1933-1938 At the age of 23 Bacon painted his first truly original work, entitled Crucifixion, 1933. It was a small spectral painting clearly indebted to the biomorphs of Picasso. At this stage, he no longer considered himself a designer (a career he subsequently and unjustly disparaged), but enjoyed some initial success as an artist. In April 1933 he exhibited as part of a group show at the Mayor Gallery, and in the same year Crucifixion, 1933 was reproduced in Herbert Read’s book, Art Now and purchased by the collector, Sir Michael Sadler. Sadler intended commissioning a portrait based on an x-ray of his skull, an idea that was incorporated into another, more colourful treatment of the Crucifixion from the same year.
After such a promising start, Bacon’s career began to falter. His one-man show of seven paintings and some five or six gouaches and drawings at the specially devised Transition Gallery in February 1934 sold poorly and received a condescending notice in The Times. In the summer of 1936 his work was rejected by the International Surrealist Exhibition in London on the grounds that it was insufficiently surreal.
The result was that Bacon’s output declined and he returned to his previous drifting life. In 1936 he moved from Royal Hospital Road to 1 Glebe place where he remained until 1941. Despite his inclusion in an exhibition of ten ‘Young British Painters’, organised by Eric Hall for January 1937, scarcely any work survives from this period. Most of it was destroyed by the artist, a pattern of ruthless self-editing that he pursued for most of his life, but particularly so during his early years.