A diary, discovered in the course of research on a major forthcoming biography of Francis Bacon, has revealed new information about this artists early career. Until now little was known about its author, Eric Allden, other than the fact that he shared an address with Bacon for two years during the early 1930s. Before meeting Bacon, Allden had enjoyed a career as a civil servant and as a cultural attaché at the British Embassy in Peking. He was twenty-three years older than Bacon and they first met, by chance, on the ferry from Dover to Calais in 1929, and immediately formed a friendship. Alldens interest in Bacon and his work is made evident in his diary. It records facts and insights that challenge some of the long-established myths surrounding Bacons early life. It also provides details about his early work as a designer of rugs and furniture.
The full article, titled Bacons Beginnings and based on this discovery, can be found in the January 2016 issue of The Burlington Magazine
. Its editor Frances Spalding, remarks: Leading museums tried hard over the years to get information out of Bacon about his early work as a designer and he refused to collaborate. But Allden was his companion at this time, and witnessed some of the negotiations that went on in the making of this work. The diary came to light when Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, authors of the forthcoming biography of Bacon, hired researcher James Norton to do a comprehensive internet and archival search of early Bacon acquaintances. Stevens and Swan won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography in 2005 for their de Kooning: An American Master.
Both The Burlington Magazine article and Stevens and Swans biography mark a new, more scholarly approach to Bacons life and art. In so doing, they are challenging the mythologies which have grown up around this artist, some of which were partly of his own making. Stevens and Swans biography is not authorised but they were given a research grant by the Estate of Francis Bacon and have worked closely with the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. Their eagerly awaited book will be published in the fall of 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S., Harper Collins in the U.K. and also in Italy, and will follow the publication of a five-volume catalogue raisonné of Bacons paintings in April 2016.