Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement: A Masterpiece of 20th Century Art

Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement, a masterpiece that explores themes of love, loss, and the transient nature of humanity, will take centre stage at Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale on November 9, 2023, at Rockefeller Center.

This iconic painting, created in 1976, holds a unique place in Bacon’s oeuvre, as it reflects the emotional turmoil he experienced following the tragic death of his beloved George Dyer in 1971.

Never before seen at auction, this extraordinary work has been closely guarded by a private family for nearly fifty years and is now estimated to be worth around $50 million.

Expressing Emotions through Art

Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art at Christie’s, Alex Rotter, eloquently describes Figure in Movement as a vivid expression of Francis Bacon’s emotional turmoil in the years after George Dyer’s death.

The painting radiates profound pain, passion, and sensuality, showcasing Bacon’s unparalleled ability to capture the raw essence of the human condition. This masterpiece represents the pinnacle of 20th-century painting and is a standout highlight of the New York Marquee Week of Sales.

Francis Bacon's Figure in Movement: A Masterpiece of 20th Century Art

Figure in Movement is a significant piece from the series of artworks Bacon created after George Dyer’s passing. Art historian Martin Harrison aptly labels it as “one of Bacon’s quintessential images of entropy, a boldly-coloured masterpiece of disorder and inquietude.” Esteemed critic David Sylvester also recognizes its greatness, stating that it might be the greatest among Bacon’s large canvases created between 1970 and 1976.

The work seamlessly blends Dyer’s likeness with hints of Bacon’s own, set against a dark backdrop reminiscent of Bacon’s celebrated ‘black triptychs’ created immediately after Dyer’s demise. This painting serves as both a farewell to lost love and a powerful testament to the enduring impact of living memory.

A Relationship That Shaped Art

Francis Bacon’s relationship with George Dyer began in 1963 when they met at a pub. Dyer quickly became Bacon’s muse and featured prominently in some of the artist’s most remarkable portraits. However, tragedy struck in 1971, just before the opening of Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, when Dyer passed away. Devastated by the loss, Bacon turned to art as a means to cope with grief and loss, marking a pivotal period in his career.

Shortly after its creation, Figure in Movement was unveiled alongside Bacon’s ‘black triptychs’ in a solo exhibition at the Musée Cantini in Marseille. This exhibition, which showcased works created between 1969 and 1976, was a testament to the depth of Bacon’s grief during that time. Figure in Movement has also been featured in major retrospectives at prestigious institutions such as the Tate Gallery in London, the Museo Correr in Venice, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. It was most recently included in the 2018 Beyeler Foundation exhibition, “Bacon – Giacometti,” further cementing its status as a significant work in art history.

In conclusion, Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement stands as a masterpiece that encapsulates the artist’s profound emotions and creativity during a tumultuous period in his life. With its imminent appearance at Christie’s auction, art enthusiasts and collectors have a rare opportunity to witness the power of Bacon’s expression and secure a piece of 20th-century art history.

Images: Christie’s

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