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'Lost' Francis Bacon work found on back of two Irish paintings up for sale at bargain price

The unfinished painting, titled ‘Figure’, has been made whole for the first time in 60 years. Bacon’s paintings are among the most expensive in the world.

1 The top half of 'Figure', an unfinished painting by Francis Bacon Source: Christie's

A ‘LOST’ PAINTING by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, located on the back of two paintings by another Irish artist, is up for sale.

The painting, a nude entitled ‘Figure’, is to be found split evenly in two on the back of two works by Kilkenny artist Tony O’Malley.

The two parts of the unfinished piece have now been reunited for the first time in 60 years.

Both paintings will go under the hammer at Christie’s Auction House in London on St Patrick’s Day.

figure The painting viewed as a whole Source: Christie's

However, despite the fact that Bacon’s paintings command some of the heftiest asking prices in the world (in the late 80s the Dublin-born artist’s works were the most expensive of any living painter), according to Christie’s the two pieces have been rated, and will be sold as, O’Malley pieces.

This means that the two paintings have been given a cost-estimate of between £20,000 and £30,000 (€26,000 and €39,000). By way of contrast, Bacon’s Study for Portrait II (1956) sold at Christie’s for €18.3 million in 2007.

Francis_Bacon_(artist) Francis Bacon, pictured in the late 1980s Source: Wikimedia Commons

Given away

Bacon’s painting came into O’Malley’s possession by chance in 1960, according to Christie’s.

Bacon had come to the seaside town of St Ives in Cornwall, England, to do six months worth of painting in September 1959.

However, he ended up leaving in a hurry after having a ‘turbulent’ argument with his then partner Ronnie Belton.

tehidy Evening Landscape, Tehidy Hospital Source: Christie's

The works he left behind, including ‘Figure’, were given away to friends of the owner of the studio Bacon had rented, including O’Malley (one of Bacon’s other paintings was given to a Canadian sculptor who promptly used it to roof his chicken shed).

Different stories exist as to how the painting came to be split in two. One tale goes that when an unscrupulous art dealer suggested that O’Malley complete the Bacon himself he split the board in two in disgust. Another says that O’Malley preferred to work with smaller-size boards.

currach Currach, Clare Island Source: Christie's

The two O’Malley paintings are titled ‘Currach, Clare Island’ and ‘Evening Landscape Tehidy Hospital’.

Currach was given to O’Malley’s friend, the poet Padraic Fallon, while the artist held onto Tehidy Hospital himself.

Francis Bacon died in Madrid in 1992 aged 82. O’Malley meanwhile died aged 89 in 2003.

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