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Francis Bacon

© The Guy Bourdin Estate 2018/ Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery

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Francis Bacon

by Guy Bourdin
C-type colour print, 1986
12 1/8 in. x 13 1/4 in. (307 mm x 335 mm) image size
Purchased, 2017
Photographs Collection
NPG x199965

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  • Guy Bourdin (1928-1991), Photographer. Artist of 1 portrait.

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  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 112 Read entry

    Dublin-born Francis Bacon (1909-92) left Ireland at the age of sixteen, settling permanently in England in 1928. The work Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944, Tate) established him as an artist of international importance. Bacon used diverse source imagery and became known for his bold, abstracted figurative paintings with their tormented and powerful view of the human condition. Parisian-born Guy Bourdin (1928-91) was one of the most radical and influential fashion photographers of the twentieth century. His fusion of surreal and erotic imagery graced the pages of international magazines such as French Vogue during the 1970s and 1980s. Bourdin made this portrait of Bacon at the Marlborough Gallery in 1986. In the background the artist’s work Triptych - Study of a Self-Portrait (1985-6) can be glimpsed. Through the movement of the sitter, Bourdin recreates the swirling forms of Bacon’s painting.

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Current affairs

Hampton Court Palace is devastated by fire. Much of the third floor and the roof of the building were destroyed, although, thanks to the courage of the fire fighters, only one painting and one piece of furniture were ruined.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey.

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Poems on the Underground, the brainchild of American writer Judith Chernaik, is launched by London Underground. A rolling programme of poems is displayed in tube train carriages, bringing contemporary and classic poetry to commuters.
The Independent Newspaper is first published.
Artists, Gilbert and George win the Turner Prize.


An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station leads to nuclear meltdown in the reactor and causes massive nuclear contamination over Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, western Europe, the UK and Ireland, and even North America. The 2005 Chenobyl Forum attributed 56 direct deaths to the disaster and estimated that 9,000 people may die from some form of cancer as a result of exposure to radiation.

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Richard Krall

07 February 2019, 15:39

I was present when this photograph was made as Guy Bourdin's assistant when he shot Bacon's portrait for French Vogue. This image was exposed on Polaroid PolaChrome 35MM instant slide film. I processed this roll of film, myself, on the spot, in Guy's personal PolaChrome processor. After the 90 seconds it takes to develop the image, the film came out of the processor. Guy evaluated it while I loaded a roll of Ektachrome into his Nikon and adjusted the shutter and aperture for the light. When Guy finished that roll of film, Bacon called an end to the shoot. He then graciously signed copies of his Tate Gallery catalog and gave them to us. I still have mine and it's a prized possession. Guy preferred the PolaChrome image to the Ektachrome and Vogue, of course, printed it.

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