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Francis Bacon

Two Bacons may share more than an interest in portraiture

See for yourself as Sir Nathaniel Bacon and Francis Bacon go on show in London

Could the Bacons be related? The biographer Michael Peppiatt suggests that Francis Bacon (1909-92) might possibly have descended from the artist Sir Nathaniel Bacon (1585-1627). Tate curator Karen Hearn disagrees, arguing that Nathaniel’s branch of the family died out later in the 17th century.

It is, nevertheless, possible that Nathaniel and Francis were part of the same family and share a slightly more distant ancestor.

What they certainly had was a common interest in self-portraiture. Sir Nathaniel was the first English artist to record his features in a series of self-portraits, while Francis certainly captured his twisted soul.

This month there is a unique opportunity to compare the two Bacons. “Sir Nathaniel Bacon: artist, gentleman and gardener” at Tate Britain (14 November-17 April 2006) includes a 1625 self-portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery (above right). Of his nine surviving paintings, four are self-portraits and three will be on show.

The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition on self-portraiture (until 29 January 2006) includes a Francis Bacon of 1971, on loan from the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (left).

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'A Bacon family affair?'