In 1929 after an extended sojourn in Paris possibly working as a designer, the young and entrepreneurial Francis Bacon was busy designing rugs, furniture and paintings for an exhibition he was to hold in November 1930 at his studio at 17 Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington, London.
This highly important rug is a rare survivor from that period. The geometric design captures the zeitgeist of progressive modernist rugs produced in England by McKnight Kauffer and Marian Dorn as well as absorbing the art of Cubism, de Chirico, Léger and Jean Lurçat. Bacon provides important documentary evidence about the rug in a statement dated 9 December 1983: ‘this is a rug designed by me in 1929 and made up by Wiltons’. It is the only primary evidence that exists relating to any of Bacon’s rugs and confirms the long held belief that they were manufactured by the famous Wilton Carpet Factory. One could argue that this was one of Bacon’s favourite rugs as it is included, along with a sofa and coffee table also of his own design, in photographs of his living room taken at Carlyle Studios in Chelsea, London, in c.1932. The principal motifs in the rug, the stylized string instrument and the brickwork, also appear in one of his earliest works on paper, ‘Gouache’ (1929). The close visual relationship between the rugs and paintings displayed in the 1930 exhibition was commented on in an unidentified newspaper review: the paintings ‘main raison d’etre’ it was observed was ‘being the decorative purpose which they serve in a general scheme of interior decoration’. It also suggests that Bacon’s interior design was an important starting point in his transformation into one of the greatest painters of the 20th century.
Dr Rebecca Daniels
Art Historical Researcher on The Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné