Francis Bacon Controversy: Unauthenticated Drawings Go On Sale

Francis Bacon

The Herrick Gallery London is selling eight pencil & graphite drawings and two pastel collages said to be by the late great British painter Francis Bacon. The works are alleged to have been made between 1977 and 1992 and donated to his good friend in Italy, Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino, but have been rejected as fakes by the author of the new catalogue raisonné.

The gallery in Piccadilly, is marketing the ten works’ authenticity as neither proved nor disproved. The drawings are described as in “temporary custody” of David Edwards, the brother of Bacon’s long-term lover, the late John Edwards, but are still owned by Ravarino. Gallery owner, Alice Herrick told the Art Newspaper that around 600 drawings were given to Ravarino, who was one of the artist’s lovers, from 1977 up until Bacon’s death in 1992.

Artlyst spoke to Calvin Winner, Head of Collections at Sainsbury Centre For Visual Arts, and co-curator of ‘Francis Bacon and the Masters’ regarding the artist’s preparatory work – “The question of whether Bacon sketched – because famously he didn’t sketch, he didn’t make preparatory drawings – and the reason of course is that his preparatory work is on the canvas. This is Bacon sketching, this is Bacon drawing, it’s all here in these unfinished canvases…”

It is entirely possible that Bacon believed that the existence of preparatory drawings for his visceral paintings would somehow detract from the authenticity of the final works, and that their raw directness would be tempered in the eye of the viewer – in doing so the magician would have given away his secrets.

This may be why the artist always denied that drawing was any part of his practice – even though he often sketched with paint over torn-out photographs found strewn around his studio. In fact Tate acquired a number of drawings by Bacon and exhibited them in ‘Francis Bacon: Working on Paper’ in 1999. But did the artist ever work on independent large-scale drawings?

The author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Bacon paintings, undertaken for the Francis Bacon Estate, has rejected the Ravarino works. In 2012 Martin Harrison told a Cambridge court that six drawings he had been shown were “pastiches, or even parodies, and profoundly disrespectful of Bacon’s authentic body of work”.

The two large pastels are on sale for £795,000 each and eight drawings for a total of £1.2m. Herrick believes the works are “by Bacon”, telling the Art Newspaper that she “cannot guarantee the authenticity of the drawings and pastels”. The authenticity of the Ravarino drawings has been frequently contested, it appears that there will be no certificate of authenticity from the artist’s estate. The authenticity of the works remain a tantalising mystery.

Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2016


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