When turned over and joined together, these two early paintings by Irish artist Tony O’Malley reveal an unfinished nude by Francis Bacon. For almost three decades this ‘lost’ Bacon was separated, residing in the collection of two different owners. One half remained with O’ Malley, while the other was owned by the poet Padraic Fallon, who had been gifted Currach, Clare Island by O’Malley. It was offered as a single lot in the Modern British & Irish Art sale at Christie’s South Kensington on 17 March 2016, and sold for £434,500.
‘This is the first time that both works will be viewed together in almost 60 years,’ says specialist Angus Granlund, lifting O’Malley’s seascapes out of their frames and turning them to reveal Bacon’s sweeping brushstrokes, which join to form a fleshy, unfinished study of a male nude. An image of the two halves of Bacon’s Figure was shown at Tate St Ives’ 2007 exhibition Francis Bacon in St Ives.
Completed during Bacon’s fleeting stay in the Cornish town in 1959, the work is one of only six paintings the artist is known to have made during the period, which, says Granlund, ‘makes this even more rare and interesting.’ The authenticity of the reunited halves of the same unfinished work were recently confirmed by the Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné committee.
For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily