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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Study for a Portrait

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

Study for a Portrait


Francis Bacon

English, 1909-1992

The human figure and its representation became a challenging undertaking for European artists after the traumatic events of World War II. Bacon embraced it, noting, “The greatest art always returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation.” The rawness of Bacon’s deconstructive approach made him one of the most influential European artists of his generation. Henrietta Moraes was a close friend of the artist and a frequent subject. Bacon commissioned a photographer to take a series of photographs of her that served as the basis for his paintings of female nudes between 1961 and 1972. The self-referential inclusion of three earlier paintings as pinned-up images on the wall is unique for Bacon and sets this work apart.
Oil on canvas
61 x 55 in. (154.9 x 139.7 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: The artist; [Marlborough Fine Art, London, England]; [Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bernstein, New Orleans, Louisiana, by 1971; [David McKee Gallery, New York]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1976; Friday Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryLiverpool, England, Walker Art Gallery, John Moores Liverpool Exhibition, Nov. 23, 1967 - Jan. 21, 1968. Cat. no. 14 (as Study for a Portrait, July 1967).

New York, New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, Nov. 11 - Dec. 7, 1968. Cat. no. 5, pp. 32-33, reproduced.

London, England, Marlborough Fine Art, A Selection of 20th Century British Art, Cunard Marlborough London Gallery on Board Queen Elizabeth 2, May 1969.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh International, Oct. 30, 1970 - Jan. 10, 1971. Cat. no. 13, p. 16, reproduced.

New Orleans, Louisiana, New Orleans Museum of Fine Art, New Orleans Collects: A Selection of Works of Art Owned by New Orleanians, Nov. 14, 1971 - Jan. 9, 1972. Cat. no. 377, reproduced.

New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Four Contemporary Masters: Giacometti, Bacon, de Kooning, Dubuffet, organized by the International Program of the Museum of Modern Art, under the auspices of the International Council at the Museum of Modern Art (Caracas, Venezuela, Museo de Bellas Artes, Apr. - May, 1973; Bogotá, Colombia, Museo de Arte Moderno, May 30 - June 28, 1973; Mexico City, Mexico, Museo de Arte Moderno, July 19 - Aug. 24, 1973; São Paolo, Brazil, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Sept. 13 - Oct. 7, 1973; Rίo de Janeiro, Brazil, Museu de Arte Moderno, Oct. 15 - Nov. 4, 1973).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 3, pp. 14-15, reproduced.

Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Francis Bacon, Oct. 12, 1989 - Jan. 7, 1990 (Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Feb. 11 - Apr. 29, 1990; New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, May 24 - Aug. 28, 1990). Cat. no. 32, reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle, May 5 - Sept. 9, 2007.

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. 17, 22, 34, 126, 129, 158-163, 179, 185, reproduced pp. 10, 159 (pl. 17), 163 (fig. 71), 183.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Reverberations: Contemporary Art and Modern Classics, Dec. 22, 2022 - ongoing.
Published ReferencesRussell, John. Francis Bacon. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1971. No cat. no., p. 219, reproduced pl. 87.

A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum and University of Washington Press, 2008. Reproduced p. 41.

Harrison, Martin. Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné. London: The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2016. Cat. no. 67-11; pp. 724, 726, 728, reproduced p. 725.

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