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CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS: PORTRAIT OF HENRIETTA MORAES ON A BLUE COUCH, 1965

Posted on 2022-07-14 11:10:10 in CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS
Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch, 1965. Oil on canvas. CR no. 65-08. © The Estate of Francis Bacon / DACS London 2022. All rights reserved.
Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch, 1965. Oil on canvas. CR no. 65-08. © The Estate of Francis Bacon / DACS London 2022. All rights reserved.

Henrietta Moraes was a friend and muse of Francis Bacon, who like the artist, frequented bars such as The Colony Room Club and the French House in Soho, London. It was in the French House over a glass of champagne that Bacon said to Moraes, ‘I’m thinking of doing some paintings of my friends.’ To this end, Bacon asked John Deakin to take some photographs of Moraes. Bacon used the resulting photos of a nude Moraes lying on a bed as the basis for a number of paintings.

In this month’s Catalogue Raisonné Focus, we are taking a closer look at the painting Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch, 1965, which deviates considerably from Bacon’s earlier paintings of the nude Moraes lying on beds, and does not appear to have relied on John Deakin’s photographs.

In this unique configuration the blue couch has a hood, so that it resembles a child’s perambulator: this would accord with the child-like vulnerability of Moraes’s pose, which is amplified by the violently arcing strokes of the thick, gritty flesh painting.

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 786).

Most recently in 2017 this painting was displayed in an exhibition at York Art Gallery, entitled Flesh, which explored how artists represent flesh in their work.

The inanimate door, with its pronounced brass knob and key, stands in for one of Bacon’s onlookers, and carries the intimation that the personal reverie enacted on the couch is about to be disturbed; the texture of the door is unusual, applied in watery grey strokes over a white underlayer. It can be imagined that Bacon identified strongly with the threatening situation he had orchestrated.

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 786).

Henrietta Moraes died at the age of 67 in 1999. Her autobiography Henrietta, published in 1994, included the reflective sentence 'My grandchildren and my dog have never seen me drunk, and I trust and pray that they never will.'

Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné can be purchased through our distributor’s website

Keywords:

Henrietta moraes Martin harrison Catalogue raisonné Catalogue raisonné focus John deakin Francis bacon The estate of francis bacon