Cover: Painting 1946 – Francis Bacon – MoMA New York



Francis Bacon’s Painting (1946) came into MoMA’s paintings conservation studio in early 2015, after we received a request for an X-ray. The expectation was that an X-ray might provide material evidence to support Bacon’s recollections about the early stages of the painting’s development. In multiple published interviews with David Sylvester and others, Bacon recalled that he initially set out to make a painting depicting a bird of prey landing on a field, but that chance and a few stray marks led him down an unintended path, culminating in the image we see today: a grimacing dictatorial figure standing within a railed platform, decorated with cuts of meat and clusters of microphones.


The figure holds a black umbrella, which casts a dark shadow, obscuring most of the figure’s face. Behind the figure hangs a flayed animal carcass, the upper limbs of which extend toward the upper corners of the composition. Floral garlands hang across the top of the composition, above and behind the animal carcass. Three purple window shades extend across the upper background, behind the central figure, carcass, and garlands.


The request was not surprising, as X-radiography is a common technique for revealing subsurface layers of paint, which can often suggest compositional alterations that occurred during the creation or subsequent restoration of an artwork.


Museum of Modern Art