Bacon, however, had not given up on desire. In his last years and in declining health (a cancerous kidney was removed in 1989), he enjoyed a passionate relationship with a cultivated young Spaniard, whom he had met sometime in 1987. Against his doctor’s advice Bacon made a trip to Madrid in April 1992. Within days of arrival he fell critically ill and was taken to a medical clinic. On the 28th of April, he suffered a heart attack and died in the presence of two nuns from the Servants of Mary. Bacon was trenchant in his atheism but there is no evidence that he resisted the care of the religious, as several times before he had been treated by sisters at the same clinic. Bacon’s remains were cremated in Spain and, as he requested, there was no service. His ashes were transported to England where they were scattered in a private ceremony. Bacon named John Edwards as the sole heir to his estate.
In the Reece Mews studio, a final portrait stood incomplete on a tall easel. It had been there since the previous November where it was observed by his sister Ianthe. The identity of its subject, the assertive profile caught half way between a self-portrait and a portrait of George Dyer, has so far defied resolution.
International exhibitions of Bacon’s paintings have continued throughout the 1990s and beyond. The most prominent of these have been in the Museo Correr, Venice (1993), the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1996), the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin (2000), the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2001), Museo Serralves, Portugal (2003), the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (2003), the Institut Valencia, Valencia (2004), the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (2005), K20 Kunstsammlung, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2006), the Palazzo Reale, Milan (2007), Tate Britain, London (2008) and the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (2009). In 1998 The Estate of Francis Bacon unveiled paintings previously unseen or assumed to have been destroyed, including Study after Velázquez, 1950.
The studio, where Bacon had worked for over thirty years of his life, was donated by John Edwards to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin in 1998. It was reconstructed in the Gallery and opened to the public in May 2001.