Francis Bacon

Sketch for ‘Figure in Grey Interior’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Francis Bacon 1909–1992
Graphite and 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

Catalogue entry


Oil and pencil 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, February-April 1999 (16, reproduced in colour)

The relationship between figure and space in Figure in Grey Interior is conceived with a compositional complexity unrivalled in Bacon’s spiral sketchbook drawings. Within the rectangle demarcating the format an almond-shaped space was determined by two sweeping curves, the upper one describing the top edge of a blue band and the lower one a pink rail. The same pink is used for the figure crawling or lying on the blue band, and this form determined the equally ambiguous figure traced in Figure Lying Flat (T07365). The rail had long been an element in Bacon’s work but here it takes on the qualities of an outrigger, balancing the visual bulk of the figure; close inspection of the blue area reveals that it was originally a sofa (drawn in pencil), of the sort seen on a page from a related perforated sketchbook.[1] The setting around these details is made claustrophobic by the introduction of a steely grey - vertically scrubbed in the upper area, horizontally below.

Despite the illegibility of the figure, its relationship to the structures on which it is placed is reminiscent of the complex compositions with which Bacon experimented in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The sweeping curves of the space are found even in landscape settings,[2] but the conjunction with the figure seems to relate particularly to Study for Portrait of P.L. No.1, 1957 (private collection).[3] There, the nude body of the artist’s lover, Peter Lacy, is seen curled on a curving sofa with a rail running across the front of the composition; the general disposition is close even if the pose is rather different. Although the curved elements occur in later reclining nudes, the 1957 painting appears to be the most obviously related of the surviving canvases.

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] Sofas, Tate Gallery Archive 9810, reproduced Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.68, no.33

[2] E.g. Van Gogh in a Landscape, 1957, Musée National d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, reproduced Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, [p.215], no.134; and Landscape at Malabata, Tangier, 1963, Ivor Braka Ltd., reproduced ibid. no.215
[3] Reproduced in ibid. [p.218], no.138

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