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Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944

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One of the oil and pastel triptych on Sundeala fiber board, completed within two weeks.

The canvasses are based on the Eumenides - or Furies - of Aeschylus's Oresteia and depict three writhing anthropomorphic creatures set against a flat burnt orange background. The triptych summarizes themes explored in Bacon's previous work, including his examination of Picasso's biomorphs and his interpretations of the Crucifixion and the Greek Furies. Bacon did not realize his original intention to paint a large Crucifixion scene and place the figures at the foot of a cross.

The Three Studies are generally considered Bacon's first mature piece; he regarded his works before the triptych as irrelevant, and throughout his life tried to suppress their appearance on the art market. When the painting was first exhibited in 1945 it caused a sensation and established him as one of the foremost post-war painters. Remarking on the cultural significance of Three Studies, the critic John Russell observed in 1971 that "there was painting in England before the Three Studies, and painting after them, and no one ... can confuse the two."


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