Three paintings by Francis Bacon, including a portrait of a tortured-looking Peter Lacy, a homosexual lover, are expected to fetch up to £2m at auction in London next month.
Nearly 10 years after the death of Britain's finest post-war artist, competition is expected to be intense for Man in Blue VII, part of a series Bacon painted in the early Fifties with Lacy as a model.
The tension-filled portrait shows the subject in a dark suit, standing as though in the dock of a courtroom. Bacon emphasises his subject's vulnerability by ghostly vertical stripes in the background, which resemble cell bars.
The 60in by 42in (150cm by 105cm) oil on canvas is estimated to fetch about £700, 000 at Christie's on 6 February. A second, much smaller Bacon, a haunting and disturbing painting called Head and given by the artist to his friend, the writer Daniel Farson, in 1962, is estimated at up to £500,000. Farson, to his "lasting shame and regret", sold the painting in 1966 for £2,400 when he found himself "in the doldrums".
A third Bacon, Portrait of a Man with Glasses IV, painted in 1963 and showing a distorted face reminiscent of the nanny shot in the head in the Russian film classic Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, should make up to £400,000. It is being offered for sale by a private collector.
The Man in Blue portrait, for which competition is expected to be fiercest, was painted in 1954 while Bacon was staying in the Imperial Hotel, Henley-on-Thames, to be close to Lacy, who had a house in the Oxfordshire town. Fernando Mignoni, a Christie's specialist, said yesterday: "It is only fitting that a painting showing traces of the features of Lacy, with whom Bacon had a turbulent and at times violent relationship, should show his customary ambiguity.
"This is Bacon at his most existential, painting the whole angst and fragility of life."
Last year, three 1984 portraits by Bacon of another lover, John Edwards, fetched more than £3m at Christie's in London. The world record for a Bacon is $6.6m (£4.6m) for a 1966 portrait of a previous lover, George Dyer, who killed himself in 1971. Edwards met Bacon in 1974 and stayed with him until the artist's death. He was, like Dyer, an East End boy much younger than Bacon.
Next month, the High Court in London will hear allegations that Bacon was blackmailed into staying with the Marlborough Fine Art gallery in London. The Pace Gallery in New York offered to pay Bacon £50,000 a painting in 1978, but its owner, Arnold Glimcher, claimed that Bacon stayed with Marlborough after it allegedly threatened to stop his access to his Swiss bank account and expose him to higher income tax.
The court ruling will settle a £100m battle waged by trustees of the Bacon estate to establish exactly how much the artist was paid in his 34-year relationship with Marlborough.Reuse content