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(1909 – 1992), Ireland

Francis Bacon Biography

Perhaps best known for his infamously jarring series of 'Screaming Popes' made in the 1950s, Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon is a key figure of modern 20th-century painting. His acclaimed and internationally sought after abstracted figurative paintings collectively explore the anxieties of the human condition.

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Born in Dublin to an English family in 1909, Bacon's childhood—spent between London and Ireland—was marred by severe asthma, from which he continued to suffer throughout his life, alongside several emotional upheavals. In 1926, Bacon arrived in London after he was ejected from the family home by his father due to his homosexuality.

Initially, Bacon worked as a furniture and interior designer in South Kengsington in the 1920s and 30s. Inspired to learn to paint and draw after seeing an exhibition of Picasso at Galerie Paul Rosenberg in Paris in 1927, by 1930 Bacon was painting in a shared studio with influential painters Jean Shepeard and Roy de Miastre.

With early backing from his monied patron-turned-lover Eric Hall, Bacon emerged in the 1940s as a central figure of the post-war Soho art scene, which included artists like Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Henrietta Moraes, and Isabel Rawsthorne. In 1948, he sold a painting to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, marking the start of an international career, which flowered in the decades to come.

For much of his life, Francis Bacon lived the socially active life of a bon vivant with a passion for gambling and drinking. Yet his myriad of expressive and often confronting paintings inspired by subjects from life and art presents the outlook of a moody, bleak existentialist.

Among his many muses were Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650)—the source for his infamous 'screaming popes' of the early 1950s; late 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge's studies of humans' and animals' locomotion, and, towards the late 1960s and 70s, Bacon's various friends and acquaintances. He would also produce several self-portraits.

Each of his works explores extreme psychological states reflective of the artist's own turbulent emotional state in the face of particular experiences. One can sense in Francis Bacon's art the psychological and emotional torment following the loss of his childhood nanny and longtime partner in crime Jessie Lightfoot, and lovers Peter Lacey and George Dyer.

Cementing his international reputation, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York held a major retrospective of Francis Bacon's work in 1963. It followed the first major institutional retrospective of his work at the Tate the previous year. Ever since, the artist's work has been shown in institutions and exhibitions worldwide. In 1985, the Tate held a second retrospective of Bacon's work amidst several other significant exhibitions, including shows in Moscow in 1988 amidst the liberal atmosphere of a freshly post-communist state.

Francis Bacon's artwork has accrued numerous awards over the years, including the Carnegie Institute Award (1967)—which he refused—and the Ruben's prize, and has been the subject of countless publications.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Francis Bacon Artworks

Currently there are no artworks available from our member galleries, however Ocula Advisory may have a number works which they can potentially offer for private sale. Please contact Ocula Advisory for more information.

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Francis Bacon Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Prints at Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris, Paris
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21 November 2019–18 January 2020 Group Exhibition Prints Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris13 Rue de Téhéran, Paris
Contemporary art exhibition, Francis Bacon, Couplings at Gagosian, London
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6 June–3 August 2019 Francis Bacon Couplings GagosianGrosvenor Hill, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Mutated Reality at Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow
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27 November 2015–3 March 2016 Group Exhibition Mutated Reality Gary Tatintsian GalleryMoscow

Francis Bacon In Ocula Magazine

Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell Ocula News Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell New York, 1 July 2020

The American painter sold well during her lifetime, but it's only in recent years that her prices have begun to catch up to those of her peers.

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How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales Ocula News How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales New York, 25 June 2020

Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonham's have changed what they're selling and how they're selling it for major auctions taking place over the next two weeks.

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London Auction Sales Down Despite $30m Hockney Splash Ocula News London Auction Sales Down Despite $30m Hockney Splash London, 18 February 2020

The third highest price fetched by Hockney at auction contributed to over US $500 million in sales.

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Francis Bacon In Related Press

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Francis Bacon: Couplings review – a taboo-busting opus of sizzling flesh Related Press Francis Bacon: Couplings review – a taboo-busting opus of sizzling flesh 7 June 2019, The Guardian

The authority of Francis Bacon’s art is papal. I am not referring to the paintings inspired by Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X that made him famous. It’s just that walking into Gagosian’s immaculate selection of his paintings feels like exploring the art treasures of St Peter’s and the Vatican, so sublime is this display. If these pictures...

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Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit Related Press Painting’s Patriarchal Spirit 20 October 2018, Hyperallergic

LONDON—In 1981, the Royal Academy of Arts in London put on an exhibition of 20 th century painting that changed the art world. A New Spirit in Painting was 'a manifesto,' the accompanying catalogue said; it showcased a set of contemporary, mostly European painters, whose work possessed qualities—figurative, narrative, emotional...

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The Spirit of Painting in an Altered World Related Press The Spirit of Painting in an Altered World 12 May 2018, Hyperallergic

'A faint, beautiful memory' is how curator Norman Rosenthal described A New Spirit Then, A New Spirit Now, 1981-2018, the current show at Almine Rech Gallery on the Upper East Side. What he’s remembering, as spelled out in the exhibition’s title, is the seminal survey, A New Spirit in Painting, which opened, barely, at the Royal Academy of Arts...

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Francis Bacon and gay Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses shown in Tehran Related Press Francis Bacon and gay Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses shown in Tehran 10 March 2017, The Guardian

A remarkable collection of modern western and Iranian art that had been gathering dust in the cellar of a Tehran museum and blocked from being shown in Europe has gone on display in Iran’s capital. The collection features works by two prominent gay artists, Francis Bacon and Bahman Mohasses.

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Francis Bacon In Video & Audio

Wake up and smell the art at Tate Sensorium Related Video & Audio Wake up and smell the art at Tate Sensorium 11 September 2015, i-D Vice

From the kids who started playing candy crush the moment they slipped out the womb, to gadget-obsessed geriatrics, technology is the go to attraction of the 00s. So, for art to remain truly relevant, it needs to grow collaboratively with the technology we are all so hooked on. Cue Tate Gallery's IK Prize, an annual initiative to support...

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