Not on display
- Francis Bacon 1909–1992
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 1448 × 1283 mm
frame: 1628 × 1464 × 120 mm
- Purchased 1950
Technique and condition
The painting is in oil on plain weave canvas, and it is unvarnished. The canvas has a commercially applied double priming. The lower priming layer is made from a combination of chalk and lead white and the upper priming layer is made using mainly lead white with traces of zinc white. A third cream coloured paint layer containing lead white and zinc white was applied on top of the priming layers. The canvas is attached to a seven-membered stretcher.
The paint application is varied with some areas appearing thin and sketchy with the ground layer left exposed, while in other areas there is impasto and heavy layering of paint. There is also some wet-in-wet working suggestive of rapid working, and brush marks are evident. The surface has been incised using the handle of a brush or another implement. Bacon also claims to have sprinkled dirt and dust from the studio floor onto the suit of the figure to provide additional texture. X-radiography of the painting showed that a head in profile was painted over with the black paint used for the sitter’s back and suit, which suggests either a change in composition or that the canvas had been reused.
Pigments analysis has identified carbon black, red lake, Prussian blue, phthalocyanine blue and titanium white. Magnesium carbonate has been tentatively identified in a sample of red paint. Magnesium carbonate is a paint extender used by Winsor & Newton. Beeswax was also detected in the red paint. Waxes are often included in oil paint formulations as a paint thickener, or it is also possible that these could have been added by Bacon himself.
The painting is presented in a gilded frame, and is glazed using low reflection glass. It is in a good condition, with only some minor drying cracks in dabs of black paint and more medium rich passages. Red, yellow, blue, green and black paints have been noted as being sensitive toward water. Water sensitivity is frequently observed in twentieth century unvarnished oil paintings, and is an area of continuing research (see the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project).
Joanna E. Russell, Brian W. Singer, Justin J. Perry, and Anne Bacon, ‘The materials and techniques used in the paintings of Francis Bacon (1909–1992)’, Studies in Conservation 57, 2012, pp.207–217.
Joanna E. Russell, Brian W. Singer, Justin J. Perry, and Anne Bacon, ‘Investigation of the materials found in the studio of Francis Bacon (1909–1992)’, Studies in Conservation 57, 2012, pp.195–206.
Anna Cooper, Water Sensitive Paints in the 20th Century, master thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 2012.
Research on this work was undertaken as part of the Cleaning Modern Oil Paints project.
Francis Bacon 1909-1992
Figure in a Landscape 1945
Oil on canvas
1448 x 1283 mm (57 x 50 ½ in)
Purchased from Miss Diana Watson through the Hanover Gallery, London 1950
Purchased from the artist through the Lefevre Gallery by Diana Watson, the artist’s cousin, 1945
Recent Paintings by Francis Bacon, Francis Hodgkins, Henry Moore, Matthew Smith, Graham Sutherland, Lefevre Gallery, London, April 1945 (1)
Francis Bacon: Paintings; Robin Ironside: Coloured Drawings, Hanover Gallery, London, Nov.-Dec. 1949 (4, as ‘1946’)
London/Paris: New Trends in Painting and Sculpture, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, March-April 1950 (36, as ‘1949’)
Nicholson, Bacon, Freud, XXVII Venice Biennale, June-Oct. 1954 (British pavilion 57)
The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, Museum of Modern Art, New York, May-Aug. 1955, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Sept.-Oct., Los Angeles County Museum, Nov. 1955 - Jan. 1956, San Francisco Museum of Art, Feb.-March (no number, reproduced p.61)
Francis Bacon, Tate Gallery, London, May-June 1962 (6, reproduced)
Francis Bacon, Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, New York, Oct. 1963-Jan. 1964, Art Institute of Chicago, Jan.-Feb. 1964 (1, reproduced p.30)
Francis Bacon: Gemälde 1945-1964, Kunstverein, Hamburg, Jan.-Feb. 1965 (1, reproduced p.9)
Francis Bacon: Malningar 1945-1964, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Feb.-Apr. 1965 (1, reproduced)
Francis Bacon, Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, Apr.-May. 1965 (1, reproduced)
