7 Reece Mews
'I feel at home here in this chaos because the chaos suggests images to me'
After a decade of painting in temporary spaces, Francis Bacon moved into 7 Reece Mews in October 1961. ‘The moment I saw this place I knew that I could work here,’ enthused Bacon about the modest property. While he occasionally worked in other studios, Reece Mews was to remain the centre of his artistic activities until his death in 1992. Within the paint-blotched walls of the small atelier which measured only 4x6 metres, surrounded by myriads of photographs, books and newspapers, discarded canvases, painting materials and empty champagne boxes, Bacon created the iconic masterpieces which made him one of the most acclaimed artists of the last century.
Together with a kitchen-cum-bathroom, a living area and a toilet, the studio was on the first floor, which could only be reached via a narrow, steep staircase. Natural light came into the room from a west-facing skylight that Bacon installed after he had moved in. Books were stacked in piles or carelessly scattered over the floor. Sometimes, the small space became so cluttered with printed matter of all sorts that Bacon found it hard to move in front of the canvas. Clear-outs by Valerie Beston, and later John Edwards, brought temporary relief.
Bacon accumulated an astonishingly wide range of printed material, including magazines and books on bullfighting, gardening, boxing, the animal kingdom, art, medical textbooks, private snapshots and reproductions of his own paintings. Today, their peculiar aesthetics are immediately recognisable. Often, the artist tore the publications apart and cut, folded and over-painted the loose leaves. Other items became paint-splattered, crumpled and tattered simply by being exposed to the studio dynamics. We know today that these images did not only serve Bacon as triggers for ideas, but also formed direct starting points for his imagery.
Bacon always remained secretive about his methods and protective about his studio space. Few people were allowed inside and even fewer saw him paint. John Edwards was a rare exception, remembering that Bacon ‘held the brush like a sword and stood far back from the canvas, like he was fencing with an unseen opponent.’ Only after Bacon’s death, and the subsequent removal of the atelier and its contents to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, could his working process be researched in more detail.
Find out more about 7 Reece Mews and explore Bacon’s working materials and methods, with photographs of the studio and its contents. Click to enlarge.