Francis Bacon 7, Reece Mews, South Kensington, London
“People think that I live grandly you know, but in fact I live in a dump.”
Francis Bacon moved to 7, Reece Mews in October 1961, and he lived and worked there until his death in 1992. His studio and contents were donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery by the artist’s heir, John Edwards, and Brian Clarke, executor of the Estate of Francis Bacon. The Hugh Lane Gallery team relocated the studio from London to Dublin in 1998, and it opened to the public on the 23rd May 2001. This modest mews situated over a garage was the centre of Bacon’s creative life from the 1960s on. He remarked, “I just knew from the very moment that I came here that I would be able to work here.” Bacon’s move to Reece Mews coincided with an increase in his international critical acclaim and considerable financial success. However, despite his wealth and fame, he never moved out of this small flat.
While his famous studio was a chaotic mess, the rest of the mews was neat and clean. It consisted of a living room with his bedroom to one end, a kitchen cum bathroom with a separate lavatory on the landing. The studio was a private place of contemplation, interrogation and creativity. The rest of the mews was more convivial and also played a part in his autobiography. On top of the cupboard in the living room were photographs of Peter Lacy and George Dyer, Bacon’s lovers in the 1950s and 60s respectively, John Edwards, his friend and heir, and a life mask of William Blake who became the subject of six portraits by Bacon following a request from composer Gerard Schürmann to design an album cover for his composition, Six Songs of William Blake.
As the mews was too small to keep finished works, Bacon instead created a photographic display of his paintings over the sink in the kitchen. On the table in the window was his collection of cookbooks including Mrs Beeton’s illustrated Book of Household Management from which Bacon borrowed several images. The hand basin on the bathroom side makes an appearance in Self Portrait, 1973, where the artist sits, contorted and troubled with his head in his hands, leaning on the side of the basin.
The photographs shown in Gallery 8 are the last images of Francis Bacon’s living spaces in 7, Reece Mews. Taken by Perry Ogden in 1998, they are an extraordinary and intimate insight into how Bacon lived for the last three decades of his life. 7, Reece Mews was later refurbished and it now is the location of the Estate of Francis Bacon; see www.francis-bacon.com.