Francis Bacon, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, Oct. 1971-Jan. 1972, Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, March-May (2, reproduced in colour p.57)
Decade 40s: Painting, Sculpture and Drawing in Britain 1940-49, Arts Council tour, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, Nov. 1972, Southampton City Art Gallery, Dec. 1972 - Jan. 1973, Carlisle Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Jan.-Feb., DLI Museum and Arts Centre, Durham, Feb.-March, Manchester City Art Gallery, March-April, Bradford City Art Gallery, April-May, Aberdeen Museum and Art Gallery, May-June 1973 (48)
Henry Moore to Gilbert and George: Modern British Art from the Tate Gallery, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Sept.-Nov. 1973, as part of Europalia 73 Great Britain (73, reproduced in colour p.86)
British Art for Russia, 1978 (no catalogue)
Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, June-Aug. 1983, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Sept.-Oct., Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, Nagoya, Nov. (1, reproduced in colour p.28)
Francis Bacon, Tate Gallery, London, May-Aug. 1985, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Oct. 1985-Jan 1986, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Feb-Mar.1986 (2, reproduced in colour)
A Paradise Lost: The Neo-Romantic Imagination in Britain 1935-55, Barbican Art Gallery, London, May-July 1987 (23)
L’Art en Europe: Les années décisives 1945-1953, Musee d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, Dec. 1987- Feb. 1988 (no number, reproduced in colour p.97)
Francis Bacon: Paintings, Tsentral’ny Dom Khudozhnika, Moscow, Sept.-Nov. 1988 (1, reproduced in colour p.29)
Francis Bacon, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., Oct. 1989 - Jan. 1990, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Feb.-April, Museum of Modern Art, New York, May-August 1990 (1, reproduced in colour p.29)
Francis Bacon: Paintings Since 1944, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Oct. 1990 - Jan. 1991 (2)
Francis Bacon, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, March-May 1993 (6, reproduced in colour p.24)
Francis Bacon: Figurabile, Museo Correr, Venice, June-Oct. 1993 (1, reproduced in colour p.25)
Pallant House, Chichester, June-Aug. 1995 (no catalogue)
Francis Bacon, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, June-Oct. 1996, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Nov. 1996 - Jan. 1997 (5, reproduced in colour p.87)
Masterpieces of British Art from the Tate Gallery, Metropolitan Museum, Tokyo, Jan. - March 1998, Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Kobe, April - June 1998 (92, reproduced in colour p.152)
Michael Ayrton, ‘Art’, Spectator, vol.174, no.6094, 13 April 1945, p.335
Raymond Mortimer, ‘At the Lefevre’, New Statesman and Nation, vol.29, no.738, 14 April 1945, p.239
Sam Hunter, ‘Francis Bacon: The Anatomy of Horror’, Magazine of Art, vol.95, no.1, Jan. 1952, p.12
Robert Melville, ‘Exhibitions: The Venice Biennale’, Architectural Review, vol.116, no.693, Sept. 1954, p.189 (as ‘Study for a Composition’)
John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, London 1958, p.116, reproduced
John Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1962, pp.2-3
Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, pp.11, 12, 36, pl.16
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures, I, London 1964, pp.21-2
John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, Paris and Berlin 1971, 2nd ed. London and New York 1979, 3rd ed. 1993, p.28, reproduced p.26, pl.4
Enrico Crispolti, L’Informale: Storia e poetica, I: Origine e primi, Assisi and Rome 1971, p.400
John Rothenstein, Modern English Painters III: Wood to Hockney, London 1974, p.163
David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975, revised as The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1980, 3rd ed. 1990, 4th ed. as Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1993, p.192, reproduced p.193, pl.144
David W. Boxer, ‘The Early Work of Francis Bacon’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 1975, pp.67-72, 74, 79, 85, 137, 165-7, reproduced fig.49
John Russell, ‘Francis Bacon: A Retrospective and a Preview’, Horizon, New York, vol.13, no.4, p.82, reproduced (colour)
Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years, 1928-1958 (Ph.D thesis, Princeton University, 1975), New York and London 1978, pp.42, 64-6, 92, 120, 140, reproduced pl.39
Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: logique de la sensation, Paris 1981, p.10, reproduced pl.7
