. Bacon would paint, re-paint and discard these
pieces until he found the core of his subject’s being.
For a few chosen subjects, Bacon’s constant social and professional dedication to their appearance, his repeated observations of their mannerisms and movements provided the key to their existence on canvas. In the age of photography, Bacon felt that traditional portraiture lacked depth and mere appearance was not enough to capture the essence of life. For him the outcome of his art depended on a direct opposition between a kind of visual intelligence (ordering, remembering, exemplifying) and sensation. His portraits strove not to tell the story of someone’s life, but to clamp themselves to the viewer’s nervous system and offer as he put it "the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance.’' A history of observation could be conveyed in the cast of a gesture and that was where the painting stood or fell.
Executed during what David Sylvester has described as 'Bacon’s peak years as a painter', Studies for a Portrait – Triptych is one of Bacon’s finest portrayals of his close friend Henrietta Moraes, former wife of the renowned Indian poet Dom Moraes. Bacon counted very few women amongst his pantheon of friends and even fewer made it onto his canvases, but after meeting Moraes in Soho in the mid-sixties, she immediately became one of his favourite and most striking subjects. This particular piece is taken from a renowned series of triptych portraits, begun in the late sixties, which boldly confronted the human subject, literally head-on. Pushed right up to the front of the picture plane, these three deep meditations on human appearance test the viewer in a manner unique to the art of Francis Bacon: unnerving the viewer, challenging his or her sensibilities, yet still declaring a masterful poise and precision of both portraiture and painting.
When Bacon turned his hand to portraits, as he did more and more in the seventies, it was his friends who came under scrutiny: "If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them'' (Francis Bacon in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 41). This violence, however, was perpetrated in absentia – since he painted his portraits most usually from memory, and from photographs, or in general from anything except the actual living and sitting model. This varied source material formed Bacon’s unique 'dictionary' of Henrietta’s appearance in his mind. Spread around his studio, these photographs became a gallery of her 'fleeting expressions', a record of her individual existence which Bacon translated to a newly invigorated being and vitality. Her presence in the room would have inhibited his progress towards 'truth'. He went on to say: "If I like them, I don’t want to practice the injury that I do to them in my work before them. I would rather practice the injury in private by which I think I can record the facts of them more clearly.'' (in David Sylvester, Op. Cit., p. 41)
Here, the 'facts' come in the shape of three starkly painted canvases, which present a Modigliani-esque Moraes almost filmically, in a fleeting, angst-ridden moment. She fidgets across the swathe of the triptych bearing a remarkable economy of marks, each exceptional motion of the loaded brush adding up to a true reflection of the fragility of Moraes’ existence. Onto the pink background, Bacon has forcefully modelled and invaded Moraes’ face with fluid gestural brushstrokes that at once define, yet distort her features, chasing across the canvas not so much her physical presence – her muscles, sinew and bone structure – but rather the psychological trace of her own existence. At one point, in the central canvas of this disturbingly honest depiction, Moraes’ face becomes more rounded, her cheekbones more pronounced and her jaw thrusts forward, teeth dramatically exposed. Studies for a Portrait-Triptych must thus be seen as a perfect marriage of the physical and psychological; the meeting point where presence becomes absence, and vice versa. As such, the viewer is presented with a haunting, almost mystical image that transcends the boundaries of mere depiction. However this drama, of matter and of existence, is counterbalanced by the softness of Bacon’s palette: a combination of gentle lilacs and fleshy pinks punctured by stark whites and enshrined by haloes of thick brown hair. These run throughout the triptych and although each portrait differs from the others, the dynamic of rhythmical gesture, blurred distortion and bold inscription contrives to build a magical presence which somehow adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Three Studies for a Portrait 1976 each panel : 35.5 by 30.5cm. 14 by 12in.
He climbed inside faces
Liz Jobey on the 'wizened, acned dwarf' of 1960s Soho who documented city lives
Maverick Eye: The Street Photography of John Deakin by Robin Muir
208pp, Thames & Hudson, £36
LIZ JOBEY | THE GUARDIAN | SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002
Nobody who has read the various accounts of Francis Bacon’s life could have missed the figure of John Deakin, the small, drunken photographer who made some remarkable portraits of the painters, writers, models and friends who gathered round Bacon in Soho during the 1950s and 1960s, notably at Muriel Belcher’s Colony Room.
In most accounts Deakin is reviled, not for his drunkenness but for the bitchiness, scrounging and general meanness of spirit that came with it. Bacon – who, according to his friend and biographer Dan Farson, was fond of Deakin – called him "a horrible little man", though he also thought his portraits "the best since Nadar and Juliet Margaret Cameron". George Melly called him a "vicious little drunk", Jeffrey Bernard said he was "a wizened, acned dwarf of a jockey". But Bruce Bernard, Jeffrey’s brother, recognised Deakin as a member of "photography’s unhappiest minority whose members, while doubting its status as art, sometimes prove better than anyone else that there is no doubt about it".
Photography was a second best for Deakin, who had failed to find success as a painter and only took up the camera by accident in 1939 – he is said to have woken up in a Paris apartment after a party, found a camera unattended, and taken it away to try it out. His working life was haphazard – he had two brief periods under contract to Vogue, both of which ended badly, and two small exhibitions in Soho; he produced two guidebooks, one to London, the other to Rome. He more or less gave up photography in the last years of his life, and had it not been for Bruce Bernard, who rescued several boxes of photographs from under Deakin’s bed after his death in 1972, the pictures might have gone the way of his other artworks and ended up in the gutter in Berwick Street.
In 1984, Bernard made a selection of these photographs for an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum called The Salvage of a Photographer. The creased and tattered prints, many of them portraits of his Soho companions, were to establish Deakin’s posthumous reputation. In 1996, Robin Muir, who as the picture editor at Vogue in the early 1990s had found another cache of Deakin’s prints, contact sheets and negatives in the Condé Nast library - this time of the artists, writers, actors and directors Deakin had photographed for the magazine – curated a show at the National Portrait Gallery and published a book on Deakin’s work.
This was four years after Bacon’s death, and it included some of the 40 or so trampled and paint-spattered photographs that had been found in Bacon’s studio. These were photographic studies Deakin made at Bacon’s request of figures he wanted to use as references in his paintings. They included the now well-known sessions with Lucian Freud, Henrietta Moraes and Isabel Rawsthorne, all of whom are recognisable in Bacon’s pictures.
