Peter Beard - Photographs London Monday, November 17, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Time is Always Now Gallery, New York

  • Literature

    Peter Beard, Cologne: Taschen, 2008, pl. 239 for a variant

  • Catalogue Essay

    Francis Bacon first met the American wildlife photographer and writer, Peter Beard at the Clermont Club in London in 1965. The occasion was the launch of Beard’s book on the destruction of African wildlife, The End of the Game. They became friends – perhaps attracted and fascinated one with the other. Their outrageous and viscous outpourings against humankind had a deep commonality – Beard maintaining the stance that humans were by far the worst beast and Bacon portraying the brutality and basic animal instinct of humans; seeing them as predators and painting them as though they are slabs of meat.

    Both Beard and Bacon have become almost legends beyond their own beings, their distinct personalities transcending the carnivorous art they produced. When Beard has been asked in the past about his friendship with Bacon he has re-counted a myriad of occasions when ‘Fran’ spewed out his vitriol and irritation with the mundane and ordinary people which definitely supports Bacon’s documented view that '99 percent of people weren’t activated’. Beard himself is also known to be vocal and outspoken in the name of his ecological beliefs and obsession with preserving indigenous imperilled species; 'Yeah, mankind is doomed, I often talked to Fran about population dynamics, about how we were going the way of the elephants.'

    Beard’s images of African wildlife deeply impressed Bacon who particularly admired his aerial photographs of dead elephants. The photographer’s documentation of the slaughter of elephants and rhinos are stunningly moving and sad epitaphs to a fading world and some might say including Beard, a prediction of our own human fate.

    The way Bacon painted seemed evocative of Africa to Beard, the primitive and primordial nature of the paintings cannot be denied by anyone standing in front of a huge glutinous canvas by Bacon, ‘All that bleeding meat, and the dry grass: he’s the greatest painter of grass, and it’s African grass, not a wet English lawn.’ Beard apparently commented about Bacon’s painting. In his own work Beard is not squeamish either, the use of elephant blood, animal excrement, feathers and discarded skin are all necessary symbols with which he creates a powerful syntax. In works of both artists their images emerge from an abattoir of sorts and a background of paint supplemented by various materials.

    During their friendship Francis Bacon painted nine major portraits of Peter Beard.


Francis Bacon on his roof at 80 Narrow Street, London, March

Platinum print with affixed gelatin silver prints, printed later.
95.2 x 139.5 cm (37 1/2 x 54 7/8 in.)
Signed, titled, dated and annotated in pencil in the margin. AP from an edition of 9 plus artists proofs.

£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £80,500

Contact Specialist
Lou Proud
Head of Photographs
+ 44 207 318 4018


London 18 November 2014