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

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  • Francis Bacon’s Seated Figure embodies one of the most essential themes running through the artist’s oeuvre: the impermanence of the human condition. A solitary figure sits cross-legged on a basic wooden chair in an otherwise empty interior – his meditative stance is juxtaposed by the rough smears that distort his flesh and present his body as if in a state of dissolution. In contrast to the flat and finely refined background, the painterly smudges that deconstruct the solidity of his presence insist on the fragility and transient nature of corporeality.

    'What I want to do is to distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance.'

     Bacon was a maverick for his use of realism, which was starkly different to the Modernist focus on abstraction that consumed most of his contemporaries. Nonetheless, Seated Figure distils the way in which Bacon played with realism; for instance, by adopting a semi-automatic mode of painting that renders the figure unrecognisable, and by parodying traditional laws of linear perspective. Not only is the figure distorted, but the room in which he is sat is constructed using askew and exaggerated lines of perspective which elicit a nightmarish sense of unease. In this way, Bacon transcended the obvious limits of realism, undermining Modernist paradigms of surface and utilising pictorial space in anything but a traditional manner.


    Steeped in the artist’s biography, Seated Figure’s bare interior is evocative of Bacon’s notoriously frugal home at Reece Mews, South Kensington. Similarly, the ghostly wire-like circle positioned above the figure’s shoulder is reminiscent of the circular mirror that Bacon had in his studio and which featured in many of the photographs he had taken of himself there. The circle above the figure is also similar to the ephemeral, cage-like structures which are found in many of Bacon’s works. In an acutely introspective manner, they act to heighten the isolation of the figure contained within, inciting the claustrophobic intensity of an individual alone with their thoughts.


    Michael Holtz, Francis Bacon in his 7 Reece Mews Studio, 1974  © Michael Holtz/Photo 12/Alamy
    Michael Holtz, Francis Bacon in his 7 Reece Mews Studio, 1974  © Michael Holtz/Photo 12/Alamy
    • Literature

      Bruno Sabatier 5
      Alexandre Tacou 15

    • 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


Seated Figure (after, Study for a Portrait 1981) (S. 5, T. 15)

Etching and aquatint in colours, on Arches paper, with full margins.
I. 72.7 x 54 cm (28 5/8 x 21 1/4 in.)
S. 102.3 x 71 cm (40 1/4 x 27 7/8 in.)

Signed and annotated 'HC' in pencil (one of 15 hors commerce impressions, the was an edition of 99 in Roman numerals on Arches, 99 in Arabic numerals on Guarro, and 15 artist's proofs for each paper), published by Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£8,000 - 12,000 ‡♠

Sold for £17,640

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022