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1980s

During the 1980s Bacon exhibited in prestigious institutions all over the world. Now in his seventies, Bacon was at the height of his fame and when Tate Britain celebrated him with a second retrospective in 1985, then director Sir Alan Bowness declared him the ‘greatest living painter.’

Far from resting on his laurels, however, the artist continued to advance his art. Bacon’s canvases became even more minimal and backgrounds were often reduced to monochromatic colour planes, predominantly in bright oranges and hot pinks, sometimes in beiges and pale blues. Abstract perspective lines and ‘space frames’ continued to deliver only vague indications of depth and space. As a consequence, the emphasis on the figure was amplified and in no other period was the compositional focus on the depicted subject so palpable and direct. Bacon’s protagonists similarly became quieter. Often seated and serene, they are executed in less gestural brushwork and flatter impasto than in previous decades. In addition to oil paint and household emulsions from the DIY store, Bacon increasingly employed aerosol spray paint.

Bacon’s passion for portraits and self-portraits was unbroken. Men in cricket pads, anonymous male and female torsos and fantastic bird-like creatures populate his paintings, often presented on plinth-like structures which imbue them with a sculptural quality.