A Buyer’s Guide To Francis Bacon

Triptych August (left panel) by Francis BaconTriptych August (left panel) © Francis Bacon 1972
Jasper Tordoff

Jasper Tordoff, Specialist[email protected]

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Francis Bacon

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If you are in the market to buy a Francis Bacon print, here are a few pieces of advice before you start your search, to make sure you find the right piece at the right price.

Looking to sell a Bacon print? Read our dedicated Francis Bacon Sellers Guide.

What types of Francis Bacon prints can you buy?

In his lifetime, Francis Bacon worked with various print houses to reproduce 36 of his highly coveted paintings as limited-edition prints. The quality of production can vary from edition to edition, so it is important to be armed with as much information as possible before buying a Bacon print.

In 2013, an auction of Bacon’s complete prints – containing a print from every edition produced by the artist – offered an interesting overview of how Francis Bacon prints performed against one another at the time.

Miroir de la Tauromachie by Francis BaconImage © lluisribesmateu1969 / Miroir de la Tauromachie © Francis Bacon

Interestingly, Miroir de la Tauromachie, a portfolio of four lithographs and usually the most desirable Bacon print at auction, achieved the same price as a single sheet for Study for a Bullfight no.1. Both had the same edition size. The difference between the two lots was that the Study for a Bullfight no.1 had a unique dedication from the artist – ‘For Brigitte’ – in felt tip pen. Special inscriptions often increase the value of a Bacon print.

Subject matter is another factor that inevitably influences the value of a print. Bacon often painted himself, acquaintances and friends, including artist Lucian Freud, in several works. This personal connection, in turn, adds value. In 2013, Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud set an auction record when it became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, achieving $142 million. Bacon’s prints of intimate sitters can also command high prices.

Of course, when looking to collect or invest in a print by Bacon, it is critical that the artwork is also one that you will enjoy owning.

Study For Bull Fight No. 1 by Francis BaconStudy For A Bullfight No. 1 © Francis Bacon 1971

Authenticity: How do you know if a Francis Bacon print is real?

The Francis Bacon Authentication Committee (run by the Francis Bacon Estate) no longer operates, but they recommend referring to the artist’s catalogue raisonné for any query relating to the existence of a Bacon artwork. Thirty-six of Bacon’s original artworks were released as editioned print – signatures, blind stamps and provenance can all help to confirm a print’s authenticity.

Many of Bacon’s prints were signed, either in felt tip pen or pencil. Some were dated and sometimes dedicated, but there are also some authentic Bacon prints that were never signed.

Often, a print by Bacon can be traced back to its place of production using the printer’s blind stamp. Bacon worked with four printers who used blind stamps: Mourlot, Maeght, Polígrafa and Atelier Arts Litho. So, if the Bacon print you are interested in buying can be linked to one of these print houses, it is likely to be authentic.

It is also essential to check a print’s provenance before considering a purchase. Ask to see a detailed paper trail of the previous sales history, particularly from a reputable dealership or auction house. This will not only have the work’s authenticity confirmed by an expert but will also inform you of the print’s previous values.

Whenever you are looking to authenticate an artwork, it is advisable to seek the advice of an expert. MyArtBroker’s team of specialists can offer essential advice. Contact us for more information on how we can help.

How do you check the condition of a Francis Bacon print?

The condition of any print will speak for its sale value and it would always be advisable to purchase a print in its best possible condition. As a prospective buyer, always ask to view a print unframed where possible: this way, you can see the full artwork front and back, without any part being concealed by a mount or frame.

Bacon’s prints were produced by a number of print houses. The different paper, ink and printing processes will affect the quality of the artwork, how well it has stood the test of time and, ultimately, its current condition. Much of Bacon’s editions are printed on a heavy, good-quality Arches wove paper, which will likely mean the colour and condition should last.

It is also important to check not only the print but also the signature is in good condition. Bacon signed his prints in either felt tip or pencil, both of which can be prone to fading.

It is advisable to seek the advice of an expert who will be able to view the artwork under special lighting conditions in order to fully check the condition. They will look for distortions, stains, tears, uneven paper tone, creases, cracks or scratches, and will be able to create a full condition report. Read more in our Guide To Restoring And Caring For Modern And Contemporary Prints, or contact us for more information.

When should I buy a Francis Bacon print?

Press or media coverage surrounding an artist like Bacon can drive up the value of their artwork – there is no such thing as bad press. Exhibitions featuring his paintings can also increase the popularity of his prints and editions.

Conversely, if there are several prints from the same edition available at the same time on the market, prospective buyers can hope to make a purchase at a better price. As a buyer, it is worth keeping an eye on market trends and understanding what other collectors are looking for and when they are buying. MyArtBroker’s team of experts can advise on market fluctuation, artwork availability and the best time to invest in a particular artist or artwork.

Where should I buy a Francis Bacon print?

Whether you are a seasoned collector or looking to buy your first print, purchasing your artwork from a reputable seller is essential.

Purchasing from online marketplaces like eBay may offer lower fees, but many buyers have fallen victim to authenticity or condition issues.

A trustworthy source will be able to offer expert guidance on the value, condition and provenance of a print – this can be an auction house, a bricks-and-mortar gallery, or a reputable online broker like MyArtBroker. It is worth noting, however, that fees differ between the three: auction houses can charge a fee of up to 30% of the hammer price to the buyer.

At MyArtBroker, we offer expert advice, complete transparency and the convenience of purchasing online from our broad network of sellers; for more information on buying a Bacon print, please do contact us.

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