As well as fuelling the debate about just how much Bacon had relied on photographs, the distressed prints added the glamour of found fragments to what was by now acknowledged as Deakin’s increasingly important archive. The 1996 show concentrated on Deakin’s portraits. The large close-ups show every pore, pockmark and hair follicle; in most cases the eyes stare directly into the lens, and the face is often squared off prematurely by the frame.
They have been described as "cruel" and "brutal", but in fact seem to be more the result of Deakin’s impatience with the kind of theatrical gestures and posturing body language that so often makes a portrait false. But there was another group of pictures, found in an annexe down the back stairs of the National Portrait Gallery. These were Deakin’s street pictures, taken in London and during his many trips to Paris and Rome – the city he loved most. It is these that Muir has concentrated on in his second book.
The difficulty this presents is obvious: how to produce a second book that contains enough information to satisfy those coming to Deakin for the first time, while offering those who know his work something new? Muir has partially solved the problem by retelling the story of Deakin’s life in the text – and here there is, inevitably, a certain amount of repetition – and placing the emphasis, in the choice of pictures, on much less familiar aspects of Deakin’s work.
Of the three sections of photographs, "London" is still largely made up of Soho portraits, though ones taken at more of a distance: most are cropped just above the knee, or full-figure. There is a little series of pictures of Bacon and his lover George Dyer, posing for Deakin both singly and together, one day in Soho in the 1960s; a strong head of the writer Elizabeth Smart; and an awkward full-length picture of Muriel Belcher. There are also a few street scenes – signs, hoardings, shopfronts – in the manner of Atget, which serve as a throat-clearing exercise for what is to follow.
After London, the book really changes pace. Paris and Rome seem to have brought out a more compassionate side of Deakin. He is drawn to street people, to shopkeepers and market traders, tramps and beggars, and to the cities’ ageing fabric. Before his death he had planned a number of books: one on Paris, another on Rome, and two called "London Walls" and "Paris Walls". And here you can see why. Walls so often provided the canvas for some of his best photographs. Like Brassai, who had begun collecting pictures of graffiti in the early 1930s, Deakin was fascinated by the randomness of street art. Scribbled in chalk, the simple drawings for children’s games, the vows of love or hate and the slogans of street philosophers have a fragile, temporary quality that, on the uneven surface, gives them the emotional purchase of paintings.
Deakin liked walls on which the commerce of the city had left its mark – layers of tattered posters, or the giant letters of advertising slogans half rubbed out by the weather. In Paris he followed Atget’s example of going out each morning at dawn to photograph the empty streets. In Rome he found that the public displays of religion offered fine opportunities for pictures. He used a Rolleiflex, as Bruce Bernard pointed out, with the same ease that other street photographers used a Leica. In his portraits it enabled him to climb inside a face (some of his portraits are close enough to reveal that aqueous millimetre of flesh that lines the bottom eyelid) with what would have been intrusive intimacy if he hadn’t know his subjects so well. In his landscapes, it gives ordinary scenes a greater formality.
Deakin said of his pictures that he was "fatally drawn to the human race". He probably was a fatalist, but there can be few more life-affirming photographs than the picture of a group of mothers in Trastavere, proudly holding up their children for his inspection. In some ways it might have served Deakin well to have one book that included all sides of his work and all his best pictures. But that’s easy to say in retrospect. Somebody who probably never expected to be remembered for his photographs now has a life in two volumes.
· Liz Jobey is a deputy editor of Granta
INSIDE TRACK LAW & BUSINESS
ROBERT HUNTER | |
|THE FINANCIAL TIMES
|SATURDAY, JUNE 10, 2002
"You run very well," said General Douglas Haig, the notoriously inarticulate first world war general, when giving a speech at an army athletics day. "You run very well indeed"– and then, disastrously: "I hope you run as well in the face of the enemy!"
General Haig, of course, will not be the last to fall prey to the error of thinking once and speaking twice. Much the same pitfall awaits any litigant who has to deal with the press regarding his case.
The decision to talk to the press is an easy one. Many claimants hope that, irrespective of their claim’s prospects of success, the adverse publicity will bring an otherwise recalcitrant defendant to his knees. Allegations made in the course of legal proceedings are covered by absolute legal privilege. It is impossible to bring an action for defamation in respect of them. What is more, without the need to call witness evidence, unless the case can be demonstrated as hopeless a claimant will be able to keep it alive until trial. Technical rights of action exist in relation to malicious prosecution of civil claims, but these arise in such limited circumstances that they are rarely pursued.
In spite of these advantages, many claimants who believe their claims will generate adverse publicity for the defendant are disappointed. In a world numbed by successive scandals, the press and public have seen and heard it all before.
Sometimes, however, the allegations are so spectacular that publicity is guaranteed for the lucky claimant. The recent litigation between the estate of Francis Bacon and Marlborough Fine Art is a case in point.
The case was begun in March 2000 by Brian Clarke, executor of the estate, against Marlborough. Press interest was high. Francis Bacon was one of the most famous painters of modern times and Marlborough is one of the best-known art dealers in the world. Marlborough, which had dealt with Bacon’s works for some 34 years, was alleged to be liable to his estate for a sum reported to be between £30m and £100m. There was even the tantalising suggestion of a missing hoard of "unaccounted for" works of art.
More sensational still were the allegations that accompanied the claim: it was said the liability arose because Marlborough had "exploited" Bacon by abusing his trust and paying him too little for his paintings. Subsequently, in summer 2001, a further claim was developed: that, for 34 years, Marlborough had not bought any paintings from Bacon at all but had simply sold them on his behalf without ever formally agreeing its fee.
Then, in November 2001, a more sinister allegation was made. Previously it had been claimed that Bacon had trusted Marlborough and that it had taken advantage of his trust. Now it was said he had distrusted Marlborough, as the gallery had blackmailed Bacon to continue to trade with it. Either one or the other must be true, the estate claimed, even if it did not know which.
The likelihood was slight that Bacon – an intelligent and sophisticated man – could have forgotten to agree Marlborough’s remuneration over 30 years or could have been exploited in this way. Similarly, the key witness to the allegation of blackmail did not support it. Nor did the action reveal the hoped-for treasure trove of unknown Bacons. However, allegations of this kind in any claim can sometimes carry a settlement value even if they are likely ultimately to fail. No bad press can ever be completely corrected. Public embarrassment often outweighs the benefits of vindication at trial. What is more, a three-month trial, even when victory is expected, involves an enormous waste of management time. It is also expensive: in the English legal system the loser pays most, but not all, of the victor’s costs. In large-scale litigation of this kind, the irrecoverable portion is often considerable.
