While many artists paint self-portraits at one time or another, Bacon painted them obsessively. However much he distorted other people in paint, he portrayed himself to himself with the same savagery, believing that he had to distort the image to arrive at a kind of reality: 'I'm always hoping to deform people into appearance.' I can't paint them literally,' he said.
This week only, lucky Londoners can see three Bacon studies for self-portraits within a five-minute walk from each other. Two small studies - one from 1980 at Sotheby's
and another from 1972 in an exhibition at Eykyn Maclean
across the road are intimate, haunting images - in the Sotheby's portrait he seems to be reflecting back on himself as a young man through veils of time and memory. In the study at Eykyn Maclean, he faces himself directly, as if catching himself in a mirror as he turns.
In an unusual case of two-for-one, the large-scale painting at Christie's
bears witness to Bacon's friendship with Lucian Freud, and the composition is based on a photograph of Freud taken by John Deakin. Intriguingly, he paints his own head on the body of Freud, the dynamic face is trademark Bacon, on a sinuous body that is clearly Freud's.
Editor's picks from the Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction
- Contemporary Art Evening Auction will be at Sotheby's London, 26 June 2012, viewing times: 26 June 9am – 12pm.
- Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction is at Christie's King Street, London, 27 June 2012. Sale 5488, viewing times: 26 June 9am - 6:30pm, 27 June 9am - 4pm.
- Interviews with Artists will be at Eykyn Maclean London from 19 June to 27 July.