Painting by Francis Bacon sets auction record

‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ sold for astronomical sum

Francis Bacon was once described by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. Today, Bacon’s piece on his friend, Lucian Freud, sold for the astronomical sum of $142 million – the largest amount ever paid in auction.

The 20th Century artist’s oil painting ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ eclipses Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which sold last year at Sotheby’s for $120 million. As the top-end of the art market is experiencing an incredible surge, the price tag of $142 million still leaves many scratching their head. But Bacon’s triptych had never been offered at auction before, which made it very appealing for high-end buyers. Also, Bacon has a relatively small body of work. He wasn’t nearly as prolific as someone like Picasso, whose total output has been given estimates around 40.000 pieces.

Bacon (1909 –1992) was born in Dublin to parents of English heritage. He had a troubled childhood and was forced to leave home at 16, living a rootless existence in London, Berlin and Paris. But in 1927, a Picasso exhibition in Paris inspired him. He began painting in his early 20s, struggling to find a style that suited him. After he was being declared unfit for military service in 1944, he gained a reputation for being “an observer of the darker aspects of humanity” and soon became known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. In 1945, he met German-born British painter Lucian Freud who was 13 years younger than him. They became close friends.

Francis Outred, the head of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s Europe, described the 1969 three-panel painting as a “true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship”. It shows Freud sitting on a wooden chair within a cage. Behind each figure is a headboard of a bed, originating in a set of photographs of Freud by John Deakin, which Bacon used as a reference.

Bacon turned “traditional paintings of people inside out, with grotesquely distorted faces and twisted body parts”. Some of his most famous artworks were inspired by old masters, such as the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez.

The ten most expensive paintings ever sold:

  • “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” (1969) by Francis Bacon, 2013 (sold for $142.4 mio.)
  • “No. 5” (1948) by Jackson Pollock, 2006, sold for $140 mio.
  • “Woman III” (1953) by Willem de Kooning, 2006, sold for $137.5 mio.
  • “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (1907) by Gustav Klimt, 2006, sold for $135 mio.
  • “Der Schrei” (1895) by Edvard Munch, 2012, sold for $119.9 mio.
  • “Akt mit grünen Blättern und Büste” (1932) by Pablo Picasso, 2010, sold for $106.5 mio.
  • “Junge mit Pfeife” (1905) by Picasso, 2004; sold for $104.2 mio.
  • “Dora Maar mit Katze” (1941) by Picasso, 2006 sold for $95.2 mio.
  • “Adele Bloch-Bauer II” (1912) by Gustav Klimt, 2006 sold for $87.9 mio.
  • “Orange, Red, Yellow” (1961) by Mark Rothko, 2012 sold for $86.9 mio.


The official website of the estate of Francis Bacon

BBC / Der Spiegel online / Mirror, online 13 Nov 2013


Reclaiming the female self – an exhibition by Emma McLay

An interview

Emma McLay explores a woman’s reproductive journey through the medical system and the ramifications of that journey on the body and the self. The destruction and restoration of the feminine is put on decadent visual display. With assemblages made of an intriguing mix of painting, sculpture and fibre arts, the experience is an opulent challenge for the emotions. Her exhibition Reclaimant is currently shown at XChanges Gallery in Victoria, B.C. and runs through Sunday, November 24th, 2013. I interviewed Emma at the opening night of her amazing show – don’t miss it :))

'Reclaimant' at XChanges Gallery in Victoria BC.

The artist Emma McLay at her show ‘Reclaimant’ at the XChanges Gallery in Victoria BC.

Emma, you said that your current show Reclaimant “encompasses pieces that express the autonomy of the body and psyche being compromised both through traumatic loss and medical intervention.” Are they based on very personal experiences?

Emma: Yes. Through a series of illnesses and complications during my journey to have a child, my understanding of the definitions of space, body and self became much more fluid.  The body, environment and self are not separate: they are intertwined, continuous.  As various medical professionals literally opened my body to the world around me, so too did I understand that our selves are perpetually woven into our surroundings.

DSC_0299Reclaimant is a continuation of the work you began in your thesis show Membryonics. What was that show about?

Emma: Membryonics centred around the deconstruction and beginnings of reparation of the female self through reproductive trauma. Reclaimant is more focused on female identity being asserted and empowered through the maternal journey, using it to “reclaim” the female self.

MV1The echo to ‘Reclaimant’ has been great. Viewers seem to instinctually relate to your work. Why do you think that is?

Emma: These works reflect the internal physical and psychological spaces of the body and self, opening into the space around them, both carrying and pouring out emotion. I think they can relate because the penetrability and fragility of the body is mirrored in the disintegration of the art object.

How did you move your artwork from Pender Island to Victoria?

Emma (laughing): As my sculptures range from four feet to as large as seventeen feet long, we had to rent a truck to transport them.

What kind of materials do you use in your work?

Emma: I use a variety of materials to create wall mounted sculptural assemblages. The alternative materials are often symbolic of the narrative of the piece, man-made metals (copper, lead, wire etc.) can often be indicative of man’s medical intervention, for example. More natural materials such as wood, glass and wool are used to express aspects of the lived female body.

Reclaimant has pieces that contain a new addition of incorporating aspects of fibre art, which has in the past been considered a “female art”.

Indeed! Knitting and felting are becoming an important part of my work. All of these alternative materials are bound together with opulent unsupported acrylic paint – I do not paint on any kind if ground such as canvas, the paint is free hanging, and finishes, expressing the need for the body, self and its offspring to be treasured and revered.


Why did you dedicate your first exhibition to “the employees of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and the extraordinary women of the Reproductive Mental Health Unit”. 

Emma: The Women’s Hospital cares for and supports thousands of women every year dealing with Women’s Health issues.  This is a wonderful place to have a baby born, and is the place to be if things take an unwelcome turn. The Reproductive Mental Health Team is an invaluable resource, one that women can turn to for many reasons, from postpartum depression to coping with the loss of an infant or pregnancy.  These caregivers have saved many lives from being consumed or ended by depression and grief, including my own. They provide a sanctuary of acceptance and support, for many women, the only refuge they have.

Emma, thank you for sharing your thoughts with my readers.

The exhibition Reclaimant is shown at XChanges Gallery in Victoria, B.C. and runs through Sunday, November 24th, 2013.
Gallery Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 pm

About the artist:

Emma McLay was born in 1984 in Alberta, and raised in a small rural town. She completed her BFA at the University of Alberta in 2008, and her MFA in 2011, also at the University of Alberta. Her research within the artistic field centres around blurring lines and definitions.  She strives to create work that occupies many spaces or categories at once: sculpture, painting and installation, deeply personal and yet relatable and communicative, academic and yet accessible. McLay is currently living on Pender Island, British Columbia with her husband and young daughter.

Artist’s website:

Photo credits: Emma McLay