Art: Private View

Francis Bacon Tate Gallery, London SW1

James Hall
Saturday 13 February 1999 00:02 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Francis Bacon may have been the leading light of the so-called School of London, but he always stood out from his fellow figurative painters thanks to his disdain for drawing. Whereas Auerbach, Freud, Kitaj and Kossoff had an almost religious devotion to pencil and paper, Bacon, who was self-taught, gave the impression that he always charged up to a bare canvas and chucked paint on with alcohol-fuelled abandon.

But in 1996, four years after Bacon's death, it was discovered that he had been economical with the truth. The enfant terrible had, in fact, made preparatory drawings throughout his career, and some had been given to the writer Stephen Spender, and to another friend of the artist. More than 40 of these sketches - made in pencil, ballpoint pen, gouache and oil paint - have now been acquired by the Tate, and will be shown alongside their collection of paintings by the artist. It will be a revelatory show all right, but disappointing, too: it surely can't be long before we're told he was teetotal, celibate and a fan of the Queen Mum, too.

Francis Bacon, Tate Gallery, Millbank, London SW1 (0171-887 8000) to 2 May

James Hall

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