Home Corporate Events Francis Bacon’s Tribute to Love Heads Set to Be Auctioned for $25 Million

Francis Bacon’s Tribute to Love Heads Set to Be Auctioned for $25 Million

by Ikenna Ngere
Francis Bacon’s Tribute to Love Heads Set to Be Auctioned for $25 Million

Christie’s 20th/21st Century Evening Sale in London on March 7 will feature a lead painting by Francis Bacon from 1963 titled Landscape near Malabata, Tangier. This marks the first time the piece has been reintroduced to the market in almost four decades.

Since the piece was originally auctioned in 1985, its presale estimate of £15 million to £20 million ($18.8 million to $25 million) has increased than 35 times the sale price. At the time, it set a global record for the artist when it sold for $517,000 at Sotheby’s New York. It had previously been owned by American actress Patricia Neal and British author Roald Dahl.

Approximately a year following the intoxication-related demise of his business partner Peter Lacy in Tangier, Morocco, Bacon painted the piece as a memorial to the love of his life.

“Inspired by the landscapes of the master Vincent Van Gogh, this painting is packed with the emotional intensity Bacon is celebrated for. It represents the extremes of love, loss, ecstasy and pain in the wake of the death of his great love Peter Lacy,” said Katharine Arnold, the head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s Europe.

“[It’s] an extraordinary feat of painting,” she added. “It spins with near centrifugal force, a small creature running around the margins of a tree filled landscape, with grass dried to the color of gold by the heat of the North African sun.”

After the artist’s relationship with merchant banker Eric Hall ended in 1952, Bacon and Lacy met for the first time at the Colony Room in Soho. In addition to being a former flight pilot, Lacy was a very unhappy person. It has been alleged that he was not only an alcoholic but also a violent person. According to art critic John Richardson’s story in the New York Review of Books, Lacy once attacked Bacon and threw the artist through a plate-glass window.

But Bacon continued to love Lacy despite everything. Quite the contrary, their relationship grew even closer. Fueled by the same passion, wrath, and obsession at the heart of Bacon’s art, it also grew increasingly sophisticated. Bacon telegraphed Lacy in Tangier on May 24, 1962, expressing his joy at the opening of his first retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London. However, Bacon just got the news that his true love had passed away.

Bacon was deeply affected by Lacy’s death and produced works in his memory, including Study for Three Heads (1962), a triptych that he completed soon after Lacy passed away and is now in the collection of MoMA, and Study for Portrait of P.L. (1962), which is part of a private collection in Europe. The latter failed to find a buyer when it was put up for auction in 2013.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction, broke Bacon’s record when it was sold in November 2013 at Christie’s New York, raising $142.4 million. But since 2014, the artist’s work has become less expensive.


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