There was, in short, ample justification for a payment to the estate to get rid of the litigation. Why then did the estate have to drop the litigation in February, recovering nothing from Marlborough other than some correspondence (which was of no commercial value and which Marlborough had said would be given to the estate in September 2001)? The estate’s legal bill must have been several million pounds.
Part of the problem may have lain in a common claimant’s error: to over-estimate his opponent’s vulnerability to publicity. Many institutions, particularly in the financial sector, are not as responsive to bad publicity as a claimant would wish. It is not that they are insensitive; it is simply that vulnerability is a luxury they can ill afford. To settle one claim to avoid bad publicity is to encourage others to be made. Conversely, to resist the claim sends a message to others to readjust their expectations of what publicity will achieve.
But this is likely to be only part of the answer. Another significant factor may lie in the handling of the press. A number of statements by Prof Clarke and his lawyers sharpened press interest on both sides of the Atlantic in the claimant’s allegations, when it would have been possible to adopt a more equivocal and muted stance. But it is one thing to expect a settlement from a defendant on the basis of bad publicity that a case may generate in future; it is quite another to present the defendant with bad publicity that the case has already generated. A defendant who knows he can avoid bad publicity by paying money has something to buy in a settlement negotiation. On the other hand, a defendant who has already received bad press has nothing to gain; the claimant has made the error of shooting the hostage before demanding the ransom.
The difficulty in the Marlborough litigation was that the publicity generated by the claim ensured that no settlement could be made. Any payment might have been taken as acknowledgment that the highly publicised allegations were true, unless it was accompanied by a public retraction and apology that would have been deeply embarrassing for the estate to give. The result was what is likely to be seen as one of the art world’s most famous litigation disasters, with the Bacon estate having had to consent to its claim being dismissed and pay its own costs, while receiving nothing worthwhile in return.
As with any misfortune, there is a lesson to be learnt. It is a common tactic for a claimant to hope that the threat of bad publicity will result in a settlement payment but real care must be taken before allowing that publicity to occur. It is true it will be unwelcome to the defendant – but it may also obstruct the claimant’s own objectives. Indeed, as in the litigation started against Marlborough, it may ultimately thwart the claimant and deprive him of any benefit from the legal costs he has incurred. It is not for the subtlety and sophistication of his manoeuvres that General Haig, who masterminded the Flanders campaign in 1917, is remembered; it is for a bruising war of attrition and a result that was almost certainly not worth the cost of achieving it.
The writer is a partner at Allen & Overy, the law firm, and was part of the team that represented Marlborough Fine Art in the litigation to which this article refers.
Good help is very hard to find
NANCY BANKS-SMITH | | | THURS
|THE GUARDIAN WEEKLY
| THURSDAY 11 JULY 2002
The Strange World of Barry Who? (BBC4) was an oddly engrossing look into the life of a hanger-on.
Barry Joule, a well-off nonentity, wheedled his way into the lives of several celebrities – all gay – by being charming, available and effusive.
Once you have scraped acquaintance with your first celebrity, in his case Francis Bacon, you can catch many more if you bait your hook with tasty bits of Bacon.
The rich and famous are particularly vulnerable when, in an evocative phrase, they are "the phantom of someone who has been famous".
Like the dying Nureyev, whom Joule photographed in his bath.
Vincent Van Gogh et Francis Bacon,
frères de sang par la peinture
En reconstituant la suite des toiles que l’artiste néerlandais inspira à Bacon, la Fondation
Van Gogh a rendu tout son sens à cette série, bien au-delà de l’imitation et de l’hommage.
En 1956, Francis Bacon a quarante-six ans. En dépit de cet âge, sa notoriété ne fait que commencer à s’étendre hors de Grande-Bretagne. En 1953, pour la première fois, il a exposé dans une galerie new-yorkaise. En 1954, il a été présenté à la Biennale de Venise en compagnie de Ben Nicholson et de Lucian Freud. En 1956, donc, la Hanover Gallery de Londres, alors sa galerie, lui fait part de son désir de montrer ses tableaux récents l’année suivante. Jusqu’à ce point du récit, témoins et historiens sont d’accord.
La suite est plus controversée, selon que l’on s’en tient à une version noble ou triviale. La noble affirme que le peintre irlandais profita de la circonstance pour rendre hommage à l’un de ses maîtres, Van Gogh, en choisissant l’une de ses toiles comme thème pour une série de variations. La triviale, on l’a entendue de la bouche de Bacon, quelques années avant sa mort, lors d’un déjeuner à Londres : pris de court, racontait-il alors, ne sachant comment satisfaire Erica Brausen, impétueuse directrice de la Hanover Gallery, n’ayant que fort peu d’œuvres à lui fournir, il aurait cherché l’inspiration dans ses livres et l’aurait trouvée dans la reproduction d’un Van Gogh détruit pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, l’Autoportrait sur la route de Tarascon de 1888. D’après la photo, il se serait enfin mis au travail. Tel était son récit, que confirme en partie un propos rapporté par John Russell en 1971. Bacon lui aurait déclaré : "J’avais toujours aimé ce tableau — celui qui a brûlé en Allemagne pendant la guerre — et, comme rien d’autre n’avait marché, j’ai eu l’idée de tenter quelque chose là-dessus."
La phrase a le mérite de concilier à peu près les deux versions. Les "Van Gogh" de Bacon seraient à la fois l’aveu d’une prédilection intime et une commande que le peintre se serait passée à lui-même pour que l’exposition programmée se fasse à la date prévue. Elle se fit. Elle eut, à en croire les témoins, une inauguration assez chaotique, d’autant plus que la peinture était si fraîche que les vêtements des visiteurs étaient menacés de finir barbouillés de vert et de rouge.
Aujourd’hui, les couleurs sont sèches et les œuvres protégées par des vitres. Elles appartiennent presque toutes à des musées, qui ont accepté de les prêter, si bien que sept des huit variations exécutées par Bacon sont réunies à Arles. Il n’en manque qu’une, propriété d’un intraitable collectionneur privé établi en Suisse. S’y ajoutent deux Hommages à Van Gogh, l’un de 1960, l’autre de 1985, ce dernier ayant été peint à la demande de Yolande Clergue pour l’ouverture de la Fondation Van Gogh.
