A Francis Bacon triptych of his love George Dyer sold for £26.6 million at Sotheby’s in London tonight. It attracted bids from four collectors from around the world and was knocked down to a telephone bidder. This sets a new benchmark for a small scale triptych by the Irish born artist. It eclipsed the previous record of £23 million for a work in this format. This was paid for Bacon’s Portrait of Lucian Freud (Studies) at Sotheby’s in London in 2011.
Depicting the man who was the love of Bacon’s life at the moment when they were most deeply involved, Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground) is an exceptionally rare lifetime depiction of Dyer . It is full of the painterly exuberance that marks out Bacon as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. An outstanding example of Bacon at the height of his powers, this museum-quality work is also of critical importance because it is, in all likelihood, the first painting for which Bacon used the legendary photographs by his friend John Deakin as source material. The painting had only rarely been seen in public, having remained in the same collection since 1970. The estimate of £15-20 million was quickly surpassed.
There was global participation in the sale and strong bidding from Asia, including mainland China and Japan. There were auction records for Peter Doig whose painting Country-rock (wing mirror) sold for £8,482,500 and Frank Auerbach whose painting Primrose Hill, Summer sold for £3,322,500.
(See post on antiquesandartireland.com for June 2, 2014).