November 24, 2008 / 9:04 AM / 10 years ago

Rare works about Francis Bacon defy art auction gloom

Roy de Maistre's "Portrait of Francis Bacon" in an image courtesy of Sotheby's. Two paintings of Francis Bacon, by an Australian artist believed to have been his lover, were sold for well over their pre-auction price on Monday, offering good news in a market stunned by the financial crisis. REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout

MELBOURNE (Reuters Life!) - Two rare artworks by Australian painter Roy de Maistre, which feature artist Francis Bacon who was believed to be his lover, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on Monday among a collection of Australian modern art.

Of the six de Maistre paintings, the two works — “Francis Bacon’s Studio” and “Portrait of Francis Bacon” — have not been seen by the public for nearly 50 years.

“All six of the de Maistre’s works on offer were painted in London in the 1930s when the two artists were associating,” David Hansen, senior researcher and paintings’ specialist at Sotheby’s, told Reuters.

“Francis Bacon’s Studio,” with a pre-sale estimate of between A$60,000-A$80,000 ($37,600-$50,000), depicts one of Bacon’s many studios while “Portrait of Francis Bacon,” with a pre-sale estimate of between A$8,000-A$12,000 ($5,000-$7,500), shows a young Bacon, with carefully drawn eyebrows and bright red lips.

“The young Bacon was well known amongst members of London’s gay subculture for his cosmetic display,” Hansen said.

“They were certainly closely associated both personally and professionally — close but exactly how close is not known,” he said of the two artists. “It was often said that de Maistre taught Bacon how to paint, though both artists denied it.”

Sotheby’s said the auction, which also includes works by Australian artists John Perceval and Brett Whiteley, had generated substantial interest with potential buyers from Britain and Australia.

The works on offer have a collective pre-sale estimate of A$3.3 million-A$4.4 million ($2.1 million-$2.75 million).

De Maistre, who died in 1968, was considered a leading exponent of early Modernism in Australia. Bacon, who died in 1992, is believed to have made de Maistre’s acquaintance when he was about 20 years old, possibly in France or London.

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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