L’OCRE, LE BLEU ET LE JAUNE
Réunir ces peintures, dispersées en 1957, n’avait jamais été tenté : l’exposition a quelque chose d’historique. On y voit comment un artiste peut se projeter dans un autre, parce qu’il se sait absolument d’accord avec lui sur l’essentiel : les raisons qui les ont faits peintres, malgré leurs contemporains, malgré la plus élémentaire prudence. Van Gogh s’était représenté marchant vite, son matériel de peintre sur le dos et à la main, coiffé d’un chapeau de paille, sur une route, entre deux arbres, devant un champ de blé et une prairie. Ses dominantes étaient l’ocre, le bleu et le jaune, posés en touches séparées ou plates, tantôt à la Signac, tantôt à la Gauguin. Dans les Bacon, il y a un homme — ou une ombre humaine —, le chapeau de paille plat, les deux arbres et le sac à dos. Le noir, l’outremer, le vert et le rouge sont projetés sur la toile avec des gestes brutaux, mélangés, écrasés, flagellés.
Les formes et l’espace sont pris de contractions. Les arbres se tordent et saignent. Les visages deviennent des grimaces de carnassiers. Le peintre allant sur le motif devient un fantôme perdu dans un paysage de catastrophe. La leçon est claire : tout peintre, s’il se veut à la mesure du monde, ne peut qu’être ce fantôme qui cherche à tenir debout parmi les désastres. Sinon, il fait de la décoration. Ce spectre s’appelle Van Gogh ou s’appelle Bacon : deux noms pour le même destin, deux noms de "suicidés de la société". Bacon lecteur d’Artaud ? Evidemment.
Que les variations de l’Irlandais ne ressemblent que de très loin à l’autoportrait du Hollandais est logique : Bacon n’imite pas, il s’approprie un autoportrait de Van Gogh pour en déduire son autoportrait à lui, légèrement déguisé, profondément allégorique. Chaque variation a sa direction particulière : du côté de la nuit, du délire, de l’attente, de la mélancolie ou de l’abandon. Les gestes sont plus ou moins violents, le paysage plus ou moins bouleversé, l’éclat solaire plus ou moins aveuglant. En raison de ces différences de tonalité, on pourrait appeler cette série "Histoire du peintre".
Elle a sa conclusion un peu plus tard, en 1960. Sans raison apparente, Bacon revient à Van Gogh. Il se saisit des autoportraits à l’oreille coupée. Devant un cadre rouge, il place un Van Gogh à la tête bandée, fumant sa pipe, coiffé d’un bonnet bleu-vert, presque un bonnet de fou. L’oreille manque, naturellement. Mais un œil, le droit, manque aussi : l’orbite vide est tachée de rose et cernée de blanc. Où retrouve-t-on la même mutilation ? Dans l’Autoportrait de Bacon dit à l’œil blessé. On y retrouve aussi les chairs meurtries, le nez écrasé, la bouche molle. Et le même œil gauche, furieux, mauvais, cruel — l’œil du peintre toujours vivant.
Van Gogh vu par Bacon, Fondation Van Gogh, palais de Luppe, 24bis, rond-point des Arènes, Arles. Tél. : 04-90-49-94-04. Tous les jours de 10 heures à 19 heures. Entrée : 7 €. Jusqu’au 6 octobre.
Francis Bacon’s paintings of Van Gogh gather in Arles
Fondation Vincent van Gogh assembles the surviving paintings in this series
EMMA BEATTY | |
|THE ART NEWSPAPER
|SATURDAY, 31 AUGUST, 2002
Between 1951 and 1956 Francis Bacon created a series of paintings in homage to Van Gogh’s “The painter on the road to Tarascon”, which was destroyed in World War II and only survives via reproduction.
Painted in 1888, it shows Van Gogh carrying his easel and paints along a road through bright yellow and green fields, strong sunlight casting a black shadow of his figure. Bacon was so inspired that he walked along the road, near Arles in the south of France, himself.
The eleven paintings that he created as a result were exhibited in 1957 at the Hanover Gallery in London and then dispersed to private collectors and museums. In 1985, Yollande Clergue, director of the Fondation Van Gogh in Arles, asked Bacon to paint one more picture of Van Gogh in Arles to celebrate the opening of the Van Gogh Foundation there in 1988.
Bacon agreed with the proviso that the finished painting should never leave Arles; it never has, but now the other eleven paintings in the series have been brought to Arles (until 30 September).
Despite the brilliance of colour and light in the south of France, Bacon’s interpretations are notably darker and more despondent than Van Gogh’s: the artist’s face has become a dark patch, the shadows more prominent. An exhibition of photographs of Bacon accompanies the show.
‘Her power is ageless’
meets Sophia Loren – screen
mother, tough cookie, and on top of her game as she turns 68
DEIRDRE KELLY | |
|THE GLOBE & MAIL
|MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2002
“My god!,” shrieks Sophia Loren, a ringed hand flying into the air. “You said you’d take just one photo! You have taken now, how many?”
Her producer-husband Carlo Ponti (turning 90 in December) is said to have amassed a fortune for the family.
He has produced most of Loren’s films during her 50-year career (he met her when she was 15, the winner of an Italian beauty contest he was judging) and in addition has a sizable art collection (including the biggest private collection of Francis Bacon) worth many millions of dollars.
Gallery reveals Bacon findings
Entertainment, Arts, BBC News, Monday, 23 September, 2002
Scholars have unearthed hundreds of sketches by artist Francis Bacon that have been hidden away in his former studio for decades.
The discovery of the drawings, and some of Bacon’s paintings that were thought to have been destroyed, has given art experts new insights into the way the artist worked.
Over 70 drawings which were found offer evidence that Bacon did make preliminary sketches of some of his best known works, something he said he stopped doing after 1962.
Fragments of one of the paintings he destroyed – 1946’s Study For Man With Microphones – were also discovered.
The painting vanished in 1948 and has always been thought of as a lost artwork.
Other items thought to have given Bacon inspiration, including magazine articles and a book from 1920 featuring photos of paranormal activity, were also uncovered.
The material was found by scholars who have been re-creating his famously chaotic Kensington Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.
The Gallery has been working on the project for two years and plans to present its new findings on Bacon at a symposium to be held in November.
“We spent two years going through every single item,” Margarita Cappock, curator of the Francis Bacon Studio and Archive at the Hugh Lane Gallery told BBC News Online.
“Our findings show that Bacon was a lot more deliberate in his work than he pretended to be.”
