b. 1909, Dublin; d. 1992, Madrid
Francis Bacon was born October 28, 1909, in Dublin. At the age of 16, he moved to London and subsequently lived for about two years in Berlin and Paris. Although Bacon never attended art school, he began to draw and work in watercolor about 1926–27. Pablo Picasso’s work decisively influenced his painting until the mid-1940s. Upon his return to London in 1929, he established himself as a furniture designer and interior designer. He began to use oils in the fall of that year and exhibited a few paintings as well as furniture and rugs in his studio. His work was included in a group exhibition in London at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. In 1934, the artist organized his own first solo show at Sunderland House, London, which he called Transition Gallery for the occasion. He participated in a group show at Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, in 1937.
Bacon painted relatively little after his solo show and in the 1930s and early 1940s destroyed many of his works. He began to paint intensively again in 1944. His first major solo show took place at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1949. From the mid-1940s to the 1950s, Bacon’s work reflected the influence of Surrealism. In the 1950s, Bacon drew on such sources as Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1649–50), Vincent van Gogh’s The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888), and Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs. His first solo exhibition outside England was held in 1953 at Durlacher Brothers, New York. In 1950–51 and 1952, the artist traveled to South Africa. He visited Italy in 1954 when his work was featured in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. His first retrospective was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1955. Bacon was given a solo show at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959. In 1962, the Tate Gallery, London, organized a Bacon retrospective, a modified version of which traveled to Mannheim, Turin, Zurich, and Amsterdam. Other important exhibitions of his work were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1963 and the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971; paintings from 1968 to 1974 were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1975. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1989–90 and at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1996. The artist died April 28, 1992, in Madrid.