It could be a bull backing in to a burning, black void or one escaping it, moving hopefully into the heavenly light. What seems certain is that this final, extraordinary painting by Francis Bacon, unseen and undocumented until now, is by an artist who knows he will soon die.
The art historian Martin Harrison on Tuesday revealed Bacon’s final completed painting – a work that has never been publicly seen, reproduced, discussed or written about. Residing in a “very private, private collection” in London, Study of a Bull. 1991, only came to light as Harrison worked on editing a catalogue of every work by Bacon, due to be published in April.
Harrison said it was Bacon painting his own death, just as he was in his final Triptych 1991, which is in the collection of MoMA in New York. “Bacon is ready to sign off ... he was so ill,” he said. “He knew exactly what he was doing here. Is the bull making an entrance? Is he receding to somewhere else? To his cremation?”
Most of the two-metre-high painting is deliberately raw canvas. Underneath the bull Bacon has used real dust from his famously shambolic studio in South Kensington. “To me that is terribly poignant,” said Harrison. “He often used to say: ‘Dust is eternal, after all we all return to dust.’”
From The Guardian