London, Berlin and Paris

In 1926, the family moves back to Ireland, to Straffan Lodge, near Naas. Bacon leaves the family home and moves to London. With an allowance of £3 per week from his mother, Bacon spends the next three years drifting between London, Berlin and Paris.

Bacon embarks on a series of brief odd jobs in London; he works as a switchboard operator at the Bath Club and a domestic servant and cook in Mecklenburgh Square.

Later that same year, in a last attempt to straighten out his son, Eddy sends Francis to Berlin with a relative. His guardian seduces and then abandons him. At this time, Berlin is one of the most exotic and exciting cities, and a place with a reputation for homosexual encounters. The artist remembered his Berlin experience as one of great decadence.

Bacon moves to Paris in the late spring of 1927. He is aware of Paris’s pre-eminence as a cultural centre and as the capital of style. He meets Yvonne Bocquentin, who takes him under her wing, offering him a room in her house near Chantilly. She teaches him French and introduces him to Parisian cultural society. In Paris, Bacon first encounters the work of Picasso at a Paul Rosenberg Gallery exhibition, which acts as the first real catalyst for him becoming a painter. However, when he returns to London in 1929, he establishes himself as a furniture and rug designer. In January 1930, he moves into a converted garage at 17 Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington, which also becomes his studio. He lives there with Jessie Lightfoot, his nanny to whom he feels closer than his whole family, and with Eric Allden, his lover and first patron.

While in Paris in January 1932, he contemplates sharing a flat in his favourite capital with his cousin Diana Watson.

Jessie Lightfoot (c.1938)
(photographer unknown)
Eric Allden with two rugs by Francis Bacon (1935)
photographed by Mark Neven du Mont
View of stairwell at Galerie Rosenberg (1927)
(photographer unknown)
Bacon at the Ritz Hotel, London (1929)
(photographer unknown)
Bacon in Paris (1932)
Photo: Diana Watson