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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Bacon studio re-created in Dublin
Francis Bacon's studio
The Francis Bacon studio is 'organised chaos'
By Louise Williams in Dublin

Francis Bacon's London studio has been transplanted and reassembled - every paintbrush and speck of dust, along with the walls and floorboards - in Ireland.

The studio took three years to reconstruct in a Dublin art gallery with every detail of the work space faithfully re-created.

Studies of the Human Body by Francis Bacon
Detail from Bacon's Studies of the Human Body, recently sold for 6m at auction
The studio was donated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and a team of 10 archaeologists and conservators spent three years dismantling the room and its contents and transporting them across the Irish Sea.

'Mess'

Bacon was born in Ireland to English parents but he left Ireland when he was a teenager. He died in Spain in 1992.

For 30 years, he worked in a studio at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington.

Special care was taken over transporting the plaster on the walls which Bacon used as his palette.

"This is exactly the mess that he left behind," Project manager Dr Margarita Cappock said of the re-constructed studio.


It's unique in the art world to have such a complete archive

Dr Margarita Cappock

Three vantage points have been built into the walls so visitors can see up close the re-built studio.

"What you see here is most of the source material used by Bacon throughout his life," she added.

Almost every inch of floor space is covered with cuttings from newspapers, tins of paint and photos.

'Order'

Dr Cappock said the room was organised chaos.

"On excavating, we discovered an order - for example, there was an area with books and photos, the table was piled high with artists materials and behind the easel the space is full of empty champagne and wine boxes."

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon said he did not like to work in a tidy studio
Bacon himself once wrote that his studio was the only place he could work because he could not work in places that are too tidy.

"It's much easier for me to paint in a place like this which is a mess," he said.

The contents of his studio - over 7,500 items - have been entered into a database.

'Thumb print'

They include clippings from publications like Paris Match, pages from a book on the supernatural and images of open mouths - one of Bacon's recurring themes - which featured strongly in his "screaming pope" series.


Bacon once said that he'd never come back to Dublin until he was dead

Brian Clarke, Bacon's executor

"It's unique in the art world to have such a complete archive, which has been done with such thoroughness - every single thumb print or finger print or intervention that Bacon has made has been described," explained Dr Cappock, who hopes the permanent exhibition will attract Bacon scholars to Dublin.

There has been controversy over the donation of the studio but Brian Clarke, sole executor of Bacon's estate, has no regrets.

"I think that perhaps had it gone to any other institution it would have received great care, but here it's been treated with remarkable sensitivity and unparalleled diligence," he said.

"Bacon once said that he'd never come back to Dublin until he was dead," said Mr Clarke.

"And I think frankly if he were here today to see what happened, I think he'd be touched but I think he'd probably roar with laughter as well."

Francis Bacon's studio is on permanent exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery from 23 May.

See also:

09 May 01 | Arts
Bacon sale hits world record
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Slices of Bacon sell for 3m
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