For our final Catalogue Raisonné Focus of the year we are taking a look at Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963.
The work is based on photographs that Francis Bacon had commissioned from John Deakin, most likely taken in 1962 or 1963. These photographs show Moraes lying and sitting in various positions on a bed. Bacon would go on to adapt these photographs for a further eight paintings up to 1969. Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963, is Bacon’s first painting in which Moraes is sitting on a bed, and it is one of the most striking of his female nudes.
Martin Harrison states in the listing for this painting in the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné: ‘Formally quite simple, it is a triumph of direct expression and intense brushwork. A detail present in one of Deakin’s photographs, but exaggerated by Bacon in the painting, is the declivity around Moraes’s waistline: this is likely to have been quoted from Velázquez’s Toilet of Venus (‘Rokeby Venus’, 1649–51), which had belonged to the National Gallery since 1906, and was one of Bacon’s most fertile art-historical stimuli.’
Painted over a crimson-stained base layer, Bacon layered the textured, off-white bedsheets and pillows. In order to create texture and contrast for these elements, Bacon pressed fabrics into the wet paint, a technique he used often throughout his oeuvre. To compliment, there are a number of subtle areas of carefully considered colour detail, such as the strip of blue on the bedside that is balanced with a different shade of blue next to Moraes’s right foot.
Harrison goes on to say, ‘The two black drips on the sheets appear to be carefully painted, rather than procedural accidents that he embraced, and may replicate fortuitous blemishes that had occurred on the photographs Bacon consulted.’
Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016) p. 734.
To read the painting’s full exhibition history and selected bibliography you can visit the work’s dedicated website page.
Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné can be purchased through our distributor’s website.