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CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS: STUDY FOR PORTRAIT (WITH TWO OWLS), 1963.

Posted on 2021-11-15 08:48:43 in CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ FOCUS
Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait (With Two Owls), 1963. Oil on canvas. CR no. 63-14. © The Estate of Francis Bacon / DACS London 2021. All rights reserved.
Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait (With Two Owls), 1963. Oil on canvas. CR no. 63-14. © The Estate of Francis Bacon / DACS London 2021. All rights reserved.

In the Catalogue Raisonné Focus for November, we take a closer look at Study for Portrait (With Two Owls), 1963 (63-14), one of Bacon’s most disturbing (and extreme) variants of Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X.

All the paintings that Bacon made in the six months between October 1963 and April 1964 can be distinguished by their extraordinary vigour and intense colours. If there was a simple causal factor in this, it may have been that he was invigorated by the arrival in his life of a new lover and muse, George Dyer.

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 736).

It is believed that the two met in around October 1963, and Dyer quickly became the subject of many paintings, such as Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1963 (63-15). Portraits became the main subject of the decade.

Yet [despite the new relationship] it would not be inferred from this painting that the artist was in a state of complacency, or equilibrium. In some respects [this is] a boldly-painted and incisive painting, in others it is more tentative, or unresolved. The platform supporting the throne, for example, is partly left as raw canvas and the remainder painted eau-de-nil; but to its left is an area of carpet, and as a result the foreground appears to be comprised of three only partly related elements. In contrast the placement of the red throne against a black background is very powerful, and there are tours-de-force passages of painting, such as the Pope’s vaporous head and the hammock (?) attached to the white curved rail. The dark, bird-like shape across the Pope’s midriff is possibly another signifier of Bacon’s daemon (see 6307D and 6313); it was, in this explicit form, discontinued after Study for Portrait (with Two Owls).

Owls had featured in Bacon’s iconography since Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950 (5002) and he had linked them (always, latterly, in pairs) with Popes as dark antagonists in Painting, 1958 (5802) and Pope No. 3, 1960 (6006).

Excerpt: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 736).

The painting resides at San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, acquired from Helen and Charles Schwab by fractional gift.

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

Keywords:

Catalogue raisonné Catalogue raisonné focus Francis bacon The estate of francis bacon George dyer Velázquez Martin harrison Study for portrait