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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Portrait of Man with Glasses I

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

Portrait of Man with Glasses I


Francis Bacon

English, 1909-1992

Portrait of a Man with Glasses I is the first painting in an almost cinematic four-part group that’s now dispersed. Several individuals have been proposed as Bacon’s subject, including his eye surgeon, the author James Joyce, and political leader Mahatma Gandhi. Bacon was an admirer of Sergei Eisenstein’s early silent movie Battleship Potemkin and had previously drawn on one of its pivotal scenes, where a bespectacled woman is fatally shot. The shape and askance position of the glasses here may be an additional reference. Although the artist frequently used photography as a starting point, his portraits are not concerned with creating a likeness: “If you analyze the heads of Philip IV [by Velasquez] and people like that, you will see that these are profound distortions. But they distort themselves into fact. […] I think if you want to convey fact and if you have to do it, then this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort if you can, what is called appearance into image.”
Oil on canvas
13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. (34.3 x 29.2 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: The artist; [Marlborough Fine Art, London, England]; private collection, New York; [Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Oct. 24 - 25, 1974, sale no. 3684, lot no. 528]; purchased at auction by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1974; Friday Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2018; to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryLondon, England, Marlborough New London Gallery, Francis Bacon, July - Aug. 1963.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Text by Bruce Guenther and Barbara Johns. Cat. no. 2, pp. 12-13, reproduced (as Portrait of Man with Glasses).

New York, New York, Robert Miller Gallery, “. . . a room with a Soutine, Neel, Hockney, Freud, Ensor, Guston, Morley, Bacon, Kossoff, Basquiat and de Kooning.” Dec. 4 - 29, 1990.

Norwich, England, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, Sept. 26 - Dec. 10, 2006; cat. no. 5 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Museum, Jan. 29 - Apr. 15, 2007; Buffalo, New York, Albright Knox-Gallery, May 5 - July 30, 2007). Cat. no. 43 (as Man with Glasses), reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection, Oct. 15, 2021 - Nov. 27, 2022. Text by Martin Harrison. No cat. no., pp. 34, 126-131, 185, reproduced pp. 127 (pl. 12), 182.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Reverberations: Contemporary Art and Modern Classics, Dec. 22, 2022 - ongoing.
Published ReferencesAlley, Ronald. Francis Bacon. New York: Viking Press, 1964. Cat. no. 217, p. 154, reproduced.

Russell, John. Francis Bacon. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971. No cat. no., p. 190, reproduced pl. 57.

Trucci, Lorenza. Francis Bacon, trans. John Shepley. New York, Abrams, 1975. Cat. no. 89, reproduced.

Harrison, Martin. Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné. London: The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2016. Cat. no. 63-08; pp. 724, 726, 728, reproduced p. 725.

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