Portrait of Bacon's grief expected to sell for £26m

The most important triptych by Francis Bacon ever to appear on the open market, which reveals the artist's grief over his lover's suicide, is to be auctioned next month at an estimated price of £26m.

Such a price for Triptych 1974-77 would match the current record for the most expensive Bacon work.

The piece, which is the fourth and last in the Black Triptychs series, focusing on Bacon's grief after George Dyer killed himself in Paris in 1971, differs from the others in expressing a sense of hope. None of the other triptychs by the artist, who died in 1992, has ever appeared on the open market and only one is in private hands. The sale will take place in London on 6 February.

The stormy relationship between Bacon and his lover is said to have begun after the artist caught the rugged East Ender burgling his Kensington apartment in 1964.

It ended, less than a decade later, in the Paris hotel room where Dyer took an overdose on the eve of a major retrospective of Bacon's work at the Grand Palais. Both men had been due to attend the exhibition's opening the following day but Bacon returned to the hotel room, after leaving his lover on his own for a few hours, to find Dyer dead.

Bacon became obsessed by his lover's memory and over the next few years produced works that documented the anguish he felt over his loss.

Triptych 1974-77 is regarded as a seminal artwork showing his lover writhing on a near deserted beach overlooked by the spectre of two terrifying monochrome Orwellian witnesses, and became the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Bacon painted it for the show as a tribute to Dyer. Pilar Ordovas, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, said it was one of the finest and most mysterious Bacon paintings from the 1970s, produced when the artist was at the height of his powers. "The other three have very sombre black backgrounds and while this is very tortured and incredibly strong, there is also some sort of hope, with the sea and the horizon in the background," she added.

In interviews with his friend and critic David Sylvester, Bacon said the painting of Dyer in the four years after his death was a "conscious act of exorcism".

In Michale Peppiatt's book on Bacon, entitled Anatomy of an Enigma, the artist is quoted as saying: "I feel profoundly guilty about [Dyer's] death. If I had never gone out that morning, if I had simply stayed and made sure he was alright, he may have been around now. He had tried to do it before. He changed completely with drink."

Bacon also said he wished he had left Dyer "exactly the same as when I first met him".

"By giving him enough money to do nothing, I took his incentive away. Stealing gave him something to think about. . . I thought I was helping him."

The current record for any work by Bacon is the £26.6m paid for Study from Innocent X at Sotheby's in New York in May last year.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there