Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale, Christie's, New York Rockefeller Plaza, 19:00, 15th May 2013
Christie's will auction Francis Bacon's 'Study for Portrait' (1981) at their Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York. The piece is Bacon's last posthumous portrait of George Dyer, completed in the year of the tenth anniversary of Dyer's death. George Dyer died in Paris on October 1971, two days before Bacon's major retrospective opened at the Grand Palais. The painting features a seated nude cross-legged Dyer, the pose is employed in previous pieces utilising John Deakin's photographs of Dyer posing in Bacon's Reece Mews studio, circa 1965.
Francis Bacon was a ruthless self-editor, documented to have destroyed numerous canvases he had become dissatisfied with, he often recalled seemingly complete paintings from galleries to alter to various degrees, or sometimes even destoy.
"Well, if I have been working on it for some time and it just doesn't seem to be right, I cut it up and destroy it because the paint becomes so clogged and there is nothing to do, as I really do like the paint to be fresh."
'Study for a Portrait' was certainly no exception to Bacon's ruthless editing. Thought to have been painted around July 1981, Bacon 'completed' the piece only to recall it from the Marlborough Fine Art on August 3rd of the same year. Intending on repainting the leg Bacon returned the painting in September 1981 now featuring an altered anatomy, turning the head from almost frontal to face right and transforming a previously biomorphic form found in the top right into a bust of George Dyer. Other changes included the striking pale blue passage serving to highlight George Dyer's profile.
The two black zones present throughout the alterations of the painting are a signifier of mortality - present in Bacon's later paintings. However it appears that Bacon lavished considerable attention on the flesh tones present on this piece, opening a counter balancing dialogue creating not a mournful mood, but one of unusually reflective tenderness.
Read more insight on Francis Bacon's 'Study for Portrait' in Martin Harrison's* text, featured in the 'Lot Notes' tab found here on the Chritie's website. 'Study for Portrait' is Lot 46 of the evening auction and has an estimate of $18 000 000 - $25 000 000.
Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale (May 15th, 19:00)
20 Rockefeller Plaza
Tel: +1 212 636 2000
Word ref: Christies website, including Martin Harrison's 'Lot Notes': (c)Martin Harrison, May 2013. *Martin Harrison is editor of the forthcoming Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné Quote: (David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, 4th ed.,1993, London: Thames & Hudson, p. 196)