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Removal of 7 Reece Mews

Survey drawing of shelving and mirror in Reece Mews

Survey drawing of shelving and mirror in Reece Mews. Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane © Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

‘A little corner of South Kensington moved to Ireland, his birthplace… I think it would have made him roar with laughter’.[1]

John Edwards on the removal of Bacon’s studio to Dublin

For a number of years after Bacon’s death in 1992, the atelier at 7 Reece Mews remained largely untouched. Without the painter whirling around the small room, walking over the newspapers on the cluttered floor, dripping paint over the books and photographs, tearing leaves from catalogues and folding, cutting and drawing over the torn pages, the multi-coloured chaos started to gather dust. The creative machinery which was essential to Bacon’s art had come to a permanent stop.

John Edwards, Bacon’s sole heir, sensed that there was more value to the material than its careless treatment and sometimes pitiful state might suggest, and decided that it should be preserved for posterity. Due to the poor accessibility of the space, that was impossible in situ at Reece Mews. Gallerist James Mayor introduced Edwards and Brian Clarke, Executor of The Estate of Francis Bacon, to Barbara Dawson, Director of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Their meetings led to a perhaps surprising solution: the studio and its contents would find a new home in Dublin, Bacon’s birthplace.

Photograph of the empty Reece Mews studio in London
Photograph of the empty Reece Mews studio in London. Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane © Dublin City Gallery The Huge Lane     
The studio complex at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
The studio complex at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Collection: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
© Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1998, a team of art historians, conservators and archeologists started to carefully dismantle the room in London. The endeavour was treated like an archeological excavation; scientists executed meticulous survey plans of the space, determining the exact position of each item, assigned every crumpled newspaper cutting and paint brush an archive number, and removed every layer of the fragile material until they reached the floor. Over 7000 items, including discarded canvases, painting materials, printed matter, and the old corduroy trousers Bacon had pressed into wet paint to create texture, along with the paint-splattered walls and the steep staircase leading to the first floor, were carefully wrapped and shipped to Dublin. In September of the same year, the material arrived at The Hugh Lane, and over the following five years, the working documents were photographed, researched and recorded in a computer database. Since May 2001, the reconstructed room has been on public display in a purpose-built compound within the museum, containing the reassembled studio itself, an audiovisual room, a micro-gallery and an exhibition space.

Today, the Francis Bacon studio archive is an invaluable resource for research on the artist’s working processes, his methods and materials. Items from the studio are regularly displayed in exhibitions and reproduced in books on the artist.

For his generous donation, the city of Dublin honoured John Edwards with the Lord Mayor’s Medal.

 

[1] Perry Ogden and John Edwards, 7 Reece Mews Francis Bacon’s Studio, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, p.13.