For this month’s Catalogue Raisonné Focus we look at Bacon’s Seated Figure, 1978, a canvas which portrays a unique and enigmatic coupling.
George Dyer, in the familiar right-facing profile, is situated outside the circular platform on which stands (or squats, or sits, on both a stool and a chair) a figure wearing cricket pads, shaded by an umbrella.
This was the first of Bacon’s painting to embody a reference to the game of cricket. He did not deploy cricket pads as a motif again until 1982. The stance of the upper figure is consistent with that of a wicketkeeper behind the stumps, but the cricketers Bacon was said to have admired in the late 1970s, such as David Gower and Ian Botham, were not wicketkeepers.
That the figure is under an umbrella indicates that Bacon was almost certainly referring to Figure in a Landscape, 1945 (45-05), which was partly based on a photograph of Eric Hall under an umbrella. Hall was a great aficionado of cricket and followed the England team around the world: Bacon said he had often watched cricket, and this was mainly in the company of Eric Hall. Thus, the painting may form an enigmatic memorial of two deceased partners.
Excerpt adapted from Martin Harrison, FSA. Seated Figure, 1978, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné 2016, pages 1152-1153.
Seated Figure,1978 has been displayed in exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Musée d’at moderne de la Ville de Paris and with Xavier Fourcade Inc in New York.