The Estate of Francis Bacon

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Francis Bacon and the Moroccan painter Ahmed Yacoubi in Tangier, 1956

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1945-1946 Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 was hung in a group exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery, New Bond Street in April 1945, mere weeks before the end of the war in Europe. Although his next surviving work, Figure in a Landscape, 1945 was also included, it was the Three Studies that riveted the attention of public and critics. This triptych, with its hot orange background and stone-coloured monsters of vaguely human descent left a lasting and disquieting impression. Despite its title, the figures were inspired by the Furies, mythical agents of revenge who pursued Orestes in Aeschylus’s tragedy. The painting was bought by Eric Hall, who later presented it to the Tate Gallery.

The following year Bacon realised a work of unparalleled ambition. Painting, 1946 came about through an unlikely series of transformations. It began as an attempt to paint a bird alighting on a field and ended as an assemblage of meat carcasses and a mutilated, almost headless man beneath an umbrella. The artist Graham Sutherland, at that time a close friend of Bacon, was greatly impressed by the work. So much so that he insisted that the dealer and artist, Erica Brausen contact Bacon immediately. She bought the work in early autumn and it was displayed in several group exhibitions, including a show of 20th century art at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris in November 1946, before being acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1948. Bacon would remain with Brausen’s Hanover Gallery for the next 12 years, but did not mount a one-man show there until November 1949.

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