20th Century: Was Francis Bacon The Best Painter?

Is Francis Bacon really the greatest painter of the 20th century?

Triptych 1986-7 (detail)

It was not an enormous surprise that an exhibition of works by Francis Bacon at the Royal Academy that is supported by Christie’s should swiftly be followed by an announcement of the auction house offering a large work for sale. Triptych 1986-7, whose central panel depicts the artist’s partner John Edwards, with Woodrow Wilson on one side and the assassinated Trotsky’s study on the other, is being offered in the sale that takes place on 1 March with an estimate of £35m–£55m. Nor is it a surprise that an auction house should drum up interest in one of their lots using superlatives. But Rakewell was a little taken aback by the claim on Instagram from a Christie’s specialist that ‘Francis Bacon is unmistakably on of the greatest painters of the 20th century.’

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