"Francis Bacon - Three Studies for the Portrait of Lucian Freud (1964)" by Cea. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Online study days

Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud: Modern Figures

  • Begins: Tuesday 27 July 2021
    Until: Wednesday 28 July 2021
  • Lecturer: Ben Street

Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud are famously anachronistic twentieth-century painters: figurative at the time of abstraction’s ascendancy, enriched by painting traditions at a time of artistic novelty. Their friendship in the 1950s left a lasting impression on Freud’s work and has created a mythology around these self-styled outsiders that can obscure the real achievements of their work.

1.  Bacon’s emergence
The first lecture will look at the ‘arrival’ of Bacon in the mid-1940s; his sudden ascendance and international acclaim; his relationship with the moral codes of his time and the artists that gathered around him in the 1950s.

2.  Bacon’s rise and fall
This lecture will pick up the threads in the 1970s with Bacon’s enormous success and personal tragedies and public image in the 1980s.

3.  Freud in the 1950s
The first lecture on Lucian Freud will place him in post-war London as a German émigré; his engagement with Surrealism and poetry; his meeting with Francis Bacon and the transformation of his work in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

4.  Freud at large
This lecture will consider Freud’s rethinking of his painting practice focusing on his large-scale works from the 1990s and the engagement with old master painting that he sustained throughout his life.


Ben Street is a freelance art historian, lecturer and writer. He lectures on modern and contemporary art for Tate, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Christie’s Education and the Royal Academy. He is the author of interpretative materials for major exhibitions at Tate, the Royal Academy and the National Gallery and has contributed essays for museum and gallery publications across the world. Ben’s recent book is How to enjoy Art.

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