A Francophone and an ardent Francophile, Bacon is as devoted to French culture in general as to its art. He looks to the French as the ultimate arbiters in virtually every domain that interests him. Bacon often admits that it is what the French think of his work that matters most to him.
His legendary retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris, in October 1971, showing one hundred and eight Bacon works, probably affords him the greatest satisfaction of any of his exhibitions. At this time Bacon was among the rare living artists to have been granted such an honour, another being Picasso in 1966. The exhibition is a triumph, but tragedy strikes two days before the exhibition preview, on 24 October: his companion and muse George Dyer is found dead at the Hôtel des Saints Pères, where they are staying.
As a moving memorial to his lover’s death, Bacon paints three large triptychs in 1971, 1972 and 1973, known as the ‘Black Triptychs’.