Dons Dublin: Artist Francis Bacon

by Gazette Reporter
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Francis Bacon, born 28 October 1909 at 63 Lower Baggot St., Dublin. His father, who was a former captain in the British army, had moved to Ireland to breed racehorses and moved to Kilcullen, in Co. Kildare. By Don Cameron

The family lived in London during WWII but later returned to Ireland. Francis suffered from asthma and this disrupted any formal education. He did receive some private tuition before attending Dean Close, a boarding school in Cheltenham, from 1924 to 1926.

Bacon as 16 when he went to London after an argument with his father. Between 1927–8 he travelled in Europe, where seeing drawings by Pablo Picasso in Berlin gave him the inspiration to become an artist. Poussin’s  ‘Massacre of the innocents’ also made a deep impression on him. However, the blood-splattered face of a screaming nurse in Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin was an image that Bacon used in later years – as in  ‘Study for the head of a screaming pope’ (1952).

Between 1928-29, he designed modernist furniture and rugs, and achieved some success. However, he was not impressed with what he was doing and soon devoted himself to developing his art. A patron, Eric Hall, helped him financially for many years, and funded the artist’s studio in Fulham. Here he painted ‘Crucifixion’ (1933), his first significant work, and one immediately by the influential art critic Herbert Read. 

With ‘Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion’ (1944) he was recognised as a new force in post-war art. He exhibited in all the major galleries, and in 1988 he became the first living western artist to have a retrospective in the Soviet Union, at the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

He died 28 April 1992 from a heart attack while in Madrid. Years later his studio was gifted to the Hugh Lane Gallery, and the thousands of pieces and walls were carefully documented before their removal and instillation in Dublin. 

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