For 2018’s final Catalogue Raisonné Focus, we take a closer look at Seated Woman, 1961, currently on view in Bacon’s Women at Ordovas, New York. This, the earliest piece in the exhibition, is one of ten female nudes Bacon painted between 1959 and 1962, but there is little known of its origins.
The painting is one of only four that Bacon painted of Muriel Belcher, and it is only in recent years that the figure has been interpreted as such, due to the similarity to Miss Muriel Belcher, 1959. A colourful figure, Belcher owned the Colony Room, a famous drinking club in Dean Street, Soho. It was a regular haunt for artists and writers and Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Frank Auerbach were all regulars. Belcher had an ongoing arrangement with Bacon whereby she gave him £10 a week and free drinks in return for bringing in new customers.
Belcher’s stance in the painting bears a resemblance to Soutine’s seated figures. Indeed, in Bacon’s own well-thumbed copy of the catalogue of the Soutine exhibition at MoMA, New York, 1950, two illustrations Portrait of the Sculptor Miestchaninoff (1923) and Woman in Pink (1924) are spattered with Bacon’s paint. In the Catalogue Raisonné Volume III Martin Harrison FSA discusses the composition of the piece:
“Seated Woman serves further to refute assertions that the five-year period between his Van Gogh paintings and the Tate retrospective in 1962 represented a decline in Bacon’s painting. The dark greenish foreground is a more painterly variant of his flatter viridian green grounds of a year earlier, while the highly effective lilac background is unusual in Bacon’s work of this period. Only in the skilfully-modulated head is the paint applied thickly, and over the body Bacon broke up the even texture by pressing corduroy into the wet pigment. Other details evince his close attention such as the alizarin crimson piping along the edge of the sofa and the strips of raw canvas.”
This piece is on display alongside Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1969, Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes, 1969. Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1967, and Triptych – Studies of the Human Body, 1970 at Ordovas, New York, until 11 January 2019. The exhibition looks at the role the opposite sex played in the artist’s work. Bacon had many long-lasting friendships, including with the three women featured in this exhibition, Muriel Belcher, Henrietta Moraes, and Isabel Rawsthorne.
02 November 2018 - 11 January 2019
Ordovas, New York
If you’d like to order a copy of the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné please visit Heni Publishing’s website.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, FSA. 61-03 Seated Woman, 1961, Catalogue Raisonné Volume IIV pages p631-632.
Word ref: Ordovas website, The Estate of Francis Bacon website.