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Three Studies for a Self Portrait

Three Studies for a Self Portrait

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(One of three) Oil on canvas. The work can be interpreted as penetrating self-examinations, undertaken in the aftermath of the suicide of his lover George Dyer and as one of a series of inward looking self-portraits completed during the 1970's. Bacon was in his Seventies at the time but appears ageless.

The work comprises three slightly distorted self-portraits of the artist's face emerging from an enveloping black background. The triptych format allows Bacon to show three aspects of his face: the central portrait viewed face-on, and with slight three quarter views to either side, similar to a police mug shot. Each of the oil-on-canvas paintings measures 14.75 by 12.5 inches (37.5 cm × 31.8 cm).

As with most of his mid-period portrait work, Bacon seeks to convey the brutality and impact of life on his sitters by the application of broad and thick brush strokes which serve to severely distort the subject's face. As with most of these works, the heads, which are slightly smaller than life-sized, are confined in tightly constricted spaces, against depth-less and undefined backgrounds. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where the triptych is kept, this focus "allows only for rumination on the face itself — its ravages, its deep psychological depths, and the sense of turning around it slowly, going from one frame to the next, as if in a languorous panning shot." The triptych also differs from his usual work with its deep black backgrounds, which further serve to empathize the viewer's eye of the sitter's facial features and its delicately rendered complexions.

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