Francis Bacon - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'When people tell me my paintings are disturbing, poignant, and shocking, I always wonder whether life itself isn’t even more disturbing, poignant, and shocking. I would really like to capture a moment of this reality, with everything that’s subjective about that moment, and to confine it in a painting.' —Francis BaconFrancis Bacon’s Deuxième version du triptyque is a later reworking of his iconic triptych titled Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which was completed 44 years earlier. Set before a deep, blood-red void, three distorted figures – part man, part beast – roar in distress and pulse with rage. In this later work, although the composition is rendered in a more refined and graceful manner than the earlier version, the tormented creatures nonetheless exude the palpable angst that is archetypal to Bacon’s oeuvre.


    Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944.
    Image © Tate, Artwork © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2021.

    Bacon identified these figures as Greek furies – the vengeful ancient goddesses who punished human wrongdoings. Whereas furies are traditionally depicted as elegant, winged female deities, Bacon contorts them into monstrous hybrids. Perched on flimsy wooden furniture, their extended necks, exposed ribs and oversized jaws evoke ravenous vultures, seething with anger and wailing with pain. Through adopting motifs from classical Greek tragedy and placing them within the timeless configuration of a triptych, in Deuxième version du triptyque Bacon evokes dark and foreboding themes that have timeless pertinence.

    Bacon repeatedly used his own works as starting points for new compositions, but, as he emphasized when discussing Deuxième version du triptyque with David Sylvester, ‘I didn’t recreate exactly the same work.’ As well as replacing the earlier work’s cadmium orange background with a violent cardinal red, in the later triptych the figures are considerably smaller in relation to their surroundings. The claustrophobia of the earlier work, therefore, has developed into a helpless isolation. Nevertheless, the notion that the mythological creatures are trapped in cell-like spaces from which they attempt to break-out remains pervasive.


    The earlier triptych was completed in 1944 and first shown publicly in April 1945, during the final months of the Second World War. Borne from that moment, the pain palpable in Bacon’s figures undeniably resonates with the anguish of war, particularly the horror of the first photographs and film footage captured inside Nazi concentration camps, and the looming threat of nuclear destruction. By returning to this motif 44 years later, Deuxième version du triptyque is a self-reflexive gesture which does not simply acknowledge but rather insists upon the perpetual poignancy of war and the futility of human life as the central driving force behind the creation of Bacon’s art.

    • Provenance

      Gift of the artist
      By descent to the present owner

    • Literature

      Bruno Sabatier 24
      Alexandre Tacou 25

    • Artist Biography

      Francis Bacon

      Irish-British • 1909 - 1992

      Francis Bacon was a larger-than-life figure during his lifetime and remains one now more than ever. Famous for keeping a messy studio, and even more so for his controversial, celebrated depictions of papal subjects and bullfights, often told in triptychs, Bacon signified the blinding dawn of the Modern era. His signature blurred portraits weren't murky enough to stave off his reputation as highly contentious—his paintings were provocations against social order in the people's eye. But, Bacon often said, "You can't be more horrific than life itself."
      In conversation with yet challenging the conventions of Modern art, Bacon was known for his triptychs brutalizing formalist truths, particularly Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which Bacon debuted in London in 1944, and Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which became famous when it set the record for most expensive work of art at auction at the time it sold in 2013.

      View More Works


Deuxième version du triptyque 1944 (after, Second Version of the Triptych, 1944) (S. 24, T. 25)

The complete set of three lithographs in colours, on Arches Infinity paper, with full margins.
all I. 62.4 x 46.2 cm (24 5/8 x 18 1/4 in.)
all S. 75.5 x 56.4 cm (29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in.)

All signed and annotated 'H.C.' in pencil (an hors commerce set, the edition was 60 plus 8 artist's proofs), published by Michel Archimbaud for the Librairie Séguier for IRCAM Centre Pompidou, Paris, all framed.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for £28,980

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022