Francis Bacon was captivated by French culture from the moment he first visited Paris as a young man in the late 1920s. He would return to the capital many times in his life, and from 1946 to the early 1950s, he lived and worked in Monaco. This summer, the city hosts an exhibition exploring the artist’s relationship with France and the Riviera. Opening in July at the Grimaldi Forum and sponsored by Sotheby’s, the show will feature more than 60 Bacon paintings alongside works by artists who inspired him, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Giacometti.
FRANCIS BACON, TRIPTYCH - STUDIES OF THE HUMAN BODY, 1970. ©THE ESTATE OF FRANCIS BACON. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DACS 2016. PHOTOGRAPH PRUDENCE CUMING ASSOCIATES LTD.
It was in Monaco that Bacon began to focus on painting the human form and made his first Pope portraits. Low on funds after casino losses, he was forced to paint on the raw sides of his used canvases, but he found the unprimed surfaces easier to work with; what began as a necessity became a signature approach. Martin Harrison, the show’s curator and editor of the forthcoming Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, aims to show the impact of these years with a range of examples, including the artist’s first and last paintings: Watercolour, 1929, and Study of a Bull, 1991, completed a few months before his death in 1992. “It’s never been seen before,” says Harrison of the latter work. “It’s a completely brilliant painting.” For Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s deputy chairman in Europe, the work is a “huge revelation.” It joins many other examples rarely seen by the public.
Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture, Grimaldi Forum Monaco, 2 July–4 September.
LEAD IMAGE: FRANCIS BACON, PORTRAIT OF A MAN WALKING DOWN THE STEPS, 1972. ©THE ESTATE OF FRANCIS BACON. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DACS 2016. PHOTOGRAPH PRUDENCE CUMING ASSOCIATES LTD.