Francis Bacon was born in a nursing home at 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin on the 28th October 1909. He was the second of five children born to English parents who had recently settled in Ireland, but who had no Irish blood ties. His father, Anthony Edward ‘Eddy’ Mortimer Bacon, a retired Army Major, now determined on a career as a breeder and trainer of horses. His decision to do so in Ireland was principally motivated by reasons of cost, though he had some knowledge of the land from his hunting days. Francis’s mother, Christina Winifred Loxley Bacon, née Firth, came from a Sheffield family who had established their fortune in steel. Her family did not have the ancestral pedigree of the Bacons (who were collateral descendants of the Elizabethan philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon but she was considerably more wealthy than her husband.
The family’s first residence in Ireland was Cannycourt House near the Curragh, Co. Kildare, an area renowned for its horse breeding and racing. During the First World War they uprooted to London, where Eddy Bacon served in the War Office. After the war they returned to an Ireland fundamentally changed by the 1916 Rising. The subsequent War of Independence (1919-1921) and Civil War (1922-23) cast a shadow of violence over the countryside, particularly for the Protestant gentry. The Bacon family moved between various country houses in Co. Laois and Co. Kildare and, for shorter stays, to England. Bacon’s only prolonged experience of formal schooling was at the Dean Close School, Cheltenham, where he boarded from the autumn of 1924 to the spring of 1926.
His home-life was chilly and fraught. His father, while not unintelligent, was a belligerent and argumentative man; his mother, a gregarious hostess inclined to self-absorption. At an early age Francis developed chronic asthma, a life-long affliction that hampered any efforts at country pursuits and diminished him in the eyes of his father. He was close, however, to his maternal grandmother, Winifred Margaret Supple, ‘Granny Supple,’ who manifestly disliked her son-in-law. Her house near Abbeyleix contained bow-ended rooms that would be echoed in the backdrops of Bacon’s paintings.