With a mythology surrounding him, Bacon’s life and tempestuous relationships parallel the course of his oeuvre – his work from the 1950s undoubtedly marked by his then partner, Peter Lacy, the model for Seated Figure on a Couch. The former fighter pilot met Bacon in 1952, passing away ten years later, just before the artist’s celebrated 1962 solo exhibition at the Tate in London. Laden with a dark violence, the work produced within those ten years were met with a brief shift in tone during his time in the Porthmeor Studios in St. Ives in 1959.
Cool and controlled, Bacon incorporated an unexpected palette – inspired by the natural landscape, the beaches and icy blue sky of St. Ives breached the typically somber, artificially lit interiors which positioned his portraits. The ability to review his work in isolation also allowed for a study of his contemporaries. The three horizontal, Rothko-like bands of color provide a radical change, the flat planes interrupted only by the slight linear perspectival suggestions on the couch and floor below. Even in brushwork, Bacon deviates, though his masterfully pigmented, fleshy figure remains characteristic. With an enlarged head and fading features, Bacon’s nude sits with a leg outstretched – the cushion below contoured by his weight – inviting a unique approach to his portraits with this lighter chromatic register.