Francis Bacon

1909-1992

Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, emotionally charged and raw imagery. His painterly abstracted figures are typically isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages, set against flat, nondescript backgrounds.

Bacon took up painting in his early 20s but worked sporadically and uncertainly until his mid-30s. His output can be crudely described as sequences or variations on a single motif; beginning with the 1930s Picasso-informed Furies, moving on to the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s screaming popes, and the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures. These were followed by his early 1960s variations on crucifixion scenes. From the mid-1960s he mainly produced portraits of friends and drinking companions, either as single or triptych panels. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover George Dyer, his art became more somber, inward-looking and preoccupied with the passage of time and death. His work is dramatic and melodramatic, but always riveting. The light is raking; there is no escape and no place to hide.

Bacon was equally reviled and acclaimed during his lifetime. Since his death his reputation and market value have grown steadily, and his work is amongst the most acclaimed, expensive and sought-after. In the late 1990s a number of major works, previously assumed destroyed, including early 1950s popes and 1960s portraits, reemerged to set record prices at auction.