New Irish art sale offers a different look at Francis Bacon

Famously described by Margaret Thatcher as "that man who paints those dreadful pictures", Francis Bacon is now recognised as one of the leading artists of the 20th century.

Known for his bold, austere, graphic and emotionally raw imagery, he began painting during his early 20s and worked only sporadically until his mid 30s. Before this time he earned his living as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs.

His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, and it was this work and his heads and figures of the late 1940s through to the early 1960s that sealed his reputation as a notably bleak, world famous, chronicler of the human condition.

francis_bacon_tryptic 1974-77.jpg
Bacon's $51m masterpiece 'Triptych 1974-77'

On February 9 2011, Bonhams' inaugural Irish Art Sale in London will feature an evocative portrait of Bacon by his friend Louis Le Brocquy, Ireland's foremost living artist.

Speaking about his art Louis Le Brocquy says: "Contrary to a generally held view, I think that painting is not in any direct sense a means of communication or a means of self-expression. When you are painting you are trying to discover, to uncover, to reveal. I sometimes think of the activity of painting as a kind of archaeology - an archaeology of the spirit."

The picture is one of the most significant lots to feature in the auction. The watercolour, entitled 'Image of Francis Bacon No 18', has an estimated price of £60,000 - £80,000. Although he painted Bacon several times, trying to capture "the Baconness of Bacon", this example is described as more representational than the other semi-abstract pieces.

Penny Day, Head of Irish Art at Bonhams, says: "It is rare to find an image that combines the names and reputations of two giants of British and Irish art, in this instance as artist and sitter".

Bacon is perhaps best known for his work 'Triptych 1974-77', which sold for a record $51,680,061 at Christie's in February 2008.

The auction looks set to attract both art collectors and investors and as strong recent sales have indicated, the market for Irish art looks set to grow further in 2011.


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