Biography of Francis Bacon

Photo of Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was a twentieth century painter known for his raw figures.

When and Where was he Born?

28th October 1909, Dublin, Ireland.

Family Background:

Francis Bacon was the son of English parents. His father, Anthony Edward Mortimer Bacon had been born in Adelaide, Australia and was an officer in the British Army. On retirement he had become a trainer of horses. His mother was Winifred Christina Loxley Firth whose family had made a fortune in the steel industry.


Little formal education as his family never stayed in any one place for long due to an army lifestyle.

Timeline of Francis Bacon:

His early years were beset by illnesses and allergies and he was not expected to live till the age of twenty-one. It was later found that he was allergic to horses and dogs much to the annoyance of his father who was an outdoor type who liked hunting. Bacon grew to despise his father.

1914: His father is given a post in the War Office in London during the First World War so the whole family moves there.

1918: Bacon returns to Ireland but the family are worried about reprisals from the IRA (Irish Republican Army).

1925: He is thrown out of home by his father with a small allowance as his father had caught him dressed in his mother’s clothing. He moves to London and stays in a series of rented rooms. He works as a painter and decorator.

1927: He begins painting in watercolours. He travels to Berlin with a relative and is highly influenced by the violent images then being portrayed in german art. He particularly admires also the work of the Bauhaus group.

1929: Bacon begins painting in oils. He moves on to Paris where he sees the work of Picasso. He also sees the Surrealist films by Luis Bunuel “Un Chien Andalou” and “L’Age D’or” both of which are memorable for their violent imagery. He returns to London and makes a living as a furniture designer but he also begins to paint although he has had no formal training. He has to take other jobs to make ends meet such as a switchboard operator, odd job man and a valet.

1930: He holds his first exhibition, a joint studio show, with his friend Roy De Maistre.

1933: Bacon holds exhibitions at the Mayor Galleries. He paints “Three Crucifixions”.

1934: He exhibits oils and gouaches at the Transition Gallery in London.

1939: Bacon’s chronic asthma prevents him from being called up in the forces during the Second World War but he works in the Civil Defence Volunteer Force particularly during the Blitz of 1940 where he witnesses many harrowing scenes of death and carnage.

1944: He takes part in “Young British Painters” at the Agnew Gallery.

1945: Bacon’s painting “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion” is exhibited at the Lefevre Gallery and it makes him overnight the most controversial painter in Britain.

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. 1944. (Tate Gallery)

1946: He takes part in an international exhibition of modern art organised by UNESCO.

1950: Bacon exhibits at the Knoedler Gallery in New York.

1953: He has his first one-man exhibition outside of Britain in New York.

1954: Along with Ben Nicholson and Lucian Freud, Bacon he represents Britain at the Venice Biennale.

1961: He has his first retrospective exhibition at the University of Nottingham.

1962: He has a retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London.

1965: Bacon is exhibited in Hamburg.

1975: Bacon is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1978: He holds his first show in Madrid at the Fundacion Juan March.

1987: In August Bacon meets José Capelo who is a Madrid banker and he spends more and more time in Spain and even learns the language. He frequents the Bar Cock there where he meets other artists and actors. He travels to Italy, France and England during this period with Capelo.

1988: His work is exhibited in Moscow for the first time.

1990: Bacon travels to Madrid again for the Velázquez exhibition at the Prado museum as he is the artist Bacon most admires.

When and Where did he Die? 

28th April 1992, Madrid, Spain of a heart attack whilst on holiday.

Age at Death:



Never married as gay. (homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967).

Site of Grave:

Cremated in Madrid at a service with no friends or relatives present. Ashes scattered in the countryside.

Places of Interest:


Art Gallery.


City Museum and Art Gallery.


Tate Modern.
Royal College of Art.
Arts Council of Great Britain.


Leicester Museum.


City Art Gallery.
Whitworth Art Gallery.


Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich.


Art Gallery, Batley.
Temple Newsham House, Leeds.
Huddersfield Art Gallery.
Ory Gallery, Leeds.


Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.
Aberdeen Art Gallery.


National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Scroll to Top