Lawrence Gowing, ‘Francis Bacon’ in Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, exhibition catalogue, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 1983, pp.104-5
Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York 1986, pp.15-16, reproduced p.15 (colour)
John W. Nixon, ‘Francis Bacon: Paintings 1959-1979; Opposites and Structural Rationalism’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Ulster, Belfast 1986, pp.26, 37, 188, 362, 467n, 551 (no.16), 760
Rolf Laessoe, ‘Francis Bacon’s Crucifixions and Related Themes’, Hafnia: Copenhagen Papers in the History of Art, no.11, 1987, p.13, reproduced p.12, fig.2
David Sylvester, ‘An Unpublished Interview with David Sylvester’ in Francis Bacon: Painting in the Eighties, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Gallery, New York 1987, p.8, reproduced
David Sylvester,‘Entretien de Francis Bacon avec David Sylvester’ in Francis Bacon: peintures récentes, Repères: cahiers d’art contemporain, no.39, Galerie Lelong, Paris 1987, p.26
Lawrence Gowing, ‘Francis Bacon: The Human Presence’ in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. 1990, p.13
Stuart Sillars, British Romantic Art and the Second World War, London 1991, p.161
Rory Snookes, ‘Relative Presences: A Roomful of Bacons at the Tate’, Apollo, vol.134, no.357, Nov. 1991, p.351
Ronald Alley, ‘Francis Bacon’s Place in Twentieth Century Art’ in Rudy Chiappini (ed.), Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano 1993, p.20
Ziva Amishai-Maissels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts, Oxford, New York, Seoul and Tokyo 1993, pp.226,454
Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, London 1993, pp.74, 100, 265, reproduced between pp.258 and 259, pl.40
David Sylvester, ‘Bacon’s Course’ in Achille Bonito Oliva (ed.), Francis Bacon: Figurabile, exhibition catalogue, Museo Correr, Venice 1993, p.24
David Sylvester, ‘Bacon’s Course’, Modern Painters, vol.6, no.2, summer 1993, pp.15,16, reproduced p.14 (colour)
Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, pp.108-110
Fabrice Hergott, ‘La Chambre de Verre’ in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1996, p.56
David Sylvester, ‘Un Parcours’ in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1996, pp.14-16
Hervé Vanel, “L’imagination technique” in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1996, p.67
Masterpieces of British Art from the Tate Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum, Tokyo 1998, pp.152, 237, reproduced in colour p.152
Harper’s Bazarre, Jan. 1951, p.52 (colour)
John Rothenstein, A Brief History of the Tate Gallery, London 1958, p.11
John Rothenstein, The Moderns and their World, London 1958, pl.91 (colour)
Viewpoint, no.1, 1962, p.5 (colour)
Ronald Alley, British Painting Since 1945, Tate Gallery, London 1966, p.12, pl.2 (colour)
Aldo Pellegrini, New Tendencies in Art, trans. Robin Carson, London 1966, p.198
Norman Reid, The Tate Gallery, London 1969, p.156 (colour)
Lorenza Trucchi, Francis Bacon, Milan 1975, trans. John Shepley, London and New York 1976, pl.2 (colour)
Guide to the Collections of the Tate Gallery, London 1975, p.37
Marco Livingstone, David Hockney, London 1981, p.32, fig.18
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, face et profil, Paris, Munich and Milan 1983, trans. John Weightman as Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, Oxford 1983, pl.2 (colour)
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, London 1988, pl.2 (colour)
José Maria Faerna, Bacon, trans. Wayne Finke, New York 1994, p.18, pl.11 (colour)
James Malpas, Realism, London 1997, p.51, pl.38 (colour)
In favourably assessing Francis Bacon’s paintings of 1949, the critic Robert Melville looked back over the preceding five years. ‘His known works’, Melville wrote, ‘are few in number because he is compelled to destroy many canvases. When he works on a canvas, intellect, feeling, automatism and chance, in proportions which he will never be able to calculate in advance, sometimes come into agreement’. The factors identified here were traceable to Figure in a Landscape, 1945 which, coming between the defining triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Gallery N06171) and Painting 1946 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), was the first painting in which Bacon established his post-war language. As John Rothenstein observed, it was with these works that ‘Bacon attained a sudden and formidable maturity.’
