Renowned historian and curator Michael Peppiatt saw his life change one day in 1963 when, by sheer coincidence, someone advised he meet the painter Francis Bacon. From then on a friendship ensued, with its ups and downs, in collaboration and fascination.
Peppiatt has written several books on the subject, including Francis Bacon in Your Blood, A Memoir, published by Bloomsbury Circus in 2015. On Thursday, February 11, he is offering Two Figures, 1975, a canvas his friend had given him, for sale at Christie’s London.
Michael Peppiatt remembers the circumstance in which he met Francis Bacon, a story he tells here.
Peppiatt also says that Bacon was very generous to him. “In that spirit, I tried to be of service to him. And so Skira had the project of publishing a book of interviews between the writer Michel Leiris and Francis Bacon. Leiris was saying that his English was too rough, so we would meet at the café Les Deux Magots and we exchanged thoughts about translation. It was a great way for me to improve my French.”
Michael Peppiatt also remembers that Francis Bacon gave him a small portrait of Michel Leiris as a gift. “I’d hung it in the small student’s lodgings I lived in then, rue de Braque, in the Marais. Just one nail and the Bacon painting, which I hid behind the sofa whenever I left, out of fear it might get stolen. One day Bacon paid me a visit, and he fixed the painting for a long time while rubbing his chin. He told me: ‘If you’d agree to trust me with it, I could really improve it.’ What was I to do? I trusted him with it! Later on, one night when he’d been drinking, he gave it to another person who later sold it. Today Leiris’s portrait by Francis Bacon belongs to the Pompidou collection.”
“On another occasion, he’d done a picture representing a dwarf facing two characters. A painting from 1975, an homage to George Dyer, who had committed suicide in Paris in 1971. It was a death that had affected him very much. He cut the painting in half and gave me the two characters. Today I don’t live the kind of life where I can keep paintings of such value at home. It’s on loan to museums or in a safe place, but not on my wall. So, better sell it at auction.”
Here, Michael Peppiatt explains that painting, Two Figures, from 1975.