In 1962 Bacon was honoured with a retrospective at Tate Britain, London, for which he finished Three Studies for a Crucifixion just in time. Bacon cherished the subject of the crucifixion, with its historical, cultural and religious connotations as ‘a magnificent armature on which you can hang all types of feeling and sensation’. Three Studies for a Crucifixion marks the subject’s return into Bacon’s repertoire after it was last referenced in 1944. However, Bacon only referred to it directly one last time, in Crucifixion, 1965.
Three Studies for a Crucifixion prompted an immediate succession of large-scale triptychs, such as Three Figures in a Room, 1964 and Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969.
In 1963 a new muse entered Bacon’s life and art. George Dyer, a petty criminal from the East End of London became his partner and the subject of many paintings, such as Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1963. Portraits became the main subject of the decade. Bacon claimed that he preferred to paint people that he knew well and many of his sitters, such as Henrietta Moraes, Isabel Rawsthorne, Lucian Freud and George Dyer, were close friends or lovers. Yet, he did not paint them from life explaining that, ‘even in the case of friends who will come and pose, I’ve had photographs taken for portraits because I very much prefer working from the photographs than from them.’ Many of those pictures were taken by his friend John Deakin, a street and fashion photographer who had previously worked for Vogue, and whom Bacon regarded as ‘the best photographer since Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron’. From around 1960, Bacon commissioned several series of portraits from him to use as working material and many of the original silver-gelatine prints, often crumpled, folded, torn and partly decomposed, were found in his Reece Mews studio after Bacon’s death.