FAMAG 2008.27

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Francis Bacon worked at Portmeor studios, St Ives between September 1959 and January 1960. He visited Patrick Heron at Eagles Nest where he admired Heron's abstracts with horizontal coloured stripes. After this he often incorporated a horizontal band of colour into his compositions.

About the Artist

Born to an English family in Dublin in 1909, the second of five children to Christina Firth, a steel heiress, and Edward Bacon, a racehorse trainer and former army officer. He spent his early childhood at Cannycourt, County Kildare, but in 1914, with the outbreak of World War 1, the family moved to London where his father joined the Ministry of War. Repelled by his burgeoning homosexuality, his father threw young Bacon out of the family home in 1926. At this time, with little schooling, he moved to London with a weekly allowance of £3 a week from his mother. In 1927 Bacon travelled to Berlin and Paris, impressed by Picasso’s exhibition at Galerie Paul Rosenberg he began to draw and paint while attending free academies. He then returned to London, where he initially practised as a furniture and interior designer. Exempt from World War 2 due to his asthma, it was during this time his career as an artist began. Bacon became central to a post-war group in Soho, which included Lucien Freud, Michael Andrews, the photographer John Deakin, Henrietta Moraes and Isabel Rawsthorne. After his first major contract with the Hanover Gallery and sale of artwork to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he went on to gamble away the results at Monte Carlo. During the 1950s he created pieces inspired by Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X. His work at this time often included images of popes, contemporary popular figures, animals and his lover Peter Lacey. Inspired by the Van Gogh exhibition at the Hanover Gallery in 1957, Bacon departed from his monochromatic style towards the use of more heightened colour. The extent of his talent was confirmed in 1963 when he held his first solo retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum New York. In 1967 he refused the Carnegie Institute Award and donated the Rubens Prize to the restoration of Florence following the devastating floods there. On the eve of Bacon’s large retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris; his long-term lover George Dyer committed suicide; the haunting echoes of which can be seen in his later paintings. For a time Bacon stayed in St Ives, working at the Porthmeor studios. Bacon’s later solo shows and retrospectives emphasised his reflection on the anxiety of the modern condition. These shows reinforced the perception that Bacon was Britain’s greatest painter since JMW Turner. On a visit to Madrid in 1992 he was hospitalised with pneumonia, exacerbated by his asthma, and died on April 28th.