A rare self portrait of Francis Bacon will be among the leading artworks in the upcoming Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale in London.
Two Studies for Self-Portrait, dating from 1977, is one of only three self portraits by the artist in a dual format. Following the suicide of Bacon's lover George Dyer in 1971, Bacon's work grew darker and more anguished resulting in some of the most powerful paintings of his career.
"People have been dying around me like flies and I've had nobody else to paint but myself��? I loathe my own face," he stated in 1975. "One of the nicest things that Cocteau said was 'Each day in the mirror I watch death at work.' This is what one does to oneself."
In 2009, renowned art historian Michael Peppiatt wrote of Bacon: "He was never more brilliant, more incisive or more ferocious when it came to depicting himself. In this he helped revive a genre, and Bacon's Self-Portraits can now be seen as among the most pictorially inventive and psychologically revealing portraits of the Twentieth Century."
Two Studies for Self-Portrait will be offered by Sotheby's on February 10, and is expected to sell for £13-18m ($19.6-$27.2 million). However, recent sales have demonstrated the strong market for Bacon's self-portraits, with two examples surpassing their estimates in 2007 to sell for £21.6 million and $33.1 million.
"Of all the subjects he depicted, it is the self-portraits - painted with an almost obsessive intensity - that bring us closest to the artist," said Oliver Barker, Sotheby's Deputy Chairman, Europe. "It's this extraordinary intimacy and power, together with their rarity, that make Bacon's self-portraits so irresistible to collectors."