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 (24, repr. in col.)

Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.32-3

The heavy wear of the seven pages which seem to belong to the end of Bacon’s spiral sketchbook is matched by a more extensive working than on their companions, as if they were the focus of concerted activity.[1] Within this run of sheets Figure Lying, no.1 and Figure Lying, no.2 (T07375) constitute a recognisable pair. Both show a body extended diagonally with the head to the left and slightly propped on some form of bed or sofa. Although rendered in different colours, they share a certainty and urgency in the drawing, the line being drawn out even as little paint is carried on the brush, and then revised through the overlaying of colour. As with other groups of drawings from the sketchbook,[2] such as the ensuing group of crawling figures,[3] this pair of images was traced from one to the next. In this case, Figure Lying, no.1 was almost certainly traced through the thin paper from Figure Lying, no.2.

This interrelation allowed Bacon to develop an image, testing out elaborations or variations. The practice is particularly evident with this pair. The simple reclining body of Figure Lying, no.1 seems to have been traced and adapted from a preliminary stage in the underlying sketch; blue has also been left as a print on the reverse. From this presumed beginning, Bacon developed the propped pose in quick lines of blue paint, with prominence given to the echoing curves of the head, elbow and hip (all derived from the sheet beneath). The overlaying of pink is almost violent in effect: an explosive scumbled cloud heavily applied (which has left an off-print on the preceding sheet Head, T07373).

Variations on the theme of the reclining nude - generally male - were recurrent in Bacon’s canvases of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some, such as Reclining Man, 1961 (Tate Gallery T00453), were given unusual poses, but Figure Lying, no.1 was essentially simple in form. This may indicate that the source was amongst the photographs of friends that the painter had taken by John Deakin, a conjecture which is supported by the appearance of the profile of Bacon’s lover, Peter Lacy, in Figure Lying, no.2. The more complex pose of that sketch can be matched to completed canvases more easily than in this case.

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] See Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.25-6, 32-3
[2] E.g. Figure with Left Arm Raised, no.1 and no.2 (T07361, T07362); or Figure Lying Flat and Figure in Grey Interior (T07365, T07366)
[3] Blue Crawling Figure no.1 (T07376), Blue Crawling Figure, no.2 (T07377) and Pink Crawling Figure (T07378)