Post-War & Contemporary Art, London, February 2014

Francis Bacon's Portrait of George Dyer Talking, 1966

Painted in 1966, Portrait of George Dyer Talking is a glowing tribute to George Dyer, Bacon’s great love and muse. The subject of some of Bacon’s most arresting portraits including Two Studies of George Dyer (1968) (Art Museum Ateneum, Helsinki), Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968) (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), and Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966) (Foundation Beyeler, Basel), it was this man who was to dominate the artist’s greatest decade in paint: the 1960s. Even on the eve of the artist’s major retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971, an occasion which marked his career’s achievements, it was Dyer who was to mark the occasion, tragically taking his life just hours before the opening. Bacon subsequently painted the seminal black triptychs: Triptych – In Memory of George Dyer (1971) (Foundation Beyeler, Basel), Triptych. August (1972) (Tate Gallery, London) and Triptych. May-June (1973) in posthumous tribute to his lover. These paintings, which still reverberate with an acute intensity, were Bacon’s attempts at catharsis, exorcising the anguish and guilt in iterative portraits.

Executed at the artist’s creative peak, Portrait of George Dyer Talking is the most significant portrait of George Dyer to be presented at auction in more than a decade, and is being offered from a private collection. Rendered against a regal palette of ruby red and luxuriant swathes of lilac, the work reaches its climax with the figure, which appears almost incandescent and brimming with nervous energy. In this painting, Bacon has situated the figure of Dyer at the centre of a revolving room; the walls, floor and ceiling forced to curve like a centrifuge. Under the heady momentum, the body of Dyer appears to unravel like cotton from a spinning bob, his very essence seeping out from his outstretched limb onto the scattered cluster of papers littering the floor. His torso appears to undergo some extreme torsion while his head revolves, whipping around to the left and forcing open his jaw. It is an incisive, biting portrayal of a man, which goes beyond the possibilities of traditional painting.

Francis Bacon’s Tragic Muse

Katharine Arnold, Specialist in Post-War and Contemporary Art, discusses Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer Talking, to be offered in the upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 13 February 2014 in London.

Lot Information