Figure in a Landscape and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion were shown together in the group exhibition of 1945 through which Bacon first gained wide public attention. However, in several fundamental respects they differ substantially and show the two sides of the watershed in his work. Figure in a Landscape, which (in a fragmentary way) shows a figure seated on a chair with microphones to one side, is larger and painted on canvas. Its colouring is generally muted, the handling varied and the setting outdoors; this contrasts with the triptych with its strong orange, ‘sculptural’ forms and closed interiors. As Figure in a Landscape is reputed to have been made in the first months of 1945 before the exhibition, its handling may reflect a greater speed of conception than the long matured and carefully worked composition of the triptych.
Some of these differences were recognised in the critical reaction in 1945. Michael Ayrton prefaced his assessment of Three Studies by remarking that Bacon ‘shows a large, confused painting called Figure in a Landscape. He has a power, and a personal quality which is almost entirely disguised in his other three exhibits.’ Raymond Mortimer, somewhat depressed by the ‘gloomily phallic’ effect of the triptych, noted: ‘The Figure in a landscape is no more engaging in form, but here the colour is more varied and the paint a beautiful mosaic. I have no doubt of Mr Bacon’s uncommon gifts, but these pictures expressing his sense of the atrocious world into which we have survived seem to me symbols of outrage rather than works of art.’ Both critics identified qualities in the canvas - power and varied paintwork - which they felt were absent from the triptych, and which seems to show a preference for spontaneity over solidity.
Nearly twenty years after Figure in a Landscape was made Ronald Alley, presumably informed by the artist, stated: ‘It was painted from a snapshot of his friend Eric Hall dozing in a chair in Hyde Park.’ The photograph must have established the pose of the figure straddling a green chair and resting its folded hands on its back, which was towards the camera. In the painting the right part of the figure’s body is clearly defined. Although the forms of the left knee and leg are discernible, the left side is less detailed and, below the careful border of the jacket, the body has been replaced by a black void. There is a suggestion that it has melted into a muffled area of flesh-coloured paintwork which is associated with a rail structure in the right foreground.
Careful inspection reveals the painting’s development. The commercially primed canvas was fixed to an old stretcher which was cut-down for the purpose; this may reflect wartime shortages of materials. The upper legs and chair were rapidly drawn in black paint on top of a white layer, which remains visible in many places. The rest of the figure may have been sketched in this way, although there is no suggestion of the feet. Very dilute, black paint was laid over broad strokes of ochre in the lower centre, and at the right the ochre was mixed with white to make a mushroom colour which was widely applied in vertical strokes. The patches of grass were mostly painted over these layers in bright impasto (pink and blue) subdued with black. In the upper part the mushroom colour was scraped back to the white layer with a blade or possibly with the handle of a brush, as Hervé Vanel has suggested. At the left edge this has exposed blue and brown which suggest that another partial composition had been covered. The scraping provided a textured key over which Prussian blue and black were flicked in zigzags. This gestural treatment has encouraged references (such as Melville’s) to automatism, but it is clear that more tightly calligraphic marks were carefully applied with a finer brush on the border of the jacket. The limpid blue of the sky (which has been unexpectedly compared to Piero della Francesca’s Nativity) lies on top of this layer, shiny and rather pooled.
