- NAME: Francis Bacon
- OCCUPATION: Painter
- BIRTH DATE: November 28, 1909
- DEATH DATE: April 28, 1992
- Did You Know?: In 2013, Francis Bacon's painting "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" set a new record as the most expensive work ever sold at auction, with a final price of $142.4 million.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Dublin, Ireland
- PLACE OF DEATH: Madrid, Spain
Best Known For
The English artist Francis Bacon is best known for his post-World War II paintings, in which he represented the human face and figure in an expressive, often grotesque style.
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Francis Bacon was born to English parents living in Dublin, Ireland, on November 28, 1909. After traveling to Germany and France as a young man, he settled in London and began a career as a self-taught artist. Most of his paintings from the 1940s to '60s depict the human figure, in scenes that suggest alienation, violence and suffering. Bacon's provocative, expressive work is considered some of the most important art of the postwar era. He died in Madrid, Spain, on April 28, 1992.
"I feel ever so strongly that an artist must be nourished by his passions and his despairs. These things alter an artist whether for the good or the better or the worse."
"Art is a method of opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object."
Francis Bacon was born to English parents living in Dublin, Ireland, on November 28, 1909. He was raised in Ireland and England, and as a child, he suffered from asthma, which kept him from receiving any formal education. Instead, he was tutored at home.
Bacon left home in 1927, when he was just 17 years old. He traveled to Berlin, Germany, where he took part in the city's gay nightlife as well as its intellectual circles, and to Paris, France, where he became interested in art through visits to galleries. When he returned to London in 1929, he began a career as an interior decorator, also designing furniture and rugs in a modern, Art Deco-influenced style. Additionally, he began to paint, first in a Cubist style influenced by Pablo Picasso and later in a more Surrealist manner. Bacon's self-taught work attracted interest, and in 1937, he included in a London group exhibition entitled "Young British Painters."
Francis Bacon later dated the true beginning of his artistic career as 1944. It was around this time that he devoted himself to painting and began creating the works for which he is still remembered. These were large canvases depicting human figures—most often a single figure, isolated in an empty room, in a cage or against a black background. For one series of paintings, Bacon was inspired by Diego Velázquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X (circa 1650), but he painted the subject in his own style, using dark colors and rough brushwork and distorting the sitter's face. These works came to be known as Bacon's "screaming pope" paintings.
In other works, a figure might stand beside a flayed carcass of meat. Still other paintings were derived from traditional religious subject matter such as the crucifixion of Christ. In all of his paintings, Bacon emphasized the universal experiences of suffering and alienation.
Even during a period in which modern art was dominated by abstraction, Bacon continued to paint the human face and figure. His emotional use of brushwork and color as well as his exaggeration of forms caused him to be labeled as an Expressionist artist, though he rejected the term.
Some of Bacon's works of the 1960s depict a lone male figure dressed in a business suit. Others showed nude figures, often with grotesquely altered proportions and features. Bacon frequently painted portraits of people he knew, including artist Lucian Freud and George Dyer, a close friend of Bacon's. During these years, Bacon used brighter colors.
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