Francis Bacon's Studio


7 Reece Mews

"I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me. And in any case I just love living in chaos."
Francis Bacon on 7 Reece Mews

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was born in Dublin and is celebrated as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London was the artist's home and legendary working space for the last thirty years of his life and it was here that Bacon produced some of his best work.

In 1998, John Edwards, Bacon's sole heir, generously donated the entire contents of Francis Bacon's studio at 7 Reece Mews to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. This remarkable donation is the most important received by the Gallery since it was established by Sir Hugh Lane in 1908.

Francis Bacon lived and worked in 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London from 1961 until his death in 1992. The studio / residence was one of a short row of converted coach houses on a quiet cobble-stoned lane. The house was small and utilitarian in layout. The ground floor was almost entirely occupied by a large garage where Bacon kept surplus items from the studio. An extremely steep wooden staircase, with a rope for a handrail, led to a landing. On the left was Bacon's spartan bed-living room. Ahead was an eccentric kitchen-cum-bathroom. To the right was the studio, the most important room in the artist's life. Bacon said himself of his cluttered studio, "I feel at home here in this chaos because chaos suggests images to me." Bacon rarely painted from life and the heaps of torn photographs, fragments of illustrations, books, catalogues, magazines and newspapers provided nearly all of his visual sources. Some of the most significant studio items include seventy works on paper and one hundred slashed canvases. The vast array of artist's materials, household paint pots, used and unused paint tubes, paint brushes, cut-off ends of corduroy trousers and cashmere sweaters record the diversity of Bacon's techniques. It is from here that Bacon's stature grew into that of the pre-eminent figurative painter of the late 20th century. While Bacon occasionally looked for a new, grander place to work, he continually returned to this awkward but familiar room.

The Hugh Lane Gallery removed the contents of Francis Bacon's studio at 7 Reece Mews in August 1998. This operation was conducted with the assistance of a team of archaeologists who mapped the space, and tagged and noted the positions of the objects. The reconstructed studio features the original door, walls, floors, ceiling and shelves. Over 7,000 items were found in the studio and these were catalogued on a specially designed database before their replacement in the studio. The Francis Bacon Studio Database is the first computerised archive of the entire contents of a world ranking artist's studio. Every item in the studio has a database entry. Each entry consists of an image and a factual account of an object. The database has entries on approximately 570 books and catalogues, 1,500 photographs, 100 slashed canvases, 1,300 leaves torn from books, 2,000 artist's materials and 70 drawings. Other categories include the artist's correspondence, magazines, newspapers and vinyl records.

The Hugh Lane has now reconstructed the studio in Dublin in new spaces designed by leading British architect David Chipperfield. The studio is supported by an Audio Visual room, an Exhibition Gallery and a Micro Gallery is the definitive archive of one of the finest figurative artists ever and one of the greatest European painters of the twentieth century. The database of over 7000 items is the most detailed and technically advanced archive of any artist's studio in the world.

This exceptional and undisputed archive of Francis Bacon comprises over 7000 items including 80 works on paper, approximately 1,500 photographs by John Deakin, Peter Beard and Henri Cartier-Bresson among others, books and slashed canvases.

This archival material has been entered on a specially designed database. The Micro Gallery provides the visitor unique access to highlights of this archive. In the Exhibition Gallery a remarkable exhibition of unfinished paintings will accompany the launch of the studio. Their unfinished state provides a singular insight into the artist's process and technique.

The Hugh Lane Gallery appointed a team of archaeologists and conservators to painstakingly catalogue and remove the entire studio contents. The reconstructed studio features the original walls, floor, ceiling and shelves as well as the famous wooden staircase. "The acquisition of Francis Bacon's studio was a great coup and its retrieval and documentation has confirmed our suspicions ­ we have the definitive archive on Francis Bacon. The Gallery's innovative approach to retrieving and documenting the contents has resulted in a database of information which will be crucial in critical analysis of Francis Bacon's work", says Barbara Dawson, Director of the Hugh Lane Gallery.

More Information:

The Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery

An archaeological account of the project

Images, text courtesy Hugh Lane Gallery

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