The messy Bacon and his brilliant brushes

by Cass Art

Francis Bacon’s studio, according to Francis Bacon: A Retrospective by Dennis Farr, was “astounding in its filth”. It was “littered with various detritus”, “brushes and paint tubes are everywhere”…

Famously, Bacon was a really messy painter with a legendarily messy studio. His tools were part of his working processes, he threw them around, chucked them about. He once said: “I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me.”

Take a look at any one of bad boy Bacon’s paintings and this chaos rings true. Frequently grotesque, carnivalesque, surreal, anxious, graphic, horrific, real, his paintings seem to depict the nightmare of life, from the ‘screaming pope’ paintings to his 1971 Self-portrait.

Dublin-born Bacon, who died in 1992 aged 82, was a colourful, controversial painter. People loved him but lots of people hated him as well.

Today his paintings sell for millions at auction, but an upcoming sale at Christie’s in London will auction off a set of Bacon’s well-worn art materials, a set of paint brushes in a paint-splattered butter bean tin encased in a perspex box and expected to sell for £25,000.

It might seem odd to be selling the tools Bacon used to paint rather than the paintings themselves, but this auction, called Out of the Ordinary, maps a trend where buyers are increasingly interested in the artefacts, the physical objects painters used to create their works.

Because whoever buys these brilliant brushes will be grasping the very tools with which Bacon wrought his masterpieces.

“‘Out of the Ordinary’ is a tightly curated one-off sale offering a unique opportunity to acquire something a little different from Christie’s South Kensington,” Charlotte Young, the head of the sale, said.

“Each lot has been selected as either visually striking or with an intriguing story to tell, and many have never before been seen at auction.”

We wonder what Francis would have made of it all...

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