A bit of a mess!


After looking round the Witness Revolution exhibition at the GPO I wandered up O’Connell Street and across Parnell Square to visit the high Lane Gallery. It’s something of a secret with far fewer visitors than the National Art Gallery even though it has an excellent collection of art from the late 19th Century onwards. While I was there I managed to catch a chamber concert of violin sonatas by Beethoven and William Walton as well as looking around at the art on display.

One of the main attractions is Francis Bacon’s famously messy, reconstructed studio. Originally located at 7 Reece Mews in Kensington, London, it was donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery after his death by his heir John Edwards

In 1998, director Barbara Dawson secured the donation of Francis Bacon’s studio from the artist’s heir John Edwards and Brian Clarke executor of the Estate of Francis Bacon. In the August of that year, the Hugh Lane team removed the studio and it’s entire contents from London to Dublin. The team, led by conservator Mary McGrath, comprised archaeologists who made the survey and elevation drawings of the small studio, mapping out the spaces and locations of the objects and conservators and curators who tagged and packed each of the items, including the dust. The walls, doors floor and ceiling were also removed. The relocated studio opened to the public in 2001.

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Visitors look into the studio from outside through the location of original front windows and through a glass panel in one of the side walls.

It’s incredibly messy and a very small space for a well known, wealthy artist. He could certainly have afforded to buy something much more spacious. But there were deep seated reasons why he could only work here. Various quotes from him about why he worked here are stencilled on the walls around the reconstruction.

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Bacon was born at at 63 Lower Baggot Street in Dublin and spent some of his childhood in Ireland, although his parents were English – his father, an ex soldier, moved the family there as he wanted to breed and train racehorses.

Over 7,000 items were found in the studio and they’ve all been catalogued by the Gallery in a specially designed database which is accessible on computer screens next tot he studio.

The Gallery own a number of works by Bacon including six unfinished paintings which were on display in an adjacent room to the Studio.

Untitled (Three Figures) c. 1981 (Source; Hugh Lane Online Collection)

They are extremely rare examples as Bacon usually destroyed unfinished works and denied he made preparatory sketches etc.

I’m not particularly a fan of Bacon, but it’s fascinating looking at the mess – I’m sure there’s plenty of parents who compare it to their offsprings’ bedrooms! – and it was interesting to see the unfinished works. I’d certainly agree with the the Gallery’s website which tells us, these unfinished works

reveal his unorthodox techniques in their raw state.

And I think that the state of his studio gives us an insight into the state of his mind.