Francis Bacon Blood on Pavement c. 1988

Francis Bacon, Blood on Pavement c.1988
Oil on canvas
1980 x 1475 mm
© The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS 2008
Private collection

When Bacon turned seventy in 1979, more than a decade of work lay ahead of him. Neither his legendarily hedonistic lifestyle nor his work pattern seemed to age him, but he was continually facing up to mortality through the deaths of those around him.

This unswerving confrontation, however mitigated by youthful companions such as John Edwards, became the great theme of his late style. Constantly stimulated by new source material – from photographs to poetry – he was able to adapt them to his abiding concerns with the vulnerability of flesh.

Exploring new techniques he also extended his fascination with how appropriate oil paint is for rendering the human body’s sensuality and sensitivity. A certain despairing energy may also be felt in the forceful throwing of paint that dominates some of these final works: the controlled chance as a defiant gesture.

Ultimately, and appropriately, Bacon’s last Triptych of 1991 returns to the key image of sexual struggle that had frequently recurred in his work. He faced death with a defiant concentration on the exquisiteness of the lived moment.