News-Antique.com - Oct 23,2007 - New York, New York – On the evening of November 14, 2007, Sotheby’s sale of Contemporary Art in New York will feature two important paintings by Francis Bacon, Second Version of Study for Bullfight
No. 1, and Self Portrait, among other works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Mark Rothko, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and Ad Reinhardt, among others. Both works by Bacon will be offered from a European Private Collection, where they have been for a number of decades. Executed in 1969, Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969, comes from a series of three paintings depicting the subject. The present canvas is estimated to sell for in excess of $35 million*. From the same year, Bacon’s Self Portrait, painted when he was 60, is estimated to sell for more than $15 million. The offering of these paintings follows the success of last season’s sale of Bacon’s Study for Innocent X, 1962, which sold at Sotheby’s New York for $52.7 million, a record for the artist at auction, and his Self Portrait, 1978, which sold at Sotheby’s London for $43 million, the second highest price achieved for a work by the artist.
Of these works, Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art, said: “Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1 is an extraordinary painting symbolizing Bacon wrestling with artistic desire. Here, he is battling the demons that occupy his violent subconscious, and in Self Portrait he struggles with these same issues of identity. Both masterpieces explore the same conflicts but with different outcomes.”
Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1 is one of three paintings of this subject that Bacon completed while he was using studio space at the Royal College of Art in London in 1969 and was acquired from Galerie Beyeler in 1987. Study for Bullfight No. 2 is in the collection of the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon in France. As a contest of combatants, Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1 is similar to other works by Bacon from the late 1960s in which contorted pairs of figures grapple together on a bed or platform, evoking simultaneously the rigors of lovemaking and wrestling. In 1987, Bacon described the drama of bullfighting as “about death in the sunlight’’ and “like boxing – a marvelous aperitif of sex.” The curvature of the background, which acts as an arena or backdrop that creates and echoes the centrifugal force of the composition, was a common device in Bacon’s work at this time. In the two other versions of similar title, Bacon included figures within and behind a vertical plinth at the edge of the bullring. In Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1, this form is blank and seemingly blocks the view of the figures in the stands, ultimately taking on the character of the mirror device frequently used by Bacon in full-figure portrait paintings. In this case, the bull and the human are isolated as the only