Bacon was born in Ireland to English parents but he left Ireland when he was a teenager. He died in Spain in 1992.
For 30 years, he worked in a studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington.
His studio was known for being chaotic and messy, with every inch of floor space covered by newspapers, tins of paint and photos.Bacon himself once wrote that his studio was the only place he could work because he was incapable of working in places that were too tidy.
Study For Man With Microphones
The Reconstruction of the Francis Bacon Studio in Dublin
Dublin has become the posthumous home of Francis Bacon. Some seventy-five years after he left Ireland at the age of sixteen, he has been welcomed back as a local art hero. In addition to important exhibitions and collections, the centrepiece of Dublin’s embrace of Bacon is undoubtedly the re-creation of his London studio. Originally located at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, the studio and its contents have been moved to the Hugh Lane Gallery, one of Ireland’s foremost museums of modern and contemporary art. Donated by John Edwards and the Bacon Estate in 1998, the studio opened in May 2001 in a new wing built specially to house it, as a permanent annex to the HLG, which has undertaken the Herculean task of cataloguing and reconstructing Bacon’s famously chaotic workplace. A team of archaeologists and art historians sifted through the mass of material, ephemera, and rubbish contained in the studio at the time of the artist’s death in 1992. The outcome of this "dig" is a vast, computerized database of over seven thousand records, which viewers can peruse in an interactive gallery. But while this painstaking effort of preservation and reconstruction has yielded spectacular results, its underlying assumptions and motivations appear to have gone unexamined. Within the history of modern art in Britain and Ireland, Bacon has an iconic status analogous to Jackson Pollock’s in the United States. Although retaining figurative representation, he transformed it through an emphasis on the expressive gesture, and the absorption and synthesis of a wide range of visual source material. Bacon used the piles of photographs and newspaper clippings scattered throughout his studio as an ever-evolving image bank. Perilously cluttered, 7 Reece Mews seemed to bear the visual traces of his impulsive working process. (Comments by the artist, such as "chaos for me breeds images," further support this assumption.) The small, dark building also contained a tiny living area with the single bed where Bacon slept.
Although collectors and museums were willing to pay extremely high prices for his paintings, he lived and worked in these cramped quarters for over thirty years. Throughout the literature on Bacon, photographs of the studio have regularly been used to bracket discussions of his art. Through these photographs and written descriptions of the space, the studio itself has become Bacon’s most recognizable image. A popular, recently published coffee-table book by photographer Perry Ogden, 7 Reece Mews: Francis Bacon’s Studio, provides another example of the long-standing obsession with the studio as a spectacle distinct from Bacon’s art. Preserved in a Plexiglas box in one room of the HLG’s new wing, the studio is buffered by two information galleries. Viewers first encounter a continuously running video of Melvyn Bragg’s interview with Bacon in his studio from the South Bank Show, shot in 1985. The exit gallery contains computer terminals giving visitors access to the database of the studio’s contents. The gallery containing the studio itself is lined with vitrines, displaying a selection of significant objects extracted from the artist’s workplace (most notably, Bacon’s cast of the death mask of William Blake), as well as photographs of Bacon and his companions.
There are only three limited vantage points from which to see the interior of Bacon’s workplace. First, a doorway opens onto the reconstructed atelier. The spectator, however, is given only enough room to step inside the threshold, as a Plexiglas box prevents further entry (a situation that also allows room for only one person to view the space at a time). The two adjacent windows located on the far end of the studio, which were kept blocked by Bacon with the back of his canvases in progress, are opened up to provide a second site from which to peer into the room. Perhaps the strangest treatment of the studio is the third avenue of visual access. When not standing in the doorway or at the window, visitors to the HLG installation are confronted mostly with blank, gray walls. In order to add another vantage point to see inside the studio space, the far corner of one of these solid walls has been pierced with two eyeholes. Two steel cylinders have been attached to the holes and protrude out from the otherwise blank exterior wall. Around twenty centimetres in length and ten in diameter each, these protrusions contain fish-eye lenses, which allow the viewer to see parts of the studio not visible from the door or through the windows. Bacon often used the walls and ceilings of the studio as his palette. The lenses are focused on sections of wall on which Bacon had tested out paints and colours, framing them as if they were paintings in their own right. (Here, the installation builds on an offhand comment by Bacon that these walls were his only “abstract” works.) Whether peeking in the windows, looking through the Plexiglas-encased vestibule, or peering through these eyeholes, the visual experience of Bacon’s studio becomes like a solitary peepshow, a voyeuristic quest for the apprehension of some titillating detail.
The limited and restricted vantage points guarantee that one cannot easily see another person looking into the studio, no matter how busy the gallery is. The installation keeps the viewer outside the studio but stages access to a fictitious interiority. Because the studio’s main contents are tools and debris, the viewer searches for clues and personalia in and amongst the rubbish. Reading the headlines on discarded newspapers or looking at the photographs strewn across the floor, spectators can easily be fooled into thinking that they are gaining privileged access into Bacon’s private space. The initial shock of the chaos of the studio fades, however, as one begins to recognize how its contents have been subtly arranged. Too many of the photos and books are legible from the doorway, forming lines of sight emanating from the main vantage point inside the threshold. Despite its overwhelming mess and disarray, the space is a carefully orchestrated artificeone designed to convince us that we are seeing into the inner workings of Bacon’s workplace and, by extension, his creative process.
Bacon himself never allowed others to watch him paint, but he did allow people to visit the studio. It came to function, as in the South Bank interview, as a means of deflecting attention rather than inviting examination. The studio was less a window into Bacon’s private self (as the HLG installation implies) than a shield behind which he could hide when others were present. The literal sedimentation of images and materials was, indeed, a fundamental part of his process, but the studio’s spectacular disarray also functioned as a form of camouflage. Despite his undisguised homosexuality and dark subject matter, Bacon achieved a legendary status during his lifetime and was frequently considered one of Britain’s greatest living painters. Just as much as his powerful works, his “mad genius” behaviour fueled these legends. Bacon hid behind the mythology of the modern artist, and his workplace played a key role in aligning his public persona with that stereotype. Consequently, it was perceived by many as a transparent reflection of the inner workings of the mind that could produce such disturbing paintings – concrete proof of Bacon’s “disturbed” eccentricity. Stories of Bacon’s dealers wading through the mess to find slashed canvases and recover buried paintings help to confirm the image of Bacon as the contemporary heir to the popular myth of the artist as mad, creative genius. Unfortunately, it is this stereotype, rather than Bacon or his work, that the Hugh Lane Gallery ultimately capitalizes on and enshrines.
