Francis Bacon

Sketch for ‘Fallen Figure’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Francis Bacon 1909–1992
Oil paint on paper
Support: 340 × 270 mm
Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a group of anonymous donors in memory of Mario Tazzoli 1998

Display caption

These pages occurred towards the middle of the dismembered sketchbook partially reconstituted in this display. Three sheets have been included from private collections to which they were dispersed prior to the Tate Gallery's acquisition of the remainder.
Bacon's known interest in boxing seems to be reflected in several drawings, echoing those earlier in the sketchbook. The figures are speedily sketched. By making the trappings ambiguous - lines may be ropes or outlines of furniture - a sense of drama enlivens Bacon's habitual reclining figures. This process also resulted in the hovering pose of 'Figure Crawling', which is based on the upper figure from Muybridge's famous photograph of a pair of wrestlers.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Technique and condition

A painted sketch executed in blue oil paint (possibly Antwerp Blue) onto white wove paper. The paper has a perforated edge along the left side where it has been removed from a spiral bound sketch book.

The paint is very dry and has been applied with very little medium. The artist may have reduced the oil content of the paint further by letting the paint stand on blotting paper before use. The image is painted with a brush directly onto the paper and there is no evidence of any underdrawing. The paper is visible beneath the paint and large areas of the sheet have been left unpainted. A fingerprint is partially visible in some of the paint marks.

The sketch is in good condition with some overall discolouration and handling creases in the paper where it has previously been folded into four. Staining is evident on the surface caused by splashes of oil (probably linseed oil). The sketch enters the Collection with other drawings made by Bacon illustrating similar subject matter on the same paper, which suggests that it originates from the same sketchbook. The drawing is attached to white board and stored unframed.

Calvin Winner
November 1998

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 (19, reproduced in colour)

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

Fallen Figure has proved difficult to place in the sequence of Bacon’s drawings thought to come from a single spiral bound sketchbook. There are folds at the corners which are comparable to those on preceding and following sheets, but they do not follow exactly. Other marks - notably the off-print in pink on the reverse - suggest that it came between other pages which are now missing. One of these, probably following it in the sequence, is Figure in a Corner (private collection),[1] which similarly places a figure in the corner of a boxing ring. Unusually, Fallen Figure was folded in eight at some time following the completion of the drawing, which shows its removal and suggests that it served some function independent of its companions. Whether this might indicate that it was selected for further attention cannot be confirmed as no related canvas has yet been identified.

In common with several other pages from the sketchbook the drawing was made quickly in blue oil paint. A surprising amount of detail is secured in the face, which is arranged around a central line reminiscent of Cubist representations of heads seen simultaneously in full-face and profile. In other respects the details are difficult to ascertain. Above all, it is not clear whether the figure is relaxing on a sofa in a corner or whether it has fallen backwards. Such abandoned poses are found in many of the artist’s works, but the linear structure may suggest the collapse of a boxer.

Bacon is known to have been interested in boxing, and the previous owner believed that several of the drawings in the sketchbook reflected this enthusiasm.[2] In this respect, it is possible that Fallen Figure derives from magazine photographs of the sport which the artist collected as sources.[3] It appears to show an instant from a bout comparable to those in Collapsed Figure and Fallen Figure with Arms Up (T07357, T07370). The boxer falls backwards – or, perhaps, relaxes - into the corner of a ring, indicated by the converging lines of the ropes. Fallen Figure with Arms Up shows a similar situation but seen from the side. Although the sketches were accompanied by material from Bacon’s studio which including pages from a history of boxing (TGA 9810), [4] no precise source for this pose has been found.

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] Figure in a Corner, private collection, reproduced in Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.29, fig.22

[2] Paul Danquah in conversation with Richard Morphet, 21 July 1997, Tate Gallery cataloguing files
[3] 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
[4] See Gale 1999, p.29, reproduced p.69 nos.41-2

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