Letters by Francis Bacon

TGA 863 Letters by Francis Bacon, (1909–1992) Tate Archive.

Copyright Bacon Estate/Tate Archive

To represent acquisitions acquired by the Archive in 1986, I have selected a series of letters from Francis Bacon to Erica Brausen, director of the Hanover Gallery whose records are housed at Tate. I find this correspondence particularly fascinating as, not only is it a rare example of Francis Bacon writing to someone on a regular basis, but it also reveals the working and personal relationship between an artist and his patron/dealer.

To highlight this relationship, I have chosen a letter that illustrates the patience and loyalty Bacon demanded from his champion, Brausen (TGA 863/6/2/7). He asks that she postpone an upcoming solo show and refrain from exhibiting any of his works currently held by the gallery as he is having trouble finishing new paintings and does not feel ready to exhibit. He goes on to inform her that he is desperately broke and is thinking of looking for a job elsewhere to subsidise his painting. This is a current theme throughout the correspondence and it is to Erica Brausen’s credit that she would often give Bacon an allowance, even when his paintings were not selling.

Erica Brausen opened the Hanover Gallery in late 1947. She was among the first dealers to recognise the importance of Francis Bacon’s art and worked exclusively as his agent and exhibitor from the mid 1940s to the end of the 1950s. The archive collection at TGA 863 boasts a fine collection of material relating to the work of the Hanover Gallery from its opening in 1947 until its closure in 1973. It includes, day books, sales and purchase ledgers, card indexes of stock and purchasers, albums of press cuttings and exhibition catalogues, photograph albums, and a series of material relating to Francis Bacon. Other material relating to Bacon in Tate Archive includes an extensive collection of source material deriving from Francis Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews, London housed in the Barry Joule archive (TGA 20043). This archive primarily consists of annotated source material as well as books, catalogues, periodicals and other publications, and some informal photographs of Francis Bacon and his friends. We also house a small collection of drawings and over-paintings of boxers by Bacon as well as notes he made about painting during the period 1950-57 (TGA 9810). As Tate’s Archivist, I am constantly fascinated by the insights one can gather about a person and their personal and professional relationships with others through their correspondence. Tate Archive has particularly rich holdings in this area.  In an age where our contact with others is conducted primarily through text messages, emails, and instant messaging, do you think that we are in danger of losing our ‘heritage’ due to the difficulties we face in preserving born-digital material?

TGA 863

Written by Adrian Glew