Francis Bacon at London's Tate Gallery
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944
Oil on board
This is the painting that first made a name for Bacon when he exhibited it in 1945. On three panels of bright reddish orange scuffed with grey, a trio of mutant figures, which Bacon connected with the Greek Furies, grimace, snarl and bark. In two of them, the most expressive feature is the gaping mouth. What the eyes represent for most painters, the mouth was for Bacon, the locus of human identity. The mouth is what bites, suckles and howls at the moon.