An exhibition exploring the parallels between Francis Bacon’s paintings and his gambling habits has opened in his beloved Monte Carlo; where he lived from 1946-51, and would continue to visit until his death in 1992. The theme running through Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture, is that of Chance – which links both art and gambling; Bacon viewed his losses on the roulette tables “an expense related to painting”; and would even use this reason to get his dealer to advance more money; spending hours at the casino: “I spent whole days there… you could go in at ten o’clock and needn’t come out until about four o’clock the following morning”.
Bacon believed “the vice of gambling… is for me intimately linked with painting”. Clive Barker, a friend and sculptor Clive Barker, remembered how Bacon would tirelessly talk about how “chance” affected his paintings – with success or failure being akin to “the spin of a roulette wheel”.
One of the paintings in the exhibition is Study for a Figure (1950) – which, up until 2006, had been assumed lost but was discovered on the reverse of another canvas. Though it is clear what the image is depicting (a person at a roulette table) once one knows Bacon’s love of Casinos and that it was painted in Monte Carlo, further confirmation was also provided buy Lucian Freud when he was alive, who recalled having seen it the year it was painted, and said, indeed, that the circular object was a roulette wheel.
The other 61 paintings are related to Bacon’s visits to France and Monaco, and his adoration of French culture.
Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, 2 July to 4 September.