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Francis Bacon was born on October 28, 1909, in Dublin, Ireland. At the age of 16, he moved to London and subsequently lived for about two years in Berlin and Paris. Bacon never attended art school but began painting with watercolors in 1926–27. Pablo Picasso’s work had a strong influence on his painting until the mid-1940s. Upon his return to London in 1929, he established himself as a furniture and interior designer. He began to use oils in the fall of that year and exhibited a few paintings alongside furniture and rugs in his studio. His work was included in a group exhibition in London at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. In 1934, Bacon organized his own first solo show at Sunderland House in London, which he renamed Transition Gallery for the occasion. He participated in a group show at Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, in 1937.
Bacon painted relatively little after his solo show and in the 1930s and early 1940s destroyed many of his works. He began to paint intensively again in 1944. His first major solo show took place at the Hanover Gallery in London in 1949. From the mid-1940s to the 1950s, Bacon’s work reflected the influence of Surrealism. In the 1950s, Bacon drew on such sources as Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1649–50), Vincent van Gogh’s The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888), and Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs. His first solo exhibition outside England was held in 1953 at Durlacher Brothers, New York. In 1950–51 and 1952, Bacon traveled to South Africa. He traveled to Italy in 1954 when his work was featured in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
His first retrospective was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1955. Bacon was given a solo show at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959. In 1962, the Tate Gallery, London, organized a Bacon retrospective, a modified version of which traveled to Mannheim, Turin, Zurich, and Amsterdam. Other important exhibitions of his work were held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1963 and the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971; paintings from 1968 to 1974 were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1975. Francis Bacon died on April 28, 1992, in Madrid.