Francis Outred (Christie’s Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe) has just announced on Instagram a Francis Bacon portrait of George Dyer that was first shown in public at the Royal Academy in 1977. The painting will be offered with $30m estimate and will go on view in London this week. This Bacon masterpiece can boast a prestigious provenience as the collection of Magnus Konow, a secretive collector of Norwegian origin, whose famous father was one of the most prolific Olympic sailors between 1908 and 1948 and whose Grandmother Dagny Konow sat for Edvard Munch. Konow first saw a Bacon on the cover of Esquire magazine and moved on to amass one of the great School of London collections, also encompassing Freud, Hockney, Auerbach and Kitaj. Based in Monaco, he quickly became a friend of Bacon’s, offering him lodgings when he made trips from Paris, sometimes with Freud, to the Monegasque casinos where he would spend days at a time. On Bacon’s advice, Konow built his own collection. Know told “Bacon would always talk about Dyer. I think that he was the only man he really loved in his life. I find this work is so powerful – for me it is probably one of the best paintings of their mystical love affair, and that’s what drew me to it”
Despite the fact that they only became acquainted after Dyer’s tragic death on the eve of Bacon’s retrospective at he Grand Palais in 1971 he was witness to the development of the works which memorialised this event, arguably some of the most vivid and profound works of the 20th century on the theme of the human condition. Dyer is here raised up in all his majesty as if on a throne framed in a thickly stippled black rectangle which seems to be moving along the rails or bedposts and disappearing into a further infinite blackness. Beneath him the shadow is cast, not of Dyer but of Bacon himself with his signature flicked tuft of hair spattered with blood red paint. The two lovers remain interlocked even in the afterlife. Pages of literature spill out on the floor, pasted with letraset, a nod as much to the French literature which so fascinated him when he moved to the city of this tragedy as to Picasso’s Cubist composition.