The HLG project does little to illuminate the technical, conceptual, and visual sophistication of Bacon’s art, nor does it critically engage with the construction of Bacon’s artistic persona (by himself and others) through the studio. For all the assiduous reconstruction of the space, the studio is presented less as a workspace than as a social space. Photographs of Bacon’s friends and companions (many taken in the studio) have been installed in the display cases, yet there is little attempt in the installation to discuss how Bacon actually used his studio and what it allowed him to do in painting. The focus is largely on Bacon the individual rather than on Bacon the painter. Fittingly, there is no art inside the studio. Unlike other reconstructions, such as the Atelier Brancusi in Paris, the Bacon studio has had its art extracted. An important group of over seventy drawings (Bacon repeatedly and famously denied that he created drawings for his paintings) have been transferred to the HLG collections. Some of the canvases, which remained incomplete upon Bacon’s death, have been installed in a separate gallery in the studio wing, presented like finished works. Preserved as it is in its Plexiglas shell, the Bacon studio resembles an empty stage set, or an old-style natural history museum display. As such, it lacks only its taxidermied. protagonist.
Undoubtedly, the cataloguing of the disparate contents of the studio and the archaeological and photographic recording of their placement will be of use to Bacon scholars seeking to uncover his employment of visual sources, new techniques, and materials. This computerized visual catalogue is the real benefit of the HLG’s efforts. It is marked, however, by the same problem as the physical reconstruction of the studio space: the problem of attempting to freeze one final moment in the history of an ever-changing environment. During his life, Bacon’s studio could change dramatically and traumatically from hour to hour. The database, much like the installation and the many photographs taken of the studio before it was moved to Dublin from London, can only provide episodic glimpses. Lost is the experience of the constantly shifting mass of materials and images that made the studio so useful to Bacon. Nevertheless, the database provides significant insight into the depth and range of sources at the studio’s last incarnation. Beyond this valid justification for the enormous expense of the project, the reason for preserving Bacon’s studio in a museum is singular: to capitalize on the mythology of the modern artist by providing visually stunning but ultimately voyeuristic and somewhat exploitative entertainment. The Hugh Lane Gallery may well have gained a successful tourist attraction, but it has lost out on the chance to make a useful critical contribution to the understanding of Bacon – or of modern art.
Francis Bacon painting stolen
A PAINTING by Francis Bacon worth millions of pounds has been stolen from a house belonging to the artist’s former handyman in France.
Barry Joule, a Canadian who befriended Bacon in 1978 when he put up a television aerial at his home in South Kensington.
Bring home the Bacon!
NEWS | ANTIQUES MAGAZINE | MONDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2002
A Francis Bacon painting, Study for Pope II, has been stolen from a house in Normandy, France.
The house belonged to one of the artist’s former workman, Barry Joule, who struck up a friendship with the artist after erecting a television aerial for him.
Joule blames a BBC documentary for alerting thieves as to the whereabouts of the painting.
Hugh Lane Gallery
On November 8th and 9th, The Hugh Lane Gallery in association with the Estate of Francis Bacon and Trinity College Dublin will host a Symposium to highlight new research on the artist with particular emphasis on his work after 1961.
Internationally renowned Bacon scholars including Professor Ernst van Alphen, M. Fabrice Hergott, Dr Matthew Gale, Dr Hugh Davies, Professor Brian Clarke, Martin Harrison, Barbara Dawson and Dr Margarita Cappock will participate in the Symposium which will provide an exciting forum for discussion on Francis Bacon and contemporary influences on post war artists.
The cost of the Symposium is E250 per person.
For further information
please contact Brid Bergin
Francis Bacon outside 7 Reece Mews.
Photograph: Peter Stark.
Francis Bacon Sketches Discovered
The Sunday Mirror, Sunday, 5 October 2002
HUNDREDS of previously unknown preliminary sketches and slashed works by
Ireland’s most famous post-war artist, Francis Bacon, have been discovered by
The finds, made at Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, have been described as "a spectacular insight into Bacon’s mind" by the gallery’s director, Barbara Dawson.
The discoveries came as the artist’s chaotic Kensington bed-sit studio was dismantled and transported from London to Dublin after being gifted to the gallery by the artist’s heir, John Edwards.
The move, which cost Û2.6 million, began in secret more than two years ago in case the British government tried to block it.
The studio at Reece Mews had been virtually untouched since the artist died of a heart attack in Spain in 1992.
It has since been painstakingly recreated, item for item, at the gallery where it is now a major attraction.
The new finds were made by staff sifting through the clutter.
The preliminary drawings contradict Bacon’s assertion that he did no preparatory work for his later paintings.
Ms Dawson said: "It’s a very major find and important because for the first time we know how Francis Bacon approached his work.
"The material that we have discovered was inspirational for his extraordinary images, some of which are considered some of the finest paintings of the 20th century."
About 200 preliminary sketches have been found, 1,500 photographs and 100 slashed paintings.
"He may not have done conventional preliminary work but he certainly did a lot of painstaking research, realising the concept he had in his head before he went on to do the actual painting.
"He did a lot of preparatory work."
One of the slashed paintings dates back to 1946, though Bacon didn’t move to the Mews until 1961.
"It is quite amazing to think that he kept it with him all his life. We found the two pieces that were actually slashed from the canvas.
"It was actually slashed many years after it was painted."
Ms Dawson said she doubted they would attempt to restore the slashed paintings: "I think that might go against the artist’s wishes. He had particular reasons for slashing the canvas. Some are quite violently slashed and some just have the faces cut out."
Bacon was born in Baggot Street in October 1909 after his father moved to Ireland to train horses.
The studio, where he created many of his most famous works, had been offered to London’s Tate Gallery. It failed to respond, but galleries in the US and Japan were said to be interested.
Then, when Hugh Lane was approached it gathered a specialist team to move the studio lock, stock and barrell.
First into the bed-sit was a surveyor, then archaeologists, archivists, conservators and cataloguers. In the chaos, every single item was numbered and tagged and its location marked with precision in relation to everything else. Its angle in the room, its orientation and exact position was logged.
Specialists who normally dealt with Renaissance and frescoed walls removed the dry-lined walls of the bed-sit. They were extensively daubed with paint as Bacon mixed his colours on them as he worked. Everything was moved, walls, floor and ceiling.
The studio was also re-created in virtual reality on a computer.