The man’s suit is painted in ochre and mushroom, especially at the knee and arm, but Bacon claimed to have used a less orthodox technique. Speaking to David Sylvester in 1984, he recalled the ‘slightly furry quality of a flannel suit’ of Figure in a Landscape:
Actually there is no paint at all on the suit apart from a very thin grey wash on which I put dust from the floor. Well, dust seems to be eternal - seems to be the one thing that lasts for ever - and one of the things that I have noticed and been very pleased to see is that it doesn’t seem to have changed at all; it seems to be as fresh as when I first put it on forty years ago
It might be expected that dust had a particular resonance for an asthmatic but this is not remarked upon. Despite the enthusiastic recollection, it remains very difficult to discern on the canvas, and its remembered success did not apparently lead to its use for the tweed coats of the ensuing Figure Study I, 1945-6 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh) or Figure Study II, 1945-6 (Huddersfield Art Gallery). While reiterating what the artist had told him, David Sylvester later saw the painting as quasi-automatic, an example of ‘this miraculous experience of pictures happening to him’. Whether visible or not, it may be significant that Bacon’s recollection closely recalls Marcel Duchamp’s process of ‘dust breeding’ on The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915-23 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).
The variety and urgency of the handling was explored within a very simple and stable composition. The frontal pose of the figure was reinforced by partially obscured, rectilinear guide-lines which seem to place his chair on a low platform. The ground plane is divided from what appears to be a hedge by two heavily worked horizontal bands of strokes (green, blue and black) above dots and dashes (red, green, white and black), the line of which is carried across the figure by the back of the chair. Only the diagonal sweep of grass and the curved rail lend an illusion of depth. The figure appears to have been subject to the conflicting energies of the ordered composition and the fluent handling. As Bacon confirmed, care was taken over the texture of the suit; its folds and its buttons are also shown. The left hand laid over the back of the right hand was drawn in detail but then deliberately blurred.
Such details lie around the edge of the black interior of the jacket which establishes a void at the heart of the composition. This makes the absence of the figure as significant a factor as its presence. It has prompted Russell to suggest it as a ‘strange and fortuitous echo of Magritte’s Therapeutist of 1937’, a reference to the partially covered bird-cage-cum-torso of the Surrealist painter’s figure. A comparison to another Magritte, the lightbulb-head of the figure in The Pleasure Principle, 1937 (present whereabouts unknown), was rejected by the artist. Instead, Bacon’s image may have had more straightforward origins, as a circular area of more glossy black suggests that a ‘dozing’ head may have originally rested on the figure’s left arm. X-ray photography has not confirmed this impression but has revealed instead an underlying image on a larger scale: a head of a balding man seen in profile (facing right), so that the line of his brow and pate coincide with the curved right edge of the dark area and the back of his head reaches the lapel. This suggests that the black paint was used deliberately to obscure this earlier image. The detail given to the heavy brow, eye and nose indicate a fair degree of finish, although the rest is obscured (even in x-ray) by accretions of paint. There are similarities with public figures in whom Bacon was interested - notably Churchill and Mussolini - but the change in scale implies that this did not relate to the final image, even if it may underpin Bacon’s later assertion to Hugh Davies that the finished painting ‘started from a straightforward photo, then this black spread across the canvas’.
