Francis Bacon, Man and Beast at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Throughout his life, Francis Bacon remained fascinated by natural wildlife and movements of animals, tracking them on trips to South Africa and collecting books on their behaviours and habitats. By understanding them, he believed he could get closer to the core of humanity.

From 29 January to 17 April 2022, the Royal Academy of Arts, in London will present Francis Bacon: Man and Beast, the first exhibition to focus on Bacon’s interest in animals, and their subsequent impact on the artist’s pictorial exploration of the human figure.

This significant exhibition will include around 45 remarkable paintings spanning his career; from his earliest works of the 1930s and 40s through to the final painting he ever made in 1991, which will be exhibited publicly for the first time in the UK. Among the works, a trio of paintings of bullfights, all made in 1969, will also be displayed together for the first time.

In Bacon’s raw and complex paintings, man is never far from beast. That humankind is fundamentally an animal was a truth that lay at the heart of his imagery. From the biomorphic creatures of his earliest work, to the distorted nudes that define the latter part of his career, Bacon remained convinced that, beneath the veneer of civilisation, humans are animals like any other.