There were more than 7,500 items in the clutter including photographs of surgery, dead people and animals, piles of books several feet high, clothes, newspaper clippings, letters, notebooks and a broken mirror.
The new finds will go on display for the first time at a symposium on the artist’s work to be held on November 8 and 9.
"Francis Bacon: Paintings"
4 November 2002 until 12 December 2002
Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY, USA
Absolute Arts, November, 2002
The Directors of Marlborough Gallery are pleased to announce the opening on November 4th of an exhibition of important paintings by the renowned English artist, Francis Bacon. This will be the first show of Bacon’s work at Marlborough since 1993. Marlborough Gallery represented Bacon for most of his career up until his death in April 1992. With the exception of one early work all the works shown in this exhibition are signed by the artist, and several have been exhibited at different times at museums around the world such as the Grand Palais, Paris; Tate Gallery, London; Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Marlborough’s show will consist of nine works as follows: three quintessential triptychs dating from 1970, 1983 and 1986-87, each panel measuring 78 x 58 inches; a rare 1957 painting of a pope, measuring 60 x 46 1/2 inches; Study for Self Portrait, 1981, measuring 78 x 58 inches; two other single panel works of the same size dating from 1988 (Jet of Water) and 1990 (Male Nude Before Mirror) as well as two outstanding small works, 14 x 12 inches, from 1967 and 1982 of Isabel Rawsthorne.
One cannot overestimate the importance of Bacon’s oeuvre. He is very probably the single most important artist England produced in the twentieth century and, arguably, along with Turner and Constable, the most significant painter to emerge in that country’s artistic history. He would also be counted on most everyone’s short list of leading artists of the twentieth century. One could simply say that Bacon had a highly original mind and that as an artist he was a genius. No other artist of his time produced works of such visceral impact combined with what The New York Times called “delirious beauty.”
If the subjects of his work offer “enigmatic glimpses like lurid images from barely remembered dreams or nightmares” (Ken Johnson), it is his stature as an inventive and unrivalled painter which assures Bacon’s high elevation and which will endure through the ages. In an interview with his friend, the art critic, David Sylvester, Bacon once talked about Van Gogh and what he (Bacon) wanted to get in his work. He said, “Van Gogh is one of my greatest heroes because I think that he was able to be almost literal, and yet, by the way he put on the paint give you a marvelous vision of the reality of things. I saw it very clearly when I was once in Provence...one just saw in this absolutely barren country that by the way he put on the paint he was able to give it such an amazing living quality...The living quality is what you have to get.”
That “living quality” could fairly sum up what makes any painting a great work of art, and one might add that the more living it is, the greater it is. What Marlborough’s show demonstrates clearly is that Bacon’s primary insistence was to a large degree based “on the use of paint as the essential subject” and that in his best works he got that “living quality” time and time again.
Born in Dublin of English parents in 1909, Bacon travelled to Berlin and Paris before settling in London in 1929. After a brief career as a furniture designer, he took up painting. Although never trained as a painter, his work began to receive wide attention after World War II when he exhibited his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1945. Over his long career his works drew from sources as disparate as Velasquez, Muybridge, newspaper and magazine photos, and film stills. An illustrated color catalog of the Bacon show will be available at the time of the exhibition.
IMAGE: Francis Bacon, Jet of Water, 1988
JOHN DEAKIN was good at annoying people. Paul Scofield described him as “a vicious little drunk of such inventive malice and implacable bitchiness that it’s surprising that he didn’t choke on his own venom”.
As a photographer contracted to Vogue in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he was often drunk, he made the models cry and he reduced the fashion editors to weeping fury. The Vogue Editor, Audrey Withers, admitted that he was “incapable of taking a good picture of a beautiful young woman,” but despite that, she gave him a salary and gave him his head. Deakin produced a body of photographic work which, although distinctly unglossy, had exceptional breadth, vision and integrity.
Deakin has already been the subject of two major exhibitions — at the V & A in 1984-85 and at the National Portrait Gallery in 1996. Now he is up for his third major retrospective in 20 years, at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh. The show includes many of his searing portraits, a large number of documentary images never seen before, and a series of fragile photographs excavated from under the floor of Francis Bacon’s studio. Bacon used these torn, paint-spattered portrait fragments as an aide-memoire, though Deakin, who died in 1972, would not have been the slightest bit concerned. He used to lose his own regularly, trample on them, rip their corners in filing cabinets. He disparaged his own work and doubted the status of photography as art; he wanted to be a painter.
So why the third show in 20 years? Robin Muir, who has written two excellent books on Deakin and curated this show, says that Deakin’s name is only now getting the recognition the man denied himself in life. “His portraits still look starkly modern half a century on,” he says. “His street photographs are haunting documents too.”
Deakin spent much of his London life among the heavy-drinking painter and literary crowds. Many of his finest portraits were taken of Soho’s habitués for Vogue in the early 1950s, tightly cropped and revealing every blemish. These portraits, unlike anything commissioned by the magazine at the time, had an almost brutally intimidating life force. They made no concessions to his sitters’ vanities. Deakin got right under the skins of his friends Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and the rest of the Soho crowd. His portrait of Louis MacNeice is an excoriating close-up showing the poet, with his coffee-coloured complexion and bloodshot eyes, like the old crony roused from a heavy night. It is a face marinated in experience, deeply etched with lines of life-long weariness.
Eduardo Paolozzi gazes out of a grainy, fleshy face in 1953, his hands as pudgy as a toddler’s, his dark eyebrows meeting like handlebars over his dark and fiercely thoughtful eyes. These are courageous photographs, their force a measure of the degree to which the subject and the photographer agreed to risk trust and acceptance of each other.
After Deakin was fired from Vogue, he gypsied his way through the capitals of Europe, pointing his camera at shop windows, at graffiti on walls, at cemeteries, flea markets and hidden alleyways. As Colin MacInnes wrote in The Times: “Mr Deakin has an astonishing eye for the peculiar hidden in the ordinary: where the casual observer sees only a shop-front or the façade of a house, Mr Deakin sees one side of Alice’s looking-glass and the infinite mysteries that lie behind it.”
Bacon & Caro
Will Bennett reports on exhibitions at the Marlborough Gallery
An exhibition of works by Francis Bacon, which opened last week at the Marlborough Gallery on West 57th Street, New York, marks the end of a turbulent chapter in the company’s history. Marlborough represented Bacon from 1958 until after his death 10 years ago. But in 2000, Marlborough was sued by Bacon’s estate, which claimed that the gallery had financially exploited him.
