Francis Bacon

Bacon was born in Dublin, Ireland to English parents. The family moved back and forth between Dublin and London several times while he was growing up. He was a sickly child, predominantly suffering from asthma, which carried into his adult life. His father, a retired serviceman turned horse-trainer, attempted to "toughen him up" by having his son horsewhipped. He was expelled from his family in 1925 for several reasons. Most notably, the discovery of his homosexuality- and an incident in which his father found him in front of a mirror dressed in his mother's clothes.

Bacon then spent a few months with his uncle in Berlin, then a year and a half in Paris, before returning to London and starting out as an interior designer. As a painter, Bacon was self taught in that he never attended any formal art school or training. He began work in watercolour about 1926–27, moving onto oils in the fall of 1929. An exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso inspired him to make his first drawings and paintings. The influence of the biomorphic figures in Picasso's works is apparent in Bacon's first major painting of his mature period, "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion" (1944). This painting is also representative of some of Bacon's methods and subjects: the triptych, the scream, and the lone figure against a stark backgroud.

Disheartened by lack of interest in his work, Bacon painted relatively little after his solo show in 1934 until the late 1940's. He considered the time after this to be the true start of his career. Bacon was disdainful of his work from before 1944 and destroyed the majority of it. He also destroyed an unknown number of works throughout his lifetime, and fragments of canvases were found in his studio after his death.


Figure With Meat (1954)Bacon was largely self-taught as an artist. His influences included:

Pablo Picasso, whose work decisively influenced his painting until the mid-1940s.
Diego Velázquez, namely Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X (1649–50). Bacon was obsessed with the portrait, according to his own admission, and made a famous recreation of it in 1954 called Figure with Meat .
Vincent van Gogh’s The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888).
Bacon’s work also reflected the influence of the Surrealist movement from the mid-1940s to the 1950s. He once said that his most important surrealist influence was not a fellow painter but rather the films of Luis Buñuel. Bacon also admired the films of the Russian film maker Sergei Eisenstein, especially the famous scene on the Odessa Steps from Battleship Potemkin (1925). Bacon also drew inspiration from photographs (especially those of Eadweard Muybridge), the poems of T. S. Eliot, the plays of Aeschylus, and the chaos of his famous studio. About the studio, Bacon remarked: "for me, chaos breeds images."

Later life

Bacon was an eccentric individual, and well known for his taste for gambling and alcohol. In 1964, he began a friendship with Eastender George Dyer, who he met (he claimed) while the latter was burgling his apartment. Their relationship was stormy and in 1971, on the eve of Bacon's major retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris, Dyer committed suicide. In 1974, Bacon met John Edwards, a young, handsome East-Ender with whom he formed an enduring, paternal relationship. Bacon died April 28, 1992, in Madrid, and bequeathed his entire estate (valued at £11 million) to Edwards after his death. Edwards, in turn, donated the contents of Francis Bacon's chaotic studio at 7 Recce Mews, South Kensington, to the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin. Bacon's studio contents were moved and the studio carefully reconstructed in the gallery.