The deliberate obscuring of the body of Figure in a Landscape (literally coming on top of the underlying profile head), is made more complex still by the introduction of the fleshy area further to the right. At its centre, as David Boxer observed, lies a screaming mouth. The artist specified that it had not been obliterated, and when Boxer told him ‘There is overpainting, but you can still see sections of even the teeth’, Bacon replied: ‘Yes well it’s meant to be left like that.’ So this veiled detail deliberately remains, and both Davies and Boxer have identified the two brown barrels (with roughly ovoid attachments) which converge on the mouth as microphones. Bacon himself confirmed this forcefully when he described the whole fleshy form as ‘a concentration of the mouth speaking into the microphone’. Such a detail is comparable to the combinations of microphones and plants addressed in abandoned paintings such as Figure Getting out of a Car, c1939-40 (private collection) and Study for Man with Microphones, 1946-48 (private collection). This connects the image with photographs of Nazi leaders giving speeches, which were also sources for the paintings leading up to Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Boxer has even gone so far as to postulate (and show diagrammatically) that the disembodied mouth in Figure in a Landscape had been on a distended neck such as found in Figure Getting out of a Car and the central panel of the triptych, and that Bacon had ‘obliterated the body of the surreal creature, but retained its outline’ in the line of the jacket. However, there is no confirmation for this on the canvas.
These observations displace the suggestions that these forms combine with the railing to form a machine gun, as identified by Rothenstein (‘a dead man and a machine gun’) and by John Russell (‘a civilian machine-gunner outgunned and headless’) amongst others. Such a reading of mechanised violence is symptomatic of the reception of the artist’s work by even his closest supporters, who posit a post-war vision of civil conflict. Bacon’s microphones are more subtly aggressive, though they may equally convey a ‘sense of calamity’. Davies has suggested that the figure’s ‘latent violence has evolved to its logical conclusion of gristle, hair, blood and bones’ and has compared its disfigurement to the unflinching description of a shooting accident in Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa (1938), a book which impressed the painter. While Davies has associated the desiccated setting of Figure in a Landscape with the violence of the image, Melville - on seeing the painting at the 1954 Venice Biennale - remarked on how the light brought out ‘the impressionistic irridescence of the landscape’. Boxer has suggested - somewhat unexpectedly - that the background may be derived from a photograph of an African buffalo in one of the artist’s favourite books, Marius Maxwell’s Stalking Big Game with a Camera (London, 1925). He identified ‘the circle of skin under the buffalo’s neck which now forms the outline of the figure’s coat’, adding that the photograph ‘also provided the spiky hedge in the background as well as the curious fading of the image into the grass’. Certainly it seems plausible that the grainy texture of photographs in general lent impetus to the rapid handling of the background which Alley has compared to ‘a badly printed newspaper photograph’.
Figure in a Landscape may, therefore, be seen as one of the earliest surviving of Bacon’s depictions of the mundane disguising aggression: a suit clothing a void from which an unidentifiable excrescence emerges. This is part of what Ronald Alley called ‘a situation of undefinable catastrophe’ and may be associated with the ‘influential discourse around ‘pure violence’ ... [and] the existentialist “literature of extreme situations”’ noted by David Mellor. Although the dating of Figure in a Landscape to early 1945 means that it was made before the public awareness of the Nazi ‘death camps’ or the the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the isolation of the painter’s figures justifies Russell’s identification of Bacon’s ‘great subject’ as ‘“The History of Europe in My Lifetime”.’ It is may be suggested that Figure in a Landscape referred to one of the most famous images of Romantic detachment, Goya’s etching The Sleep of Reason, 1799. This precisely anticipates the conjunction of the mundane and the violent in Bacon’s image, as uncontrolled forces take on bestial forms with the sleep of reason. Such an allegorical theme, whether personal or political, remained pertinent in the light of Bacon’s fascination with the attraction and repellence of Nazi leaders.
