(October 28, 1909 - April 28, 1992) Ireland - U.K.
Self-taught, he expressed the satirical, horrifying, and hallucinatory in such works as Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Francis Bacon was the most commercially successful British artist of the 20th century, earning about £14 million from his paintings. A movie has been made about his life. The movie is centred around one of his gay relationships and is called " Love is the Devil".
Born in Dublin, the second of five children. Francis Bacon's father, Edward, and his mother Winifred (nee Firth) are both of English nationality. His father, Edward Anthony Mortimer Bacon, claiming to be descended from Sir Francis Bacon, the Elizabethan philosopher and statesman, is nearly twenty years older than his wife and is remembered by his son as "a highly strung, intolerant, dictatorial and censorious character, much given to moralising and arguments that ended in lasting discord".
After the outbreak of war the family moves to London, his father taking up work in the War Office. They return to Ireland in 1918, though moving between the two countries frequently. Francis suffers from asthma and other recurrent ailments and rarely goes to school, being taught by private tutors. He is thus considered the "sickly" child of the Bacon litter, the weakling, by a "physically robust, military" father who sought to toughen up his frail eldest son by having him horsewhipped. Francis attains revenge by inaugurating his legendary sex life with those same grooms.
Following a series of violent disagreements with his father, due mainly to Francis' homosexuality and following from his being caught in front of a large mirror, in his fathers home, in his mothers underwear, dancing, in 1925 he moves to London to pursues a number of "miscellaneous temporary occupational activities".
When 19 years old, he travels to Berlin that was for him above all a place of sexual liberation and indulgence. The tough uncle with whom he had departed with his father's blessing (Harcourt-Smith) turned out to be indiscriminately virile...
"He used to fuck absolutely anything", Bacon recalled succinctly, and not without emotional satisfaction that his father's carefully laid plans had gone awry. "My father thought he would change me. But of course it changed absolutely nothing, because a bit later we were in bed together. He was very odd in his way, this man. Very tough - a real brute. I really don't think it made the least bit of difference to him whether he went with a man or a woman". (Francis Bacon)
In 1952 he meets Perter Lacy, a test pilot who had flown combat missions during the Battle of Britian. Bacon spends lenghty periods in Tangier with him, entering a long, punishing and tormented relationship:
"I'd known lots of people before but, even though I was over forty when I met Peter, I'd never really fallen in love with anyone until then. What Peter really liked was young boys. He was actually younger than me, but he didn't seem to realize it. It was a kind of mistake that he went with me at all.
In 1966 Bacon is awarded the Rubens Prize by the city of Siegen. In 1968 he travels to New York with his lover George Dyer for exhibition of his recent paintings at the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery.
"Of course, it was a most total disaster from the start. Being in love in that extreme way - being totally, physically obsessed by someone - is like having some dreadful disease. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. He was marvellous-looking, you see. He had this extraordinary physique - even his calves were beautiful. And he could be wonderful company. He played the piano marvellously and he had a real kind of natural wit, coming up with one amusing remark after another, just like that - unlike those dreadful bores who plain from morning to night what they're going to say. " (Francis Bacon)
George makes a suicide attempt. In October 1971, two days prior to a major retrospective of his work at the Grand Palais in Paris, Dyer commits suicide in a hotel room that they were sharing:
"He changed completely with drink. Because when he was sober, he was so careful with himself. But there it is. He's dead now. If I'd known what I know now I would have left him exactly the way he was when I met him, however mean it might have looked. Because in the end by giving him enough money to be able to do nothing, I took his incentive away. His stealing at least gave him a raison d'etre, even though he wasn't very successful at it and was always in and out of prison. But it gave him something to think about when George was inside, he'd spend all his time planning what he would do when he came out. And so on. I thought I was helping him when I took him out of that life. I knew the next time he was caught he'd get a heavy sentence. And I thought, well, life's too short to spend half of it in prison. But I was wrong, of course. He'd have been in and out of prison, but at least he'd have been alive. He became totally impossible with drink. The rest of the time, when he was sober, he could be terribly engaging and gentle. He used to love being with children and animals. I think he was a nicer person than me. He was more compassionate. He was much too nice to be a crook. That was the trouble. He only went in for stealing because he had been born into it, into that whole East End atmosphere where it's expected of you. Everybody he knew went in for it. If he'd had any discipline, he could have got a job easily, because he was very good with his hands". (Francis Bacon)
Over the course of the next three years Bacon returns repeatedly to the scene of Dyer's last hours, most notably in the harrowing triptychs of 1971, 1972 and 1973. These major works have been described as "like risen spirits", "effigies held the face of dissolution".
"I've had a very unfortunate life" he told critic David Sylvester, "because all the people I've really been fond of have died. And you don't stop thinking about them; time doesn't heal. But you concentrate on something that was an obsession, and what you have put into your obsession with the physical act, you put into you're work."
Badly affected by the death of George Dyer, Bacon executes a series of three large triptychs (sometimes known as the black triptychs) as well as numerous self-portraits. Though obviously harrowing works, in none of the portraits is pathos in the conventional sense to be found. They were, instead, unidealised representations of fact, and with all the contradictions that it involved. In 1974 Bacon meets John Edwards, a young, handsome East-Ender with whom he forms an enduring, paternal relationship.
"Edward's was a far remove from the victim-like helplessness which had been so central a part of Dyer's predicament. Self-reliant in an unobtrusive way and a handy protector if Bacon stirred up a bar brawl, the new companion also knew how and when to put a certain distance into the relationship, a situation considerably facilitated by the fact that Edwards already has a well-established partner in his life." (Michael Peppiatt)
In 1992 Bacon visits Madrid to see friends. Feeling unwell, he is taken to hospital, where he suffers a major heart attack. Francis Bacon dies on April 28th, at the age of eighty-two. His entire estate is willed to John Edwards "a reclusive and simple man" now living in Southeast Asia and Bacon's closest friend for the last 16 years of his life.