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Sir Francis Bacon Portrait.

(England c. 1984)



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Classification
Artists RUSKIN SPEAR (1911-1990)
Description / Expertise

An important preliminary oil portrait of Francis Bacon, by Ruskin Spear. Painted upon board, this portrait sketch forms the bases for the larger finished work, now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. Inscribed in bold green paint to the back, in Spear's hand, "portrait of Francis Bacon. Splashes of the same green paint, are in evidence on what is the original frame. The portrait featured here clearly demonstrate the key attribute of the modern portrait master: the ability not just to do a good likeness, but to capture the essence of the subject’s character, not only as it actually is, but also as the public perceives it to be. Bacon appears both scary and troubled.
The artist was influenced by two schools, which are reflected in the painting. On one hand, the Portrait School of Euston Road, which highlighted the naturalism and realism; and, on the other, the Camden Group, English post-impressionists (or expressionists?), influenced by artists like van Gogh or Gauguin..
The portrait of Bacon, we can see a more-or-less realist representation of his physiognomy. We can notice the uneven post-impressionists brushstrokes although, however, the achieved technique of the artist is more evident in the play of lights and shadows in Bacon’s face.

Born in Hammersmith, Spear attended the local art school before going on to the Royal College of Art in 1930. He began his teaching career at Croydon School of Art, going on to teach at the Royal College of Art from 1948 to 1975.
Initially influenced by Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group, and the portraiture of the Euston Road School, his work often has a narrative quality, with elements of humour and gentle satire.
Because he used a wheelchair due to childhood polio, much of his work focused on his immediate surroundings. He rendered the citizens of Hammersmith relaxing in and around the local pubs, theatres and shops. A retrospective of Spear's work was held at the Royal Academy in 1980. His work is represented in the Tate Gallery Collection.
A large number of Spear's paintings are held in important public collections, including the Government Art Collection, Arts Council England, National Portrait Gallery, Imperial War Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Provenance

From a private collection

Signed

Inscribed to back