Catalogue entry


Oil on white wove paper
340 x 270 (13 3/8 x 10 5/8)

Purchased from Paul Danquah and Peter Pollock with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli, 1998

Acquired from the artist (by 1961)

Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, Tate Gallery, London, Feb.-April 1999 (20, reproduced in colour)

Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.29-30

Laid out against the ropes of a boxing ring, the subject of Fallen Figure with Arms Up adopts a pose found in a number of other drawings in the same spiral bound sketchbook.[1] Boxing was an enthusiasm of Bacon’s, and he stated in 1974 that he looked ‘all the time at photographs in magazines of footballers and boxers and all that kind of thing - especially boxers’.[2] A group of boxing images – of Joe Louis and others - from an unidentified book accompanied the sketchbook pages, and shows Bacon practising compositions directly on the reproductions.[3] That these illustrations acted as a point of departure is suggested by several of his sketches. They had the advantage of seizing the moment within an action in the same way as the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge;[4] unusual and dramatic instants were frozen. It is notable that the sketches that recognisably show boxers isolate moments of collapse, an instant of vulnerability which signals the division between victor and vanquished. It is possible that Bacon fixed upon these moments because of their incidental similarities with the poses of reclining figures prevalent in his work at that time, so that the source in boxing could be disguised even as the complexity of the pose enriched his formal vocabulary.

Although this page may be placed after Fallen Figure (Tate T07360), with which it shares aspects of handling as well as subject matter, there must have been a gap between them when they were still in the sketchbook. The markings on the page suggest that several pages are missing, but that one of these is Figure in a Corner (private collection),[5] which similarly places a figure in the corner of a boxing ring. Fallen Figure with Arms Up may be linked to the subsequent series of sheets; an off-print on the reverse has come from points of paint on Bending Figure, no.2, while small remnants of oily stains (mainly in the lower part of the page) link it to the following three sheets. A less distinct drawing, Composition (T07380), includes a structure which suggests a ring.

This is one of twenty-six works on paper from the same spiral bound sketchbook showing perforations along the left hand side; general issues relating to their creation and preservation are discussed in the entry on Two Owls, no.1 (Tate Gallery T07355).

Matthew Gale
February 1999

[1] Collapsed Figure, T07357, Falling Figure, T07360 and Fallen Figure, T07369
[2] David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1975, rev. ed. as The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1980, 3rd ed. 1990, 4th ed. as Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1993, p.116
[3] See Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.29, reproduced p.69 nos.41-2
[4] Eadweard Muybridge, The Human Figure in Motion, London 1901

[5] Figure in a Corner, private collection, reproduced in Gale 1999, p.29, fig.22