The late Margaret Thatcher had famously described Francis Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. But his paintings have fetched millions at auctions, especially after his death in 1992. One of his paintings Study for a Portrait of P.L. will be up for auction in New York and is estimated to fetch around $30-40 million. This painting, which has not been publicly displayed for over 40 years is one of the most famous representations of Peter Lacy, Bacon’s lover. What makes the painting even more special is the fact that it was painted just months after Lacy’s death in 1962. In a way it was Bacon’s eulogy for his beloved companion.
Bacon had a tendency of being attracted to violent men, and Lacy was no exception. He was an alcoholic who once threw Bacon through a glass window, badly damaging his face. But that or any of his many beatings did not diminish his immense love for Lacy. Bacon would often join Lacy in Tangier, where he had moved. It was here that Lacy died due to his alcoholism. The glass of red wine in the painting is an allusion to that. Bacon’s moments of highest adulation were accompanied with great personal losses. It was at the opening day of the Tate retrospective in 1962, dedicated to him that he heard of Lacy’s death. In a strange and painful coincidence, he found out about the suicide of his next muse, George Dyer at the 1971 opening of his collection at Grand Palais in Paris.
Sotheby’s expert Oliver Barker considers this painting to be a radical departure for the painter in terms of composition and aesthetics. This painting was bought soon after it was finished but was last publicly exhibited at London’s Lefevre gallery, way back in 1972. It has belonged to the current owner since the mid-2000s according to Sotheby’s. Here is a look at some other famous paintings like Edward Hooper’s October on Cape Cod, and Edward Munch’s Scream.