Francis Bacon - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | Phillips
  • 'I think art is an obsession with life and after all, as we are human beings, our greatest obsession is with ourselves.'
    —Francis Bacon
    In Francis Bacon’s Trois études pour un autoportrait, the artist presents three depictions of his own face from shifting perspectives, isolated against an abyss of black. His face has been illuminated in three disparate flash-bulb moments, his features both emerge from and are invaded by the surrounding void of darkness. This ambivalence evokes a dizzying sense of motion, revolving around the central panel in which the artist’s melancholic face is directed outwards, mirroring the viewer looking in. Blurred and distorted, the restlessness of the composition elicits a sense of psychological distress in the subject.

    Mortality is an ever-present theme that underpins Bacon’s oeuvre and in his self-portraits it comes to its zenith. In a 1975 interview, Bacon said to David Sylvester ‘I loathe my own face… I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’ve nobody else left to paint but myself.’ In the mid-1970s, many of the people closest to Bacon passed away, causing him to begin his most prolonged and intense period of self-portraiture in his career. Painting his own face almost obsessively, after hours of close self-examination from either photographs of himself or from staring in the mirror, the self-portraits are highly analytical investigations into his inner psyche. Intensely ruminating on mortality, the works are windows that reveal an undeniable existential truth about the human condition.


    Jorge Lewinski, Francis Bacon, 1967. © The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth / Bridgeman Images

    Far from being a combination of disparate works, the triptych is comprised of three sequential and interconnected images that constitute a cohesive, almost panoramic, portrait of the artist. ‘I see images in series’, said Bacon and ‘in the triptychs I get them rather like police records, looking side face, front face, and then side face from the other side.’ There is a Muybridge-style sense of frame-by-frame movement, or that the viewer’s gaze encircles and traps the sitter. Despite the subject’s commanding physical presence, the volatility effused by the varying perspectives and the mercurial rendering of paint summons an unwavering acknowledgement of mortality and the fleeting nature of human life.'I don’t emphasise death. I accept it as part of one’s existence. One is always aware of mortality in life, even in a rose that blooms and then dies.' —Francis Bacon

    • Literature

      Bruno Sabatier 26
      Alexandre Tacou 28

    • 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


Trois études pour un autoportrait (after, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1983) (S. 26, T. 28)

Three lithographs in colours, on a single sheet of Arches paper, with full margins.
each I. 34 x 29 cm (13 3/8 x 11 3/8 in.)
overall I. 34 x 89.2 cm (13 3/8 x 35 1/8 in.)
S. 52 x 94 cm (20 1/2 x 37 in.)

Signed and numbered 7/60 in pencil (there were also a number of artist's proofs), published by Michel Archimbaud for the Librairie Séguier, Paris, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 ‡♠

Sold for £20,160

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022