Menzies Art Brands

FRANCIS BACON Figure at Basin


Francis Bacon, an artist who never set foot in Australia was nonetheless well connected with Australia and his work is well known to Australian audiences. As a young man in London, Bacon formed a close acquaintance with the established Australian expat painter Roy de Maistre. De Maistre painted Bacon’s portrait and several important de Maistre paintings feature Bacon’s studio and his interiors. A generation later Brett Whiteley, Australian wunderkind artist living in London in the 1960s befriended Bacon towards the end of his career. Whiteley’s extended series of portraits of Bacon are the lasting monument to this acquaintance.

Bacon’s work gained a level of interest in Australia while the artist was still relatively unknown , and some major works found their way into Australia’s most important art collections. Both the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales bought Bacon early, when his work was affordable. It is in the last decade or so, since his death in 1992 in any event that his work has gone from being sought after, to a situation where his paintings are now only accessible to the super-rich. Bacons have never been cheap. A 1972 Self Portrait measuring 35.5x 30.5 cm (about one foot square) was sold in 1994 for $516,000. A similar painting sold for $1.6m in 2001; another  for $8.038m in 2006, and yet another for a whopping $29.5m in 2007. Although prices have since then come down, you will still be up for about $8.m for a decent one in today’s market and as much as $77m (artist’s current auction record) for a decent sized canvas. 

It’s just as well the Australian Museums bought when they did as it would be hard to imagine the Trustees rounding up the cash today.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bacon retrospective is on the wall in Sydney right now. A satellite show at Rex Irwin’s Woollahra gallery features the artist’s prints. Lot 11 in Menzies 6th December auction in Sydney is Bacon’s signed etching Figure at a Basin. With estimates of $14-18,000, this might be the best value way of participating in the Bacon Gold Rush.

We use our own and third party cookies to enhance your experience of our site, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing. By continuing to use our site you consent to the use of cookies. Please refer to our privacy and cookie policy.