Three Studies for a Self-Portrait
British, 1909 - 1992
Oil on canvas
Each portrait: 13 3/4 x 12 in. (34.9 x 30.5 cm)
Gift of Charlotte and Henry B. Clark, Jr., 1983 (5165.1)
Conventional concepts of the terms beautiful and ugly help little in coming to terms with Francis Bacon's art. His concentration on the "brutality of fact," his deliberate deforming and distorting of forms—half magic, half menace—is the method he uses to achieve this desire. Among Bacon's most immediate and compelling works are close-up portraits, small single paintings, diptychs, and triptychs, the subject always a close friend, or as here, himself. In one frontal and two three-quarter or profile views, Bacon records the salient data of his features, but he alters the natural forms, blurring, even obliterating them by dragging a dry brush or rubbing a rag over the surface of the wet paint. The bony substructure and flesh seem to merge and become fluxes or whorls of matter. Although Bacon declares he has no message to deliver, no hidden symbolic meanings, his works evoke a sense of the ephemeral nature of human existence.