Contemporary Art

Rare Bacon Triptych Resurfaces After 50 Years

By Sotheby's

S otheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 16 November 2017 will be led by Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer, a rare triptych that shows the artist at the height of his power. George Dyer was a singular figure in Bacon’s work appearing in over 40 paintings, with as many created following his death as during his lifetime. However, triptychs of Dyer in this intimate scale are exceptionally rare. The present work was exhibited shortly after its execution and hasn’t been seen publically since. It comes to auction for the first time this November and is expected to fetch $35–45 million.   


Bacon drew on the famous photographs of Dyer taken by John Deakin – which were later found ripped, torn and paint splattered among the debris in his studio – to create the heavily distorted portraits using his unique visual vocabulary. The dramatic gestural swaths of luminous color are framed by a dramatic background of dense black to masterfully illustrate Bacon’s twisted, torqued and scraped handling of paint, creating a portrayal that encompasses the full range of his and Dyer’s tempestuous and passionate love.

George Dyer triptychs hold a particularly important place in Francis Bacon’s oeuvre, none more so than Three Studies of George Dyer from 1966. Seeing it for the first time ever a few months ago, I was simply amazed.
Grégoire Billault, Head of Contemporary Art

According to popular myth, Bacon famously first encountered Dyer breaking into his home one night in 1963. The two fell deeply in love, and from that moment on Dyer featured large both in Bacon’s life and art. Although he would continue to paint Dyer’s likeness after his suicide in 1971, the artist never again returned to a portrayal in this highly charged and intimate format. Three Studies of George Dyer from 1966 is one of only five triptychs of Dyer in this intimate format that Bacon reserved for what are widely regarded as the most profoundly personal and intense portraits of the 20th century. Of those five, two are in museum collections: the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk.

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