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CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS: STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT, 1953.

Posted on 2021-10-12 03:13:50 in CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS

In many respects Study for a Portrait, 1953 was the founding image for Bacon’s businessmen, and it initiated a typology that continued to preoccupy him for the next ten years.

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 314.

In this month’s Catalogue Raisoneé focus we explore this painting, first acquired from the artist by David Sylvester in 1953. Sylvester bought this painting while it was still in progress, but said that when he went to collect it, ‘Bacon asked me to wait while he quickly repainted the metal tubes of the bedstead, changing them from pink to blue’ [Sylvester, 2000, p. 78].

Sylvester characterised this and Study of a Nude, 1952–53 (53‑01), as inaugurating Bacon’s ‘blue period’, which is broadly correct. His thinned, leaner pigments have greater transparency, while the briskly handled, stronger contrast of the modelling intensifies the impact.

A man sits upright, his legs bent with his feet resting on a kind of day-bed – an item of furniture to become ubiquitous in Bacon’s paintings. Light leaks through the horizontal shutters and vertical curtains into an oppressive room, in which the man is hovering, ambiguously. His blue suit and the rough ruddy brown floor are sombre counterpoints to the ghostly brightness of his face and white shirt. Is he a patient languishing in a psychiatric hospital, the perpetrator or organiser of a crime, or merely a tired businessman woken abruptly from a siesta?

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 314.

The work was first exhibited in London in ‘New Paintings by Francis Bacon’ at Beaux Arts Gallery from 12 November to 9 December 1953; find its exhibition history here. At later dates, the work was owned by individuals: Anthony Hubbard and then Bacon himself. It was also owned by galleries in London, New York, Paris and most recently exhibited at Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany.

Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné can be purchased through our distributor’s website.

Keywords:

Francis bacon The estate of francis bacon Study for a portrait David sylvester Martin harrison Catalogue raisonné Catalogue raisonné focus