Francis Bacon Portrait of George Dyer to Sell at Sotheby’s

Francis Bacon Portrait of His Lover George Dyer Is Going at Sotheby's Auction, With Estimate Between $30M. and $50M.

Mar 22, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
sotheby-s-headquarters, Global Art Sales
Sotheby’s worldwide headquarters on York Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, via Wikimedia Commons


Francis Bacon portrait of his lover George Dyer is going at a Sotheby’s auction. The estimated price for this piece goes from $30 million to $50 million. It will also be part of a marquee New York contemporary art evening auction in May.  The auction house described the 1966 piece as the “very first full-scale single portrait of Dyer, and the first monumental single-panel portrait of Dyer to appear at auction in a decade”.


Francis Bacon Portrait – Exciting Thing for the Market

Francis Bacon Portrait
Portrait of George Dyer Crouching, 1966. COURTESY SOTHEBY’S.


Lucius Elliott, Sotheby’s vice president and head of marquee contemporary art sales, also spoke about the “Portrait of George Dyer Crouching”. “This painting is an inflection point to me in the history of art. It’s a tremendously exciting thing to bring to market”, he said. The painting depicts a naked Dyer, hunched like a predator over his discarded garment. Dyer’s head appears three times as it turns towards the spectator.


One of these instances is a mixture of Dyer’s and Bacon’s faces, which Sotheby’s described in a press statement as “nodding to their indivisibility”. While Dyer would serve as Bacon’s muse for more than 40 paintings, the artist would also become “progressive unsympathetic” to Dyer’s “volatile bouts of purposelessness, alcoholism, and erratic behaviour”.


Francis Bacon Portrait
Portrait of George Dyer in the Mirror by Francis Bacon, 1968, via Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.


Portrait of George Dyer Crouching also launched a series of ten full-scale portraits of Bacon’s boyfriend created between 1966 and 1968. Only nine survive; one was destroyed in a fire in 1979. This artwork made its debut at artist’s landmark solo display at Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1966. Also, it was visible during the artist’s lifetime retrospective in the city’s Grand Palais from 1971 to 1972. Notably, Dyer died just two days before the retrospective.

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The First Time on the Market

f.b. painting 1946
Painting by F. Bacon, 1946, via The Museum of Modern Art, New York


More recently, the painting was a part in the 2022 exhibition “Francis Bacon: Man and Beast” at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London. “There’s no painting that more eloquently sums up the entirety of the thesis of that show than this one. This is Dyer as a man, but his pose is like an animal”, Elliot said. The present owner purchased the art directly from Marlborough Gallery in 1970.


It has never been offered on the market until now, staying in the same family collection for more than five decades. Bacon’s depictions of Dyer are thought particularly worthy, with Portrait of George Dyer Talking, a 1966 painting from this same series, having sold at Christie’s sold in London for £42.2 million ($70 million) in February 2014, blowing past its estimate of $50 million.


Two Figures, Francis Bacon, 1953
Two Figures, Francis Bacon, 1953


However, the picture scheduled for auction in May is unlikely to fetch a price even close to the artist’s auction record, which is still held by Lucien Freud‘s Three Studies from 1969. That triptych sold at Christie’s for $142.4 million in 2013, briefly becoming the most expensive art ever auctioned.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.