Bacon’s original ‘Screaming Pope’ on show for the first time

Francis Bacon’s painting of a screaming pope, thought to be the earliest in his series of papal portraits, since 1946, was displayed in London at the Gagosian Gallery.

The Irish artist created the work, known as ‘Landscape with Pope/Dictator’, in 1946 whilst living in Monaco.

It shows a blurred, gaping figure in a biretta, (the traditional cap of the Catholic clergy), and wearing a shirt and tie. A microphone is in front of him and beneath that is a floral arrangement.

Art gallery Gagosian, in Davies Street, London, is showing the painting believing that it was Bacon’s first attempt at the papal image.

It could be described as a fusion of the clerical and the secular from the way the figure is dressed. The dictatorial elements in the depiction were ideas that Bacon toyed with for twenty years.

The painting was recently found when British art historian Harrison compiled a catalogue of Bacon's work, publishing it in 2016.

Apparently, it had never been in an exhibition. Instead it ended up in a private collection in Italy in 1967. This is its first public appearance since then. The painting is on show until April 23rd, 2022.