Unknown, undocumented and unseen: newly discovered work by Francis Bacon

A work by Francis Bacon; previously unknown, undocumented and unseen by the public has been brought to light. The work, Study of a Bull was created in 1991 and would be the last painting Bacon ever painted. It was discovered by art historian Martin Harrison in a “very private, private collection” in London, as he prepared and researched for his a comprehensive catalogue of every work Francis Bacon ever created, which is due to be published in April.

The painting is the realization of Bacon’s life-long fascination with bullfighting, which he explored with works in 1969 and 1987; this particular work came shortly before his own death at 82 and just a year after the death of his friend, the French surrealist Michel Leiris, who’s writings, it is believed, introduced Bacon to the blood-thirsty sport.

Harrison said it is an “absolutely magnificent painting” and will be highlight of the Bacon exhibition his is curating at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, where he will explore the importance of Monaco and France in Bacon’s artistic and personal development: “His main cultural orientation was always to France. He deprecated almost all English artists and dismissed most English painting … Paris and France-based artists were his key influences.” Study of a Bull is actually owned by the Francis Bacon Foundation, in Monaco, where Bacon would spend a lot of his life, particularly after the war with his partner Eric Hall and childhood nanny Jessie Lightfoot.

Harrison managed to track down every single work by Bacon for his catalogue, bar one, Head with Arm Raised, 1955, of which he remarked: “We don’t know where it is on earth … it is still missing.”  But the deadline for the work to be included in the catalogue’s publication has now passed, Harrison told the Guardian: “You better not bloody find it … just to mock me!”

Do you know where it is?

Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture will be at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco 2 July-4 September. Then it will travel to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao 30 September-8 January.