Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
Bacon and Freud were contemporaries, equals and in some ways opposites. Bacon was a relatively rapid painter who often used photographs as a point of reference, Freud in his own words could ‘work only very slowly’ and never used photography as a source. There was half a generation between them — Bacon was born in 1909, Freud in 1922. Yet for a long, long time they were close allies against the world. Lucian’s second wife, Caroline Blackwood, laconically noted that she had had dinner with Bacon, ‘nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch.’ Lucian himself recalled seeing Bacon at some point virtually every day for a quarter of century; that is, from the mid-1940s to roughly the time when ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ (shown above) was painted.
Since Bacon was gay, and Freud had remarkable good looks, one might suspect a romantic element in this bond. But Bacon was attracted to older men, a masochist in hopeless pursuit of a suitably dominant partner. According to Lucian, ‘He complained that he spent the whole of his life looking for the roughest, most masculine men that he could find. “And yet I’m always stronger than they are.”’ He meant, Lucian explained, that ‘his will was stronger’. Freud, on the other hand, was a notoriously avid pursuer of girls. He never detected the slightest hint of an advance on the older man’s part. The bond between them was different: artistic and temperamental. When Lucian first encountered him, Bacon must have represented a thrilling example of how to conduct the life of an artist. Though there were other talented painters and sculptors in 1940s Britain, the London art world — in comparison, say, to the Parisian one — was dingy and provincial. Against this background, Bacon was a figure of magnificent flamboyance: painting and living close to the edge, playing for the highest of stakes.
Bacon’s ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ (1969), a three-part portrait of his friend and colleague, went for $142.4 million, in 2013, becoming the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction at that time.
[ excerpt from spectator.co.uk ]