Bacon portrait of lover seen selling for $49 million at auction

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[January 16, 2014]  By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) A celebrated portrait by Francis Bacon of his lover and muse George Dyer could raise up to 30 million pounds ($49 million) on auction in London next month, Christie's said on Wednesday.

A Bacon triptych sold last year set an auction record of $142 million.

The "Portrait of George Dyer Talking" from 1966 is one of the most famous images of Bacon's lover and was exhibited at his Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, a Christie's statement said.

The Irish-born Bacon met Dyer in London's Soho district in 1963, drawn to him by his fragility and need for protection. An anxious, constant smoker and problematic drinker, Dyer went on to dominate Bacon portraits for the rest of the decade.

Dyer committed suicide in 1971.

The portrait will be offered at the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on February 13 in London.

"Francis Bacon's position at the forefront of 20th century painting was highlighted at Christie's in November when his triptych of Lucian Freud sold for $142 million and became the most valuable work of art sold at auction," said Francis Outred, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's.

"It is exciting to be able to follow this success by offering this tour-de-force portrait of George Dyer which presents a powerful portrait of arguably one of Bacon's greatest loves."

Dyer is shown sitting at the center of a revolving room against a backdrop of "ruby red and luxuriant swathes of lilac", while his body "appears to unravel like cotton from a spinning bob", the Christie's statement said.

The tumultuous relationship between Dyer and Bacon was the subject of the 1998 BBC film "Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon", starring Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig.

The "Portrait of George Dyer Talking" was last auctioned at Christie's in New York in 2000, raising $6.6 million, a record prize for Bacon at the time.

Bacon, famed for his graphically abstract and emotionally raw paintings, existentialist views and hard-drinking, bon vivant lifestyle, died in 1992 at the age of 82.

(Editing by Michael Roddy, Mark Heinrich)

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