Francis Bacon was born October 28, 1909, in Dublin. At the age of 16, he moved to London and subsequently lived for about two years in Berlin and Paris.
Although Bacon never attended art school, he began to draw and work in watercolor. Upon his return to London in 1929, he established himself as a furniture designer and interior designer. In the fall of that year he began to use oils and exhibited a few paintings as well as furniture and rugs in his studio. His work was included in a group exhibition in London at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. In 1934, the artist organized his own first solo show at Sunderland House, London, which he called Transition Gallery for the occasion. He participated in a group show at Thomas Agnew and Sons, London in 1937.
Bacon painted relatively little after his solo show in 1934 and in the 1930's and early 1940's destroyed many of his works. He began to paint intensively again in 1944. Pablo Picasso's work decisively influenced his painting until the mid 1940's. From the mid 1940's to the 50's, Bacon's work reflected the influence of Surrealism.
In the 50's, Bacon drew on such sources as Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Vincent Van Gogh's The Painter on the Road to Tarascon. Bacon soon developed his distinctive style as a figure painter. In his mature style, developed in the 1950's, the paintings include images of either friends or lovers, or images of people found in movie stills, reproductions of historic paintings and medical photos. His people scream in physical and psychic pain, seemingly tortured in bedrooms, bathrooms and cages. His work was always expressionist in style with distorted human and animal forms, potent images of corrupt and disgusting humanity.
Bacon's dramatic and riveting work gained international recognition and acclaim. His first major show took place at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1949. His first solo exhibition outside England was held in 1953 at Durlacher Brothers, New York. His first retrospective was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1955.
In 1962, the Tate Gallery, London, organized a Bacon retrospective, a modified version of which traveled to Mannheim, Turin, Zurich, and Amsterdam.
Other important exhibitions of his work were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1963 and the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971; paintings from 1968 to 1974 were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1975. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1989-1990 and at the Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris, in 1996.
The artist died April 28, 1992, in Madrid.