Francis Bacon’s Portrait of Henrietta Moraes (click on the image for a much larger view) will be offered at Christie’s October 19th sale in London with an estimate at between £5.5 and £7.5 million. The portrait comes with an inscription from the subject to the consignor, Garech Browne.
To put the Bacon boom in context, it’s worth reading Michael Kimmelman’s review of the Bacon Retrospective at the Tate in the New York Times:
So in various respects, by his late 70s, Bacon had come to seem something of a throwback; it was widely said his best work was behind him. But since then historians have mined the sources from which he cribbed images and opened up the crucial subject of gay sexuality in his work, which was long repressed, and this, along with his bad-boy reputation, which never goes out of fashion, has made him a source of steady fascination, never mind the lurid films and biographies and the admiration of art-world celebrities like Damien Hirst. Most important, with the breathing space of a little time, it’s become obvious how pure a painter he was, not just early on.
Time Magazine’s Richard Lacayo also weighs in on the Bacon retrospective:
Francis Bacon did for despair what Michelangelo did for faith. He made it majestic. [ . . . ] It brings almost five decades of Bacons together into a kind of collective cry, one that makes you realize how rare it is to see contemporary art that attempts, much less achieves, a genuine tragic dimension. Irony you can find in any gallery these days, also low comedy, puerile cool and enigma. But in a time that has its share of tragedy, where is the art that tries to strike an equivalent note?
To do that he took whatever he needed from art history. [ . . .] He also drew on sources from far outside art, things like an illustrated medical text about illnesses of the mouth. He worked from reproductions, and from photographs of all kinds pinned to walls and scattered on the floor of his studios in a muck of paper, rags, used brushes and broken furniture that he dived back into for ideas.
His great gift was for conflation, visual and psychological, for compressing multiple possibilities into a single sliding form.
Old School Bad Boy’s Messy World (The New York Times)
Francis Bacon: Tragic Genius (Time)