(28 October 1909 - 28 April 1992)
was an Irish born British figurative painter. His artwork is known for its bold, austere, homoerotic and often violent or nightmarish imagery, which typically shows room-bound masculine figures isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon had begun painting by his early 20s, yet he worked only sporadically and without commitment during the late 1920s and early 1930s, when he worked as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs. He later admitted that his career was delayed because he had spent so long looking for a subject that would sustain his interest. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, and it was this work and his heads and figures of the late 1940s through to the early 1960s that sealed his reputation as a notably bleak, world famous, chronicler of the human condition.
From the mid 1960s, Bacon mainly produced portrait heads of friends. He often said in interviews that he saw images "in series", and his artistic output often saw him focus on single themes for sustained periods (including his crucifixion, Papal heads, and later single and triptych heads series). He began painting variations on the Crucifixion, and later focused on half human-half grotesque heads, best exemplified by the 1949 "Heads in a Room" series. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover, George Dyer, his art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with death. The climax of this late period came with his 1982 "Study for Self-Portrait", and his masterpiece, Study for a Self Portrait -Triptych, 1985-86. Despite his seemingly existentialist outlook on life, Bacon appeared to be a bon vivant, spending much of his middle and later life eating, drinking and gambling in London's Soho with Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Daniel Farson, Jeffrey Bernard, Muriel Belcher and Henrietta Moraes, among others. Following Dyer's death he distanced himself from this circle and became less involved with rough trade to settle in a platonic relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards.
Since his death, Bacon's reputation has steadily grown. He continues to draw admiration and disgust in equal measures; Margaret Thatcher famously described him as "that man who paints those dreadful pictures". Bacon was the subject of two major Tate retrospectives during his life time and received a third in 2008. He always professed not to depend on preparatory works and was resolute that he never drew. Yet since his death, a number of sketches have emerged and although the Tate recognised them as canon, they have not yet been acknowledged as such by the art market. In addition, in the late 1990s, several presumedly destroyed major works, including Popes from the early 1950s and Heads from the 1960s, have surfaced on the art market which are considered equal to any of his "official" output.
Head VI (1948) (Arts Council of England)