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Dales Farm Donation

Cover of Ch Desroches-Noblecourt (Coord.), Ramses le Grand

Bacon book collection, cover of Ch Desroches-Noblecourt (Coord.), Ramses le Grand (Paris: Presses Artistiques, 1976 (First Edition)) Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane © The Estate of Francis Bacon

A group of around 670 novels, exhibition catalogues, documentary books and magazines, which Bacon had stored in the kitchen and living area of 7 Reece Mews and at Dales Farm, a property in Suffolk which he barely used, were donated to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane by The Estate of Francis Bacon in 2001. They complement the books unearthed from his notoriously chaotic studio space, which have been held by The Hugh Lane since 1998. The vast extent of Bacon’s library, which by the time of his death contained over 1200 publications, poignantly illustrates his keen interest in and great passion for books.

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Perry Ogden, Francis Bacon's 7 Reece Mews studio, London, 1998 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2017.

Similar to the material from the atelier at Reece Mews, the second book donation covers a kaleidoscopic range of topics. For example, reminiscent of Bacon’s famous statement ‘if I go into a butcher's shop I always think it's surprising that I wasn't there instead of the animal,'[1] the donation contains a large group of cookery books; this is matched by an equally great number of monographs and overview books on philosophy. Other subjects covered in the collection include Ancient Egypt, the Beat scene, rugby, cats, London street life, and bog people. This second book donation also provides further insight into Bacon’s interests in literature and poetry. His literary interests appear to have been as eclectic as his visual preferences. Bacon collected authors such as Yeats, Joyce, Lorca, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Conrad and Austen; he owned a compilation of Greek tragedies but also Agatha Christie murder mysteries. The fact that a few books from the living area of Reece Mews and Dales Farm show paint marks, and torn leaves from others were found among the studio detritus, suggests that there was an occasional exchange between the three spaces.

In a collaborative effort between Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane and Trinity College, Dublin, the publications were catalogued, researched and integrated in the museum database of Bacon’s working material. You can find more information on the project on their websites.

Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

Trinity College Dublin


[1] David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London: Thames & Hudson, p.46