Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Watercolour, 1929

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Watercolour, 1929
signed and dated 'F. Bacon 29' (lower right)
pencil, black ink, watercolour and gouache
8¼ x 5¼ in. (21 x 13.4 cm.)
Eric Allden, London.
Roy de Maistre, London.
with Mayor Gallery, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 22 May 1996, lot 6, where purchased by the present owner.
R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London, 1964, pp. 25, 292, pl. 1.
H.M. Davies, Francis Bacon, The Early and Middle Years, New York and London, 1978, n.p., pl. 4.
D. Sylvester, exhibition catalogue, Francis Bacon, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1996, p. 285, illustrated, as 'Sans titre'.
Exhibition catalogue, Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, New York, Yale Centre for British Art, 1999, p. 20, illustrated.
A. Brighton, Francis Bacon, London, 2001, pp. 19, 96, no. 6.
D. Mougenot (Dir.), Portrait d'artiste: Francis Bacon. Chroniques du XXème siècle, DVD, produced by D.P.M. Incorporation, 2004.
M. Harrison, In Camera Francis Bacon: Photography, Films and the Practice of Painting,London, 2005, pp. 23, 256.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

Lot Essay

Whilst Francis Bacon began to draw and make watercolours in about 1926, his career as a painter really dates from 1929, when he was aged nineteen or twenty. He returned from Berlin to London and took a studio at 17 Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington, sharing the upper floor with Eric Allden, his earliest patron and collector. Bacon designed furniture and interiors at this time and his earliest surviving watercolours are related to his designs for rugs. These rugs were so pictorial in character that Bacon sometimes hung them on the wall like tapestries. But whereas his rug designs were more or less abstract the early paintings all have some figurative content and combine elements derived from Cubism and Surrealism. The principal influences seem to have been Léger and de Chirico.

At this time Bacon was advertising himself as a 'gentleman's companion' in The Times and met various influential men who aided his career. It was through one of these contacts that he was introduced to Douglas Cooper, who commissioned a desk and helped promote him as a furniture designer. Bacon's first show in Queensberry Mews was in 1929. It included carpets and furniture, alongside his earliest surviving oil painting, which was inspired by the tapestries and paintings of Jean Lurçat and evolved from his own rug designs. He sold several of the works in this exhibition and Sydney Butler, daughter of the art collector Samuel Courtauld, commissioned a table and a set of dining room stools for her London home. Bacon was featured in The Studio in August 1930, across a double-page spread entitled 'The 1930 Look in British Design'. After a second exhibition, which was held in November 1930, Bacon left Queensberry Mews in 1931 and began to focus more on painting. He showed Crucifixion at the Mayor Gallery in 1933 and the following year organised his first solo exhibition, held in the basement of Sunderland House on Curzon Street, renamed 'Transition Gallery' for the event. This was not well received and he responded by destroying the paintings. Bacon's works were also rejected from the International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936. It was not until the 1940s with his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion of 1944 that Bacon's pictures began to receive critical acclaim.

Bacon's early works are very rare. He believed that they were inferior to his later masterpieces and destroyed as many as possible. The few works that have survived were hidden in private collections for decades. The present work was in the collection of Bacon's close friend Eric Allden and then passed to the Australian Post-Cubist painter Roy de Maistre, before it was purchased by Valerie Eliot. Despite Bacon's opinion of these works, they give a vital insight into his oeuvre. Tate Britain held an exhibition in 2008, entitled Francis Bacon: Early Work, which showcased these early pieces. Matthew Gale, curator of Modern Art and Head of Displays at Tate Modern, said: 'Seeing where an artist comes from is always an incredibly intriguing and revealing thing. Not many people know that Bacon started out in interior design because he didn't make a big thing about it in later life He tended to enforce the sense that the Three Studies ... was where his career as the great British painter all began, but his design work was also a crucial moment ... These works show him linked to a European modernist tradition, with a debt to Picasso and building on cubism as he made the shift from decorator to painter' (M. Gale quoted in The Telegraph, 27 September 2009, reported by Roya Nikkhah).

We are very grateful to Martin Harrison for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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