The pastoral title of Figure in a Landscape contrasts with both the image and its associations, and lends an everyday placidity to a turbulent work. Bacon and Hall had, in fact, spent much of 1942-3 in the country (at Petersfield in Hampshire), but the subsequent identification of Hyde Park and the flannel suit indicate urban sophistication. By sleeping by day in a public park, Bacon’s model signalled a disruption of normality: the disturbed nights of the Blitz or of the illegal casino in Bacon’s studio, or both. More generally, it also signalled a response to the contemporary concern with the theme of the figure in the landscape favoured by Neo-Romantic colleagues. Circumscribed by a cultural anxiety, their work posited a return to native resources and to natural roots in the land, such as found in Sutherland’s paintings of Pembrokeshire, Moore’s equation of landscape and the maternal body and the work of younger artists such as John Craxton and John Minton. Craxton’s Dreamer in Landscape, 1942 (Tate Gallery T03836), for instance, exemplifies the convergence of an immersion in nature with imaginative escape. Such a view seems to be specifically rejected by Bacon in the disjuncture between his title and his image, where the figure dominates the landscape and disintegrates with it.
Although Figure in a Landscape has been recognised as an important stage in Bacon’s ‘more direct representation of the human figure’ in the 1940s, he had to rely upon one of his closest patrons, his cousin Diana Watson, to buy it when it was exhibited in 1945. She owned other works, amongst which was an earlier painting in which the subject ventured outside: Figures in a Garden, 1936 (on loan to Tate Gallery, L01889). The impact of the related Painting 1946 - shown in Paris in 1946 and bought by the Museum of Modern Art in 1948 - did much to raise the artist’s profile. Watson’s sale of Figure in a Landscape to the Tate in 1950 reflects her support for Bacon during these crucial post-war years; it was the first of his paintings to enter the collection. It has been frequently exhibited as a more robust object than either Three Studies at the Base of a Crucifixion or Painting 1946.
 Reproduced Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, p.41, pl.19 (colour)
 John Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, Alley 1964, p.11
 Raymond Mortimer, ‘At the Lefevre’, New Statesman and Nation, vol.29, no.738, 14 April 1945, p.239
 Hervé Vanel, in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1996, p.86
 Fabrice Hergott, ‘La Chambre de Verre’ in Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1996, p.56
 Formerly Bagshaw Art Gallery, Batley, reproduced Alley 1964, [p.166], no.18
 David Sylvester, ‘Bacon’s Course’ in Achille Bonito Oliva (ed.), Francis Bacon: Figurabile, exhibition catalogue, Museo Correr, Venice, 1993, p.24
 Reproduced, Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art 1978, pp.65, 294
 Reproduced ibid., p.249, no.443
 Conversation Aug. 1974, David W. Boxer, ‘The Early Work of Francis Bacon’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 1975, p.71
 X-ray, 18 Sept. 1998, Tate Gallery conservation records
 Interview 19 May, 1973, Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years, 1928-1958 (Ph.D thesis, Princeton University, 1975), New York and London 1978, p.65
 Davies 1978, p.66
 Boxer 1975, pp.69-70
 Ibid., p.71
 Reproduced Alley 1964, [p.259], no.A4 first state
 Reproduced Alley 1964, [p.260], no.A5
 Boxer 1975, fig.50
 Ibid., p.70
 Russell, 1971 and 1993, p.28
 E.g. Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, London 1993, p.100; Ronald Alley, ‘Francis Bacon’s Place in Twentieth Century Art’ in Rudy Chiappini (ed.), Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano 1993, p.20; and David Sylvester, ‘Bacon’s Course’ in Achille Bonito Oliva (ed.), Francis Bacon: Figurabile, exhibition catalogue, Museo Correr, Venice, 1993, p.24
 John Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, Alley 1964, p.11
 Davies 1978, p.66
 Ibid., p.92
 Robert Melville, ‘Exhibitions: The Venice Biennale’, Architectural Review, vol.116, no.693, Sept. 1954, p.189
 Boxer 1975, p.165
 Alley 1993, p.20
 David Mellor, ‘The Body and the Land: Neo-Romantic Art and Culture’ in David Mellor (ed.), A Paradise Lost: The Neo-Romantic Imagination in Britain 1935-55, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1987, p.75
 Russell, 1971 and 1993, p.55