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Three Studies for a Self-Portrait

Francis Bacon (British, Dublin 1909–1992 Madrid)

Date:
1979–80
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Each: 14 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. (37.5 x 31.8 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Accession Number:
1999.363.1a-c
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    As Bacon remarked to David Sylvester in 1975, “I loathe my own face. . . . I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’ve nobody else left to paint but myself.” This striking triptych—the head emerging from a deep abyss of black paint—provides no sense of the space inhabited by the sitter. The tightly constricted view allows only for ruminations on the face itself—its ravages, its deep psychological depths—and the sense of turning around it slowly, going from one frame to the next, as if in a languorous panning shot.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (verso of each panel): Study for Self Portrait/ 1979 – Francis Bacon/ left panel from/ front.; Study for Self/ portrait 1979/ Francis Bacon/ Center Panel; Study for Self Portrait/ 1979 Francis Bacon/ Right panel from/ Front.

  • Provenance

    the artist (until 1980; to Marlborough); [Marlborough Gallery, New York, 1980]; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1980–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Marlborough Gallery, Inc. "Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings," April 26–June 7, 1980, no. 13.

    London. Tate Gallery. "Francis Bacon," May 22–August 18, 1985, no. 109.

    Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Francis Bacon," October 10, 1985–January 5, 1986, no. 109.

    Nationalgalerie Berlin. "Francis Bacon," February 7–March 31, 1986, no. 109.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 289).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

    Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 315).

    Edinburgh. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. "Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads," June 4–September 4, 2005.

    Hamburger Kunsthalle. "Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads," October 13, 2005–January 15, 2006.

    Düsseldorf. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen. "Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real," September 16, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 63.

    London. Tate Modern. "Francis Bacon," September 11, 2008–January 4, 2009, unnumbered cat. (p. 250).

    Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Francis Bacon," February 3–April 19, 2009, unnumbered cat.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Francis Bacon," May 18–August 16, 2009, unnumbered cat.

    Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Francis Bacon: Five Decades," November 17, 2012–February 24, 2013.

  • References

    David Sylvester. Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1969–1979. 2nd enl. ed. (1st ed., 1975). London, 1980, no. 111, ill. frontispiece (center panel) and pp. 144 (right hand panel), 145.

    Michel Leiris. Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile. New York, 1983, no. 126, ill.

    Dawn Ades and Andrew Forge. Francis Bacon. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. New York, 1985, no. 109, ill.

    Wieland Schmied. Francis Bacon: Vier Studien zu einem Porträt. Berlin, 1985, p. 86, no. 127, ill.

    David Sylvester. The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon. 3rd enl. ed. (1st ed., 1975; 2nd ed., 1980). London, 1987, no. 111, ill. p. 144.

    William S. Lieberman in Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 1, 16.

    Sabine Rewald in Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 288–93, ill. (color and bw).

    Andrew Decker. "Metropolitan: Une Exceptionnelle donation." Beaux Arts, no. 170 (July 1998), ill. p. 24 (color).

    Judith H. Dobrzynski. "20th Century Art Treasures Are Left to Met." New York Times (May 6, 1998), pp. A1, B6, ill.

    William S. Lieberman. "Donation Gelman: l'École de Paris au Metropolitan." Connaissance des arts, no. 554 (October 1998), p. 106.

    Armin Zweite, ed. Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real. Exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf. London, 2006, pp. 180–81, no. 63, ill. (color).

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
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