RRSD1053

Study for a Portrait of George Dyer 1969

As Bacon's work moved from the extreme subject matter of his early paintings to portraits of friends in the mid-1960s, Dyer became a dominating presence.Bacon's paintings emphasizes Dyer's physicality, yet are uncharacteristically tender. More than any other of Bacon's close friends, Dyer came to feel inseparable from his portraits. The paintings gave him stature, a raison d'etre, and offered meaning to what Bacon described as Dyer's "brief interlude between life and death".Many critics have described Dyer's portraits as favorites, including Michel Leiris and Lawrence Gowing. Yet as Dyer's novelty diminished within Bacon's circle of sophisticated intellectuals, the younger man became increasingly bitter and ill at ease. Although Dyer welcomed the attention the paintings brought him, he did not pretend to understand or even like them. "All that money an' I fink they're reely 'orrible," he observed with choked pride.

Dyer abandoned crime but descended into alcoholism. Bacon's money attracted hangers-on for benders around London's Soho. Withdrawn and reserved when sober, Dyer was highly animated and aggressive when drunk, and often attempted to "pull a Bacon" by buying large rounds and paying for expensive dinners for his wide circle. Dyer's erratic behavior inevitably wore thin with his cronies, with Bacon, and with Bacon's friends. Most of Bacon's art world associates regarded Dyer as a nuisance – an intrusion into the world of high culture to which their Bacon belonged. Dyer reacted by becoming increasingly needy and dependent.

 

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