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Three Studies for a Portrait by Francis Bacon at Christies

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Three Studies for a Portrait by Francis BaconThree Studies for a Portrait by Francis Bacon will be the star lot at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on the 6th March 2018. With continued growing interest in Francis Bacon the Three Studies for a Portrait has an estimate of £10,000,000 to £15,000,000. We would not be surprised if the final prices eclipses the estimate.

About Three Studies for a Portrait by Francis Bacon

Unseen in public since its inclusion in Francis Bacon’s historic exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, in 1977, Three Studies for a Portrait (1976) is the artist’s penultimate ode to his great female muse Henrietta Moraes. Across three cinematic panels, spiked with abstract colour and texture, the artist develops the 1969 portrait Study of Henrietta Moraes into a fully-fledged triptych. It is the last of only six portraits of Moraes painted in his celebrated 14-by-12-inch triptych format, the first of which now resides in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Throughout the 1960s, Moraes played a central role in Bacon’s cast of bohemian Soho subjects, inspiring many of his finest paintings. The present work signals an important turning point in his practice, following the death of his lover George Dyer shortly before his 1971 Grand Palais retrospective. In 1974 Bacon had taken a studio in Paris, drawn to the city where the couple had spent their final moments. By 1976, his grief had begun to fade, sparking not only a stream of new subjects but equally a return to old friends. Bacon’s earlier portrait of Moraes had been derived from a still of the actress Emmanuelle Riva in Alain Resnais’s 1959 film Hiroshima mon amour, a serpentine strand of wet hair trailing across the centre of her face. With its themes of love and memory, the film’s imagery continued to haunt Bacon as he began to come to terms with his loss. Exhibited at Claude Bernard alongside the mournful ‘black triptychs’ and self-portraits painted in the wake of Dyer’s death, it represents a glimpse of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel: a poignant reflection on his golden Soho days.

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