As Bacon remarked to British art critic David Sylvester in 1975, "I loathe my own face . . . I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’ve nobody else left to paint but myself." This striking triptych, featuring a head emerging from a deep abyss of black paint, provides no sense of the space inhabited by the sitter. The tightly constricted view allows only for ruminations on the face itself—its ravages, its psychological depths—and the sense of the head turning around slowly, going from one frame to the next, as if in an unhurried panning shot.
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Title:Three Studies for Self-Portrait
Artist:Francis Bacon (British (born Ireland), Dublin 1909–1992 Madrid)
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (verso of each panel): Study for Self Portrait / 1979 – Francis Bacon / left panel from / front.; Study for Self / portrait 1979 / Francis Bacon / Center Panel; Study for Self Portrait / 1979 Francis Bacon / Right panel from / Front.
the artist (1979–80; in March 1980 to Marlborough); [Marlborough Gallery, New York, 1980; sold on May 29, 1980 to Gelman]; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1980–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)
New York. Marlborough Gallery. "Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings," April 26–June 7, 1980, no. 13.
Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Francis Bacon," February 3–April 19, 2009, unnumbered cat. (p. 250).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective," May 18–August 16, 2009, unnumbered cat.
Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Francis Bacon: Five Decades," November 17, 2012–February 24, 2013, unnumbered cat. (p. 200).
Paris. Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Galerie 2. "Bacon. En toutes lettres," September 11, 2019–January 20, 2020, unnumbered cat. (pp. 34–35; as "Three Studies for Self-Portrait").
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Francis Bacon: Late Paintings," February 23–August 16, 2020, no catalogue.
David Sylvester. Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1969–1979. 2nd enl. ed. (1st ed., 1975). London, 1980, no. 111, ill. frontispiece (center panel) and pp. 144 (right panel), 145.
Miriam Gross. "Bringing Home Bacon." Observer (November 30, 1980), ill. p. 29 (center panel), calls it "Study for Self-Portrait".
Joshua Gilder. "The SR Interview: 'I Think About Death Every Day'." Saturday Review no. 8/9 (September 1981), ill. p. 39, dates it 1980.
Michel Leiris. Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile. New York, 1983, no. 126, ill.
Peter Lennon. "A Brush with Ebullient Despair. The Times Profile: Francis Bacon." Times (September 15, 1983), ill. p. 8 (left and center panels).
Dawn Ades and Andrew Forge. Francis Bacon. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. New York, 1985, no. 109, ill.
Wieland Schmied. Francis Bacon: Vier Studien zu einem Porträt. Berlin, 1985, p. 86, no. 127, ill.
David Sylvester. The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon. 3rd enl. ed. (1st ed., 1975; 2nd ed., 1980). London, 1987, pp. 84–86, pls. 111 (overall), 113 (right panel).
Sabine Rewald inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 288–93, ill. (color and bw).
William S. Lieberman inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 1, 16.
Ernst van Alphen. "The Narrative of Perception and the Perception of Narrative." Poetics Today 11 (Autumn 1990), p. 504, fig. 8, dates it 1979.
Ernst van Alphen. Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self. London, 1992, p. 54, figs. 26, 27, 28, ill. back cover, dates it 1979.
"Obituaries: Francis Bacon." Times (April 29, 1992), p. 15, ill.
Francis Bacon 1909–1992: Small Portrait Studies. Exh. cat., Marlborough Fine Art London, Ltd. London, 1993, unpaginated, ill.
Michel Archimbaud. Francis Bacon in Conversation with Michel Archimbaud. London, 1993, p. 187, colorpl. 11, dates it 1979.
José Maria Faerna. Bacon. New York, 1995, p. 49, pl. 56.
France Borel. Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits. London, 1996, ill. pp. 140–43.
Judith H. Dobrzynski. "20th Century Art Treasures Are Left to Met." New York Times (May 6, 1998), pp. A1, B6, ill.
William S. Lieberman. "Donation Gelman: l'École de Paris au Metropolitan." Connaissance des arts no. 554 (October 1998), p. 106.
Andrew Decker. "Metropolitan: Une Exceptionnelle donation." Beaux Arts no. 170 (July 1998), ill. p. 24 (color).
Sabine Rewald in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1999–2000." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58 (Fall 2000), p. 60, ill. (color).
Invar Hollaus. "Francis Bacons Selbstbildnisse—Der Rausch der Vitalität." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 66, no. 3 (2003), pp. 421, 423, fig. 9, dates it 1979.
Gaby Wood. "Face to Face with Bacon." Observer (August 7, 2005), ill. p. 6.
Armin Zweite, ed. Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real. Exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. London, 2006, pp. 180–81, no. 63, ill. (color).
Joanna Pitman. "The Many Faces of Francis Bacon." Times (August 30, 2008), ill. pp. 26–27.
Peter Conrad. "The Power and the Passion." Observer (August 10, 2008), ill. pp. 4–5.
Richard Calvocoressi. "Bacon and Lerski: A Possible Dialogue." Francis Bacon—New Studies: Centenary Essays. Ed. Martin Harrison. Göttingen, 2009, pp. 55, 248, no. 42, ill. p. 51.
Jean Larose. "Ce qui est resté du Prado battu au sang par Francis Bacon." Montréal: Vie des arts 53 (Summer 2009).
Matthew Westwood. "In Bacon's Existential Zone." Australian (October 30, 2012), ill. p. 15.
Martin Hammer. Francis Bacon. London, 2013, pp. 124–27, no. 86, ill.
Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels, ed. Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 4, 1971–92. London, 2016, pp. 1000, 1188, 1192, 1212, no. 79-09, ill. pp. 1188–89 (color), call it "Three Studies for Self-Portrait" and date it 1979.
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