The Royal Academy’s exhibition will go on display from the 30th January.

Francis Bacon, Study for Bullfight No. 1, 1969
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

January 2021 will see the Royal Academy of Arts presenting the first exhibition to chart the development of the artist’s work through the lens of his fascination with animals and its impact on his treatment of the human figure.

Francis Bacon: Man and Beast will feature 45 paintings spanning across the artist’s career from his earliest works of the 1930s and 40s through to the final painting he ever made in 1991, which will be exhibited publicly for the first time in the UK.

Presently in a broadly chronological way, the exhibition will begin with a series of paintings of biomorphic creatures produced between 1944 and 1946 which suggest a disintegration of civilised humanity.

One of the exhibition’s highlights will be seeing Bacon’s final painting, Study of a Bull which was painted in 1991 but wasn’t discovered until 2016 in a private collection in London.

At the centre of the display will be a powerful trio of paintings of bullfights that present one of the most direct encounters between man and beast in Bacon’s oeuvre. Displayed together in this exhibition for the very first time, the paintings of the corrida highlight the fine lines between flesh and meat, violence and eroticism, life and death. 

The exhibition will also feature a section that focuses on Bacon’s lover and muse, George Dyer – an East Ender with roots in the criminal underworld. The two met in 1963, and for the following decade navigated a relationship that was both passionate and violent.

Francis Bacon: Man and Beast will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from the 30th January until the 18th April 2021.