Francis Bacon (Irish, 1909–1992) was one of the most unique, engaging Figurative painters to emerge after World War II. Largely self-taught, Bacon was born in Dublin and moved to London when he was 16, and then to Paris and Berlin in the following few years. During that time, he painted in watercolors and, upon returning to London, began working as a furniture and interior designer. In the 1940s, he pursued painting more seriously, and began creating works featuring macabre, homoerotic, and violently expressive imagery.
His portraits and figurative works often pictured screaming, agonized, or caged figures, which solidified his reputation as an overwhelmingly compelling, if somber, observer of human nature. In the 1960s, Bacon painted many portraits featuring close-up views of his subject’s heads; he often worked in series, creating sustained bodies of subject matter, such as in his Popes or three-part portrait series. After the death of his lover in 1972, his work became even more personalized, with a renewed focus on mortality. While he received both positive and negative acclaim during his lifetime, his distinctive style is unmatched. Since his death in 1992, his work has continued to grow in popularity, and has been featured in exhibitions at the Tate Gallery in London, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the Stedelijik Museum in Amsterdam, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, among many other institutions.