Francis Bacon was entirely self-taught as a painter. Born in Dublin, he began his career in London as a furniture designer and interior decorator, only turning to oil painting in 1929. In the early 1930s he participated in several group exhibitions in London, but in the later 1930s and early 1940s he suffered a crisis of confidence and destroyed much of his work. In 1944, after wartime service in the Civil Defence, he resumed painting, and was at first much influenced by the work of Picasso, and then, in the early 1950s, by the Surrealists. His Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), now in the Tate, caused a sensation when the Lefevre Gallery exhibited it in 1945. He drew on various sources for inspiration, in particular Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, and also photographs and film stills, as well as producing numerous portrayals of friends and lovers.
Bacon’s first retrospective was at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1955, and important exhibitions of his work have been held regularly ever since: at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1963; the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975; in Washington, Los Angeles and New York in 1989-90, and at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1996.
And when my biography should run over one line, have them make me another.