Francis Bacon comes to Melbourne

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 15th November, 2013

Auction goers will have the opportunity to be part of the highly successful Francis Bacon story when they attend Sotheby’s Australia’s next auction from 6.30pm on November 26 at Anzac House, 4 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Bacon’s rare triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud recently set a world auction record when it sold in New York for an incredible US$142.4 million – eclipsing the US$119.9 achieved last year for Edvard Munch’s Scream.

Sotheby’s Australia will auction a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1935) by Australian-British artist Roy de Maistre – one of seven works of art from the estate of the late Dr Jan Altman – at the November sale.

It is an affectionate and revealing image of the young British artist at the formative stages of his career and was painted several years after they met in 1930, during which time de Maistre became a close friend and mentor. 

Internationally acclaimed, de Maistre (1894-1968) was one of Australia’s early pioneers of modern art and his work was celebrated at the recent exhibition Sydney Moderns at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Once they became friends, de Maistre provided Bacon with technical advice and support enabling him to make the transition from interior decorator to painter.

Francis Bacon, who died in 1992 aged 83, achieved considerable success in the 1940s and 1950s with his distinctive style and became one of the most widely recognised leaders of figurative art.

He first gained international recognition with his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion 1944 and continued to earn widespread success until his death.

Other works in the November auction include tapestries by John Perceval and Brett Whiteley, along with Arthur Streeton’s remarkable Evening, Venice 1908 that has been hidden from public view for a century and is being offered for sale by the descendants of prominent businessman and collector Oswald Syme – who ran The Age newspaper from 1942 to 1964.

A special sale highlight is Arthur Boyd’s Hunter III (The Lost Hunter) 1944, which was produced in Melbourne during World War II.

The painting is a highly idiosyncratic and personal composition and stands as a visual record of Boyd’s response to global warfare and inhumanity.

The Hunter series originates from 1943 when Boyd served in the Army Survey Corps stationed in Victorian Central Highlands near Bendigo.

A painting formerly in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Antarctic Explorer 1964 (estimate $80,000-120,000) is one of the finest works from Sidney Nolan’s extraordinary series of paintings produced as a result of his two-week visit to Antarctica in January 1964 as a guest of the United States Navy.

Nolan completed 63 known works in this series of Antarctic paintings, producing an astonishing 59 of these in a four-week period – an act of explosive creativity rarely matched by any other 20th century artist.

Antarctic Explorer was selected by Hal Missingham for the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and soon became the most well-known and reproduced work of the entire series.


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