April 28, On This Day
Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon, a giant of contemporary art with his unique raw style, unsettling portraits and triptychs, passed away 20 years ago today, on April 28, 1992.
He often focused on a single motif for sustained periods, and his output can be broadly systematically broken up into:
1930s: Picasso-influenced bio-morphs and Furies
1940s: Male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures
Early 1950s: “Screaming Popes”
Mid-to-late 1950s: Animals and lone figures
Early 1960s: Crucifixions
Mid-to-late 1960s: Portraits of friends
1980s: Cooler, more technical paintings
Last month, when a never-before publicly exhibited piece of his was to go up on display, Abir Pothi published a profile of the creative genius, which you can read here.
On his death anniversary, we string together some fascinating trivia about the artist, some verified as fact and others more as enjoyable legends that may not quite be entirely accurate.
- It is said that Bacon had a troubled relationship with his Irish horse-trainer father, who once had the child whipped for dressing up in female clothing.
- Bacon is reported to have said of Pablo Picasso: “He is the father figure who gave me the wish to paint.” He first encountered his work in Paris in the 1920s.
- Bacon’s work did not make the cut in the landmark 1936 London surrealism exhibition on the basis that it was deemed “insufficiently surreal” by curators.
- A bon vivant, Bacon spent his middle age eating, drinking and gambling in London’s Soho with like-minded friends including painter Lucian Freud, photographer John Deakin, nightclub owner Muriel Belcher, model Henrietta Moraes, broadcaster Daniel Farson, actor Tom Baker and journalist Jeffrey Bernard.
- Farson claimed what helped Bacon work daily from 6am and focus on his painting was a fierce hangover.
- Freud and Bacon fell out in the mid-1970s, for reasons neither ever explained. But when they were friends, Freud painted an early portrait of Bacon, stolen from Berlin in 1988 and subsequently transformed it into a Wanted poster
- Bacon claimed he began an affair with petty criminal George Dyer after he found Dyer breaking into his flat! Although, this has later been discredited. Bacon and Dyer were played by Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig, respectively, in the 1998 biopic ‘Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon’.
- In 2006, Damien Hirst reworked Bacon’s three-part elegy for Dyer, who committed suicide in 1971, as a sequence of vitrines entitled The Tranquility of Solitude. The vitrines contained the corpses of three sheep perched on porcelain toilets.
- The contents of a small room in Reece Mews, Kensington, where Bacon worked from 1961 until his death in 1992, were painstakingly catalogued, transported to and reconstructed — even down to the paint-spattered walls — to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.