Self-Portrait
1956
Francis Bacon
British, 1909-1992

Oil on canvas
78 x 54 inches

As the earliest surviving self-portrait, painted from memory when the artist was forty-seven years old, Self-Portrait, 1956 is a key work within Francis Bacon’s oeuvre. In this painting, Bacon depicts himself with the classic psychological impact that has come to characterize his portraits. He is isolated and hunched over, with asymmetrical features—the right side of his face is harshly raised by comparison with the left side, and the right eye is reduced to a crude circle. Bacon sits precariously on the edge of what might be a bed or couch, indicated by a single yellow right-angled line behind his head. This simple formal device works to stabilize the subject and focus the viewer’s attention on the figure, which is centrally anchored within the otherwise vast space of the canvas.