Francis Bacon

Sketch for ‘Man on a Bed’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Francis Bacon 1909–1992
Graphite on paper
Support: 254 × 190 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 six sheets come from a small sketchbook which was probably used by Bacon at the same time as the spiral bound sketchbook which dominates the display. Limited to pencil and black oil paint, the more modest results remain consistent with the artist's use of drawings to log ideas. The pair of sketches, 'Cross-legged Figures with Arms Raised', show him testing the pose in different ways and possibly practising the fluidity of forms. The pencil drawing, 'Seated Woman', in which the head has been shifted from full-face to profile, relates fairly accurately to the 1961 canvas of that title, which only differs in using the setting of 'Man on a Sofa'.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Graphite on white wove paper
253 x 189 (10 x 7 7/16)
Watermarked ‘Telelinen | BRITISH MADE | NO 1 MILL’ upside down across centre
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 (34, reproduced in colour)

Francis Bacon was secretive about ever making preparatory sketches, preferring to suggest that his compositions were achieved in the spontaneous confrontation between his imagined vision and the working of the canvas.[1] The emergence of surviving drawings after his death was inevitable and has revealed a more premeditated approach in his conception of compositions. Of particular importance are two sets of works on paper from the collection of Paul Danquah and Peter Pollock, friends with whom Bacon lodged in Battersea, London between 1955 and 1961. One set constitutes twenty-six pages from a spiral bound sketchbook (or books) (T07355-T07380),[2] while the second includes nine pages from a smaller sketchpad (or pads) watermarked ‘Telelinen’ (Tate Gallery Archive 9810, and T07381-T07386). These were accompanied by source material in the form of magazine pages, a newspaper and a book of photographs of monkeys.[3]

Man on a Bed is one of the ‘Telelinen’ pages, all of which have perforations down the left edge. Most have part of the lower left corner missing where they have been torn from the original sketchpad (a repetition which may suggest that they were all removed at once). They have also been marked in the middle of the right side by someone leafing through with maroon paint on their fingers. More so than the larger spiral sketchbook, the ‘Telelinen’ pages are fleeting annotations and three pages have drawings which appear more diagrammatic in nature. Judging from marks and creases on the sheets, these three preceded Man on a Bed. They are: a draft letter for which the artist only wrote ‘Dear’ in blue ball point pen, an architectural sketch (in the same pen) of a flat accessed by a central staircase and a pencil drawing of sofas (all Tate Gallery Archive 9810).[4] A further sheet shows very sketchy figures writhing on staircases; however, the paper is a different quality and cannot belong to the same book (Tate Gallery Archive 9810).[5] Of the three sketchpad pages, that showing sofas relates to the establishment of settings such as found in another page Man on a Sofa (T07382). The architectural drawing appears to describe the layout of the artist’s flat at 7 Reece Mews; the inclusion of dimensions for one room may suggest that it was drawn in anticipation of his occupation of the studio in the autumn of 1961.[6] This may give a date for the use of this sketchpad.

This sequence of ephemeral drawings was followed by Man on a Bed a sketch which was rather unresolved. The line is hesitant in a way which is comparable to other pencil or pen drawings in the collection, such as Seated Figure (T07364). The figure is especially awkward, an impression reinforced by the high floating viewpoint. The striping of the surface on which the man is seated may indicate a bed or bench. Confusion arises from the fact that the body was also drawn lying naked and face down with outstretched legs. The caricatural head, with prominent nose and his domed skull, is comparable to a number of paintings including the portraits of Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy in Walking Figure, 1960 (Dallas Museum of Contemporary Arts).[7] It may also be compared to the etiolated forms of Alberto Giacometti’s contemporary sculptural portrait heads, some of which were shown in his London exhibition of 1955,[8] and which Bacon appeared to echo in Reclining Figure with Sculpture, 1960-1 (private collection).[9]

Matthew Gale
February 1999

[1] 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.20-21
[2] See the entry for Two Owls, no.1 T07355 and Matthew Gale, ‘Points of Departure’ in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999
[3] Ten illustrated pages from an unidentified book on boxing; Images du Monde, 27 August 1955; two photographs of works by Bacon; V.J. Stanek, Introducing Monkeys, London [c.1957]; Tate Gallery Archive 9810
[4] Reproduced in Francis Bacon: Working on Paper 1999, p.68, nos.31-3

[5] Reproduced ibid., p69, no.40
[6] Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p.185

[7] Reproduced in Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné and Documentation, London 1964, [p.227], no.163
[8] Alberto Giacometti, Arts Council Gallery, London, June-July 1955
[9] Reproduced in Alley 1964, [p.234], no.179

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