The Estate of Francis Bacon

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Francis Bacon and William Burroughs photographed by John Minihan, London 1989. © John Minihan

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1989-1992 Bacon, however, had not given up on desire. In his last years and in declining health (a cancerous kidney was removed in 1989), he enjoyed a passionate relationship with a cultivated young Spaniard, whom he had met sometime in the mid-1980s. Against his doctor’s advice Bacon made a trip to Madrid in April 1992. Within days of arrival he fell critically ill and was taken to a medical clinic. On the 28th of April, he suffered a heart attack and died in the presence of two nuns from the Servants of Mary. Bacon was trenchant in his atheism but there is no evidence that he resisted the care of the religious; several times before he had been treated by sisters at the same clinic. Bacon’s remains were cremated in Spain and, as he requested, there was no service. His ashes were transported to England where they were scattered in a private ceremony. Bacon named John Edwards as the sole heir to his estate.

In the Reece Mews studio, a final portrait stood incomplete on a tall easel. It had been there since the previous November where it was observed by his only surviving sister, Ianthe. The identity of its subject, the assertive profile caught half way between a self-portrait and a portrait of George Dyer, has so far defied resolution.

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