Francis Bacon Auction Record Sale


On November 12, 2013, Christie’s auction house sold Francis Bacon’s 1969 triptych (a set of three pieces intended to be displayed together and often include one recurring theme) titled, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, for $142,405,000 at their Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale. The purchase of this painting actually broke the previous world auction record for the artist of $86 million in 2008. Francis Bacon, an Irish-born British painter, lived from 1909-1992, and a contemporary of Bacon, Lucian Freud, who was a fellow painter and chronicler of the human condition, lived from 1922-2011. Bacon and Freud had a “slippery” friendship if you will, and in 1969, Bacon produced an almost life sized triptych with Freud as the subject. Bacon and Freud were friends for a long time and Bacon even viewed Freud to be one of the most entertaining people he knew, yet over the years, competition arose with the result of them becoming artistic rivals—they were both artists with an interest in the human subject (the competition didn’t just stop there, but I won’t go into it right now.)


Francis Bacon’s Style


Bacon insisted on illustrating a recurring subject matter of the human figure, and interestingly enough, he almost never worked directly from a model but would instead rely on his visual recall and feelings often evoked from photographs. Another noteworthy detail about his artistic method was his rejection of the idea of a sketch or drawing (obviously very different from Picasso, for example, with his Guernica painting that included over 100 sketches from start to finish.) Bacon did not believe in preparatory sketches of his works, believing instead that the actual texture, color, and the whole way the paint moves, would only give an impression or skeleton of what movement was occurring—essentially, he wanted to give an accurate representation by his own standards and he felt that preparing a sketch or drawing would draw from this “originality” if it was planned. Bacon sought to have the deeper levels of personality come across in his paintings, and he believed that this idea came from the unconscious; he thought of painting—but truly painting—to be not just about depicting the appearance of the subject, but the way they have affected you as well, since according to this artistic philosophy every shape has an implication.


Francis Bacon’s Art’s Psychological Intentions


Bacon’s method of painting has psychological undertones. He once said, “In working you are really following this kind of cloud of sensation in yourself, but you don’t know what it really is. And it’s called instinct.” It’s these instincts that take hold when an artist applies paint to canvas, so it’s not about having the knowledge or skills of a trained artist, but the “instinctual” or “unconscious” ability to put to canvas whatever ideas, memories, or creations you may have in your mind when at work.

The Many Reasons Why I Love Francis Bacon

A brief visual analysis of this triptych (clicking here takes you to an image of it where you can zoom in) shows a life-size yellow canvas with a figure [Freud] as an animated figure shuffling from panel to panel. He has his hands folded within crossed legs and keeps pivoting a raised foot, and the dynamic strokes and colors of his head show it moving from canvas to canvas—he is never still. Each brushstroke is lively and smooth, and each of Freud’s faces is energetic with sharp dashes of color, making it somewhat difficult to make out a facial expression. The atmosphere of each painting is a clean ground, background, and structure, with a dynamic Freud shown either frontally or in profile, with the two outer panels having the Freud figures facing a central Freud whose body faces the viewer (it seems to me like the central figure is either looking at the viewer or straight past us).


Not Your Typical Artist


Bacon is not your “typical” artist in the sense that he is not commonly thought of when someone asks you, “So who’s your favorite artist?” Or if you are walking through the Met, you probably won’t hear people saying “Oh my god, did you see that Bacon over there?” And let’s be honest, if you did hear someone speaking about “Bacon” unless you were in an art museum, you probably wouldn’t think of the artist—it’s okay, we’re being honest here. Another reason he isn’t your typical artist is because his works could be thought of as “disturbing” compared to a work like Monet’s Nympheas, for example. I don’t know about you, but I think his work is pretty cool.

In Comparison


This is another work of Bacon’s—see where I get the whole “disturbing” idea from? Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy it, it just deviates a little from what people normally associate with “Oh, so you’re an art historian?”

The Many Reasons Why I Love Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953


This is an example of one of Monet’s Nympheas, so you can see that there really is a difference in the “style” of art here.

The Many Reasons Why I Love Francis Bacon


What are your thoughs on Francis Bacon? Who is your favorite artist? Please share your thoughts below


By Yarden Elias 




About The Author

Yarden Elias is a senior at Rutgers University studying Art History and attempting to stay sane. She splits her time rather unevenly between school work, a senior thesis, a social life, and watching Sons of Anarchy. She loves corny jokes, has a passion for learning languages and traveling, and goes to museums whenever possible.

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