Marlborough strongly denied the allegations and the estate eventually withdrew the case earlier this year. However, while the dispute was in progress Marlborough could not mount any exhibitions from its holding of works bought from Bacon in his lifetime.
"During the lawsuit, which lasted about two and a half years, our lawyers’ advice was not to market the pictures that we owned and not to exhibit them," says Gilbert Lloyd, son of the gallery’s founder Frank Lloyd. Once the case was concluded, Marlborough dipped its toes back into the water by showing a few Bacons at the Art Basel in June, but the exhibition that opened in New York last Monday is the first on its own premises.
Nine major works by Bacon, including three triptychs, are on show until December 7 at prices ranging from £2.2 million to £6.4 million. "The reason we chose November in New York," says Lloyd, "was to coincide with the auctions, as most of the art world comes to the city at that time."
Marlborough is planning to loan some Bacons to museum exhibitions and will also hold more shows of its own.
Contemporary Art Evening Auction
New York, Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Property from a Private French Collection
LOT 48 FRANCIS BACON (1909-1992)
TRIPTYCH: THREE STUDIES OF HENRIETTA MORAES
Signed, titled and dated 1966 on the reverse: oil on canvas.
Estimate : 1 800 000 USD - 2 200 000 USD
Sotheby’s, London, Twentieth Century Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture presented to The Institute of Contemporary Art for sale on behalf of the Carlton House Project, June 23, 1966, lot 3 (donated by the artist)
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (acquired from the above)
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris
Nesuhi Ertegun, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above
London, Institute of Contemporary Art, The Obsessive Image, 1960-1968,
April - May 1968, illustrated
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Surrealism: Two Private Eyes, June - September 1999, p. 50, illustrated in colour
Any history of Twentieth Century painting would not be complete without a thorough examination of the art of Francis Bacon. His challenging and provocative work ranks amongst the most sophisticated examples of the art of painting in the post-war period. This is an art driven by an insurmountable desire to record the self beyond the expression; to convey presence beyond mere representation. As such, when exploring Bacon’s limitless quest for the ultimate immediacy (and thus reality) of depiction, it is to his small format portrait triptychs that one often turns in an effort to understand the finer examples of his creative genius. Here, color, form and composition are tightly knit together in a dazzling display of painterly bravura, forming a small group of extremely rare works that remain some of the highlights of the last one hundred years of oil painting.
Triptych: Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes, executed at a time many believe to be the height of Bacon’s creative powers in 1966, is an exquisite example of this rare series of triptych portraits executed on separate fourteen by twelve inch canvasses. Indeed, the intimate size and proportions of these supports allowed Bacon to experiment most dynamically with the potency of his brilliant gesture. He would paint, repaint and more often than not, discard these smaller works until he found the kernel of his subject’s being. One cannot, therefore, be surprised to learn that relatively few of these portrait studies have survived the artist’s own (at best) temperamental editing. Approximately forty-one examples exist, of which nearly half now grace important museum collections. Those that did survive, however, reveal some of the most intense and elaborate examples of Bacon’s painterly genius. As John Russell has written, "The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards, the scene of some of Bacon’s most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them’’ (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99).
Dynamically thrust to the front of the picture plane, these searching canvasses
reveal a varied approach to Bacon’s exploration of self. The left-hand canvas
finds the head occupying the majority of the surface turned to the left and
built up through a network of tight strokes. The central canvas, imposing in its
strident position along the central vertical axis, is a little looser, while the
right-hand canvas is looser still, suggesting the swift motion of Henrietta
Moraes’ head. Bacon’s over brushed and scumbled paint work contributes to the
ambiguity of the form depicted, but simultaneously, to a deeper penetration of
the sense of self. Again, form and shape are bewilderingly different, yet when
seen together, these forms combine to fuel the homogeneity of the composition as
a whole. Each, however, confront the viewer in a manner unique to and utterly
typical of Bacon’s art, so that the poise and precision of Bacon’s portraiture
and painting is represented in all its variegated forms. Set against a brooding
indigo blue and black ground that propels the forceful plasticity of Bacon’s
brushwork, the artist has vigorously modeled Moraes’ face. The side views,
particularly, are markedly different from each other, but as noted above, they
serve to balance the composition in its triptych format. There is indeed a
wonderfully organic rhythm to the triptych as a whole. One need only follow the
sensuous undulation of the subject’s shoulders, or make connections between
similar pigmentation on the separate canvasses, to see how Bacon has managed to
generate a wonderful flow of form, colour and movement within the triptych form
that energizes this most traditional of formats.
The three canvasses also relate to one another as if they were separate layers of the same painting, that when superimposed one on the other, would allow the viewer to fully comprehend the 'reality' of the artist as sitter. Indeed, Bacon told David Sylvester of his predilection for working in series, "...I see every image all the time in a shifting way and almost in shifting sequences. So that one can take it from more or less what is called ordinary figuration to a very, very far point'' ('Francis Bacon', 1962, in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1990, p. 21). This extreme point, beyond the mere illustration, description or narrative that Bacon so detested, conveys what the artist termed the sitter’s 'emanation': "The sitter is someone of flesh and blood and what has to be caught is their emanation. I’m not talking in a spiritual way... But there are always emanations from people whoever they are, though some peoples’ are stronger than others" (David Sylvester, Op. Cit., p. 174).
Bacon has not chased across each canvas Henrietta Moraes’ physical presence – her muscles, sinews and bone structure – but rather the psychological trace of her own existence. The present work is thus the perfect marriage of the real and the ethereal: we become witness to a meeting point where presence becomes absence, and vice versa. These haunting, almost mystical images that prevail transcend the boundaries of mere depiction. This is amplified by the intense background that occasionally consumes her face, creating terse undertones to the drama of self, which Bacon recounts before us. However, this drama, of matter and of self is counterbalanced by the softness of Bacon’s palette: a combination of gentle lilacs, fleshy pinks and delicate hues of purple and red.
Bacon’s unique ability to convey the complex nature of self and presence can only be compared to Rembrandt’s portraits, particularly his late paintings, which Bacon so admired. They both share a passion for broad, sweeping strokes of pigment, set against dark, ominous backgrounds, unveiling, in the process, the dance of light and shade as a metaphor for the dance of life.
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
Barman who famously upbraided Bacon in Soho and
became the painter’s confidant and, eventually, heir
| 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.' ''