Bacon’s brilliance bound up in a new catalogue

The book will list all of Francis Bacon’s works, including 100 previously unpublished paintings

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, by Francis Bacon. Bacon’s work routinely sells for millions – Three Studies of Lucien Freud sold for a record $142.4 million in 2013. Photograph: Sothebys/PA Wire

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, by Francis Bacon. Bacon’s work routinely sells for millions – Three Studies of Lucien Freud sold for a record $142.4 million in 2013. Photograph: Sothebys/PA Wire

 

A new catalogue listing all the paintings of Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon is to be published in April and will sell for £1,000 (approximately €1,300). The late artist’s estate has announced that Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné will present “the entire oeuvre of the artist’s work for the first time”.

Catalogue raisonné is a French term used to describe a definitive list of an artist’s entire output. The book, which has taken more than a decade to prepare, will consist of five hardcover, cloth-bound volumes within a cloth slipcase, containing almost 2,000 pages and colour illustrations of all his known paintings, including 100 previously unpublished paintings.

Bacon, who spent his working life in London, and died in 1992, is one of the best-known artists of the 20th century and, in the past decade, has become one of the most expensive painters in art history. His paintings now routinely sell for millions. One of his triptychs (three-panel paintings) entitled Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142.4 million at Christie’s, New York in November 2013 – at the time the highest price ever paid for any painting at auction.

Artist’s studio reassembled

Some of his paintings are in major art galleries and museums, others in private collections. The Estate of Francis Bacon donated the artist’s London studio to the Irish State and it has been reassembled in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin.

So how many paintings are there? Bacon famously destroyed many of his paintings but the catalogue lists 584 that survive. Of these, only half can be said to be “accessible or in circulation, through exhibitions and publications”. The others are out of public view in private collections and are largely unknown.

The catalogue raisonné has been edited by Martin Harrison, the leading expert on Bacon’s work, and his research assistant, Dr Rebecca Daniels. The estate said “the ambitious and painstaking project has been 10 years in the making and replaces the only previous catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work [published in 1964), which comprised just 37 per cent of Bacon’s ultimate oeuvre and 27 paintings illustrated in colour.”

The book will be released by HENI publishing in London on April 28th and will enable researchers, art collectors, curators and the general public to see and assess – for the first time – Bacon’s entire output. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 will cover the 584 paintings; Volume 4 will provide an introduction, a chronology, an index and a user’s guide; and Volume 5 is a catalogue of Bacon’s sketches and an illustrated bibliography compiled by Krzysztof Cieszkowski. The catalogue, which is being printed in Bergamo, Italy, is certain to be the standard reference work on the artist for years to come and, given its price, is also likely, as is the case with many expensive art books, to quickly become collectable in its own right.

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