Francis Bacon

Sketch for ‘Figure Lying Flat’


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, Feb.-April 1999 (15, reproduced in colour)

The working methods that a sketchbook afforded Bacon had been unsuspected in his practice until the Tate’s acquisition of the group to which this drawing belongs. The possibilities are most vividly exposed in the sequences of linked pages, and Figure Lying Flat and the following Figure in Grey Interior (T07366) constitute an illuminating pair. The connection is not immediately apparent. However, the placement on the sheet and the alignment of the compositions coincide. Close inspection reveals that the cursory drawing of Figure Lying Flat was probably traced from the much more complex image on the following page. As such, each may help to disentangle the other.

Here, the blue paint secures an image of a body extended either in relaxation - as in the Reclining Figure sketches (Tate Gallery T07353, T07354) - or, perhaps, in the physical collapse of the sketches that appear to relate to boxing.[1] It seems to be laid over other crumpled limbs drawn in pencil, perhaps denoting a figure lying across the rectangle sketched in perspective. This preliminary figure appears to have been traced from that in Figure in Grey Interior, and the process resulted in blue markings taken up on the reverse. It is possible that the tracing was made in order to retain the image even after it was elaborated on the following page.

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] Collapsed Figure, T07357, Falling Figure, T07360, Fallen Figure, T07369 and Fallen Figure with Arms Up, T07370; see also 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

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