Francis Bacon was a late twentieth century painter with a unique style which was controversial but much valued. He lived from 1909 - 1992.

Bacon came from an important ancestral line and was actually descended from Sir Francis Bacon, the philosopher and statesman of the 16th century who was rumoured to have written some of William Shakespeare’s plays.

Francis Bacon’s father was a race horse trainer in Ireland, who was at odds with his son’s emotional disposition. But his personality and nature was probably a factor in his great success! Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud is on record for having sold for $142.4 million, one of the highest amount ever paid at auction. Unfortunately, Bacon was in the habit of destroying his own work, which may be why his career was slow to start. However, he found patrons from among his wealthier lovers which boosted his confidence.

Bacon often used the reverse of his canvases to paint on and many a masterpiece can be found on the underside of existing canvases. In an interview with Melvin Bragg he claimed that the ‘unprimed side of the canvas worked for him better’. But the habit arose when he couldn’t afford to buy new canvases. After living in Berlin and Paris he returned to London and set up a studio in South Kensington where he practised interior design. Some rugs surfaced in 2012, but their origins were uncertain.

Bacon was a gambler who once tried to raise an income by running a poker club from home. He was often seen in London Casinos. Bacon was homosexual and once advertised himself on the front of the Times as a gentleman’s companion and found numerous lovers. Sadly, many of these relationships were marred by violence. Peter Lacy was one such violent lover who even destroyed one of Bacon’s artworks.

Bacon's painting of Peter Lacy appeared at Sotheby's for an estimated of $30m-40m, but failed to sell. Opinion of Bacon’s work is divided, but his importance to British art is universally recognised. Prime minister Margaret Thatcher once described Bacon as, "that man who paints those dreadful pictures". But Bacon claimed that it was never his intention to shock. He once said, "You can't be more horrific than life itself."

Bacon had an obsession with screaming, as witnessed by his study of Pope Innocent X. Screaming became a major theme in his work in general. It is said that this stemmed from a medical book that he had which dealt with diseases of the mouth. Another important influence is Sergei Eisenstein's film, Battleship Potemkin (1925), with Bacon keeping a photographic still of a screaming nurse from the movie in his studio.

In 1944, Bacon painted the work which got him noticed, 'Three studies for figures at the base of the crucifixion'. This triptych, three panels in all, refers to figures at the foot of the cross in Christian paintings of the death of Christ. Bacon later related them to the Eumenides, goddesses from Greek mythology. So it is unclear as to what was the actual source of inspiration for this work. It was first exhibited in April 1945. This coincided with the showing of the first terrifying photographs and film footage of the Nazi death camps. For some observers, Bacon’s painting reflected the dystopian world brought about by the Holocaust and the advent of nuclear weapons.

The death of Bacon’s lover, George Dyer profoundly impacted Bacon's work, although their relationships was fraught with difficulties. Dyer was an alcoholic, and a career criminal who had little intellectually in common with Bacon, although theirs was like an attraction of opposites.

Dyer took a fatal overdose in 1971 which had a devastating effect on Bacon, whose work reflected this in the use of darker portrayals and more sombre tones in his work. At the time of Dyer’s overdose, Bacon was having a major showing at the Grand Palais in France. As a result, Bacon’s work took on a noticeably darker tone for the rest of his life.

Following a series of unsatisfactory love affairs, Bacon eventually took up with John Edwards in 1974, with whom he spent the remainder of his life.

In 1998, the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin was gifted the contents of Bacon's London studio. The items were used to recreate Bacon’s studio as it was in London, which has been open to the public since 2001, containing roughly 600 books, 1,500 photographs, 100 slashed canvases and 69 drawings.

The editor of this site is a great fan of the works of this great artist. It is criminal that Bacon destroyed so many of his own works, which is a testament to his perfectionism. This site rates Francis Bacon as one of the most inspiring artists of all time. His was a currency of energy and emotion rarely seen in art. Spend just a brief time with these works and they will grow on you!

To view Francis Bacon's reconstructed studio visit:

To view Gray's portrait of Bacon visit:


Francis Bacon Francis Bacon the artist Artist Francis Bacon Three studies for figures at the base of the crucifixion Bacon triptych