Francis Bacon

Sketch for ‘Figure Lying, No. 2’


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

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 (25, repr. in col.)

Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’, in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.32-3

The sofa or day-bed on which the subject reclines in Figure Lying, no.2 has a prominently raised end. The image was described in swiftly drawn out lines of pink and blue oil paint which became agitated in the drawing of the body. A darker blue line superimposed a figure turned to the left in order to present a profile; this seems to be Bacon’s habitual short-hand portrait of his lover Peter Lacy. The weight of paint used has taken its toll: it left an off-print in blue on the reverse of Figure Lying, no.1 (T07374), has cracked and flaked where the paper absorbed the oil. The darker line makes it difficult to discern the preliminary pose. However, the figure appears to have served as the basis for Figure Lying, no.1 on the preceding page through which it was traced; the simpler pose there may suggest that this was also the preliminary position of the body in Figure Lying, no.2.

Bacon’s exploration of the reclining body, often a male nude, carried implicit sexual qualities which were made personal in the recognisable portrayal of his own lover. Figure Lying, no.2 can be linked directly to Sleeping Figure, 1959 (private collection),[1] a canvas in which the rather saturnine profile of the naked figure on the day-bed or chaise-longue is clearly Lacy’s. The body does not follow the sketch precisely but the effect is closely comparable. It may be speculated that the changes evidently made in Figure Lying, no.2 and its companion facilitated the eventual solution on the canvas where the head is the same but the body is turned over. This painting was followed by at least two others in which the figure is increasingly transformed. A steeper angle and more domestic details (blinds in an interior) are found in Lying Figure, 1961 (private collection),[2] where the sleeper - now in shorts - remains recognisable while the body is more firmly painted. The same pose, although considerably more convoluted, features in Figure on a Couch, 1962 (private collection).[3]

The progressive evolution of the figure’s form exemplifies what Bacon described in 1962 as his ‘attempt to bring the figurative thing up onto the nervous system more violently and poignantly’.[4] Ernst van Alphen has linked this to a fragmentation of the body,[5] and characterised Bacon’s depiction of the male nude as ‘undoing the traditional discourse on masculinity’.[6]

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] Repr. Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, [p.224], no.155
[2] Repr. ibid. [p.240], no.190
[3] Repr. ibid. [p.250], no.209

[4] 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.12
[5] Ernst van Alphen, Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self, London 1992, pp.166-8
[6] Ibid. p.177

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