The Art of Distortion

The Art of Distortion

Carly Shearer on Francis Bacon

"If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is called appearance into image." – Francis Bacon




Francis Bacon is one of the most significant figures in 20th Century British Art. He evolved his own distinctive visual approach which distorted the figure, offering a visceral violence and discomfort to his imagery. His own reputation as a self-taught artist, openly gay in a largely hostile society, comfortable moving between the different strata of society and with extreme highs and lows in his personal life fed the narrative and intrigue around his artwork.


LOT 217 | § FRANCIS BACON (BRITISH 1909-1992) | TRIPTYCH - 1983 | Sold for £27,500 incl premium


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An adamant atheist, Bacon was nevertheless pre-occupied by specific religious imagery in his work, returning to the intensity, violence and suffering of the Crucifixion event. He also repeatedly worked in a series of three panels, the traditional triptych form, as we can see here. Triptych – 1983 encompasses many of Bacon’s preoccupations and dates from a significant period in his career, when he was an established artist, highly regarded and with an array of international exhibitions behind him. In 1985, TATE held a major retrospective of his work, with the statement celebrating our ‘greatest living painter.’




Bacon discovered and developed his particular artistic preoccupations relatively early in his career. By 1983, he had refined his approach to become more nuanced, so we see the three figures, each featured within an individual panel, unfolding here, their bodies dramatically abbreviated, with the tops of each head cut off so the viewers’ attention is focussed on the muscularity and movement of the torso and limbs. Placed against a searing orange background, the impact is strikingly visceral. These figures embody both strength and vulnerability, the dichotomy inherent to our bodies and our minds. The result is essentially Bacon and almost timeless.




We were delighted to offer this significant lithographic work, from the edition of 180, with each panel signed and numbered, at this moment when attention was being re-directed to his work with the Royal Academy’s five-star rated exhibition, ‘Francis Bacon: Man and Beast’ that was on display in London in early 2022.





Auction Information


Wednesday 06 April 2022 | Live Online | Edinburgh


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