announced that its forthcoming summer Contemporary Art Evening Auction will be led by Crouching Nude, an important masterwork by the renowned British artist Francis Bacon (est. £7-9 million / $10-15 million)* which has never before been offered at auction. The 1961 oil on canvas, which is one of Bacons large-scale paintings, measuring 198cm by 145cm, will be offered for sale on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The appearance of this work on the market follows Sothebys unmatched track record**with the sale of works by the artist and the recently achieved triple-estimate sum of £23 million for Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon at Sothebys in February.
Commenting on the sale of this extraordinary work, Oliver Barker, Sothebys Deputy Chairman Europe and Senior International Specialist in the Contemporary Art Department, said: Alongside Picasso, Bacon is the outstanding postwar artist and his Crouching Nude of 1961 is a magnificent painting which epitomises the artists work at this important moment in his career. This work holds within its remarkable paint surfaces all the elusive mystery inherent to the artists working method. We anticipate this painting will be highly sought after by discerning collectors across the globe.
Crouching Nude was featured in the ninety-work major travelling retrospective that opened at the Tate Gallery in May 1962 as one of the artists most recent and striking paintings. The figure crouches ominously and through her uniquely distorted, highly complex form, references the singularity of psychological experience. Through Bacons unique existential vision, this animalistic nude is ultimately otherworldly. The 1962 retrospective established Bacons pre-eminence among contemporary British painters, and without doubt Crouching Nude sits in the highest tier of professional achievement of the artists formidable output.
Throughout his mature career, Bacon voraciously looked to friends and acquaintances around him as subjects for his existential masterpieces, including - in the 1960s Peter Lacy, George Dyer, Lucian Freud, Isabelle Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes, and Muriel Belcher. Despite his obsession with the faces and bodies of those closest to him, he worked almost entirely from photographs, clippings and memories, and never from life itself. The figure of Crouching Nude evokes photographs Bacon owned of his friends Belcher, Rawsthorne, and Moraes, and is a sensational conflation of aspects of all three figures. While Belcher owned the Colony Room drinking club in Dean Street, Soho, which she had opened in 1948 and at which Bacon was given generous credit in return for bringing new customers; Moraes and Rawsthorne were close friends and together this was the most important female company of his 1960s existence. Crouching Nude was also painted at the height of Francis Bacons impassioned and tempestuous relationship with Peter Lacy, a Second World War fighter pilot, whom the artist had met around 1952 and conducted an intense and fraught relationship with until Lacys death from drink in 1962, which Bacon learned of via telegram on the eve of his 1962 retrospective. This painting therefore belongs to a salient moment of the artists biography and career, which heralded the sequence of masterpieces of the 1960s.
*Estimates do not include buyers premium.
**Sothebys holds 4 of the top 5 auction prices for Bacon, including the record for any Contemporary work of art at auction with the artists Triptych ($86.2 million at SNY in May 2008).