Francis Bacon’s missing art found in Cambridge

Maddy Bell - Deputy News Editor 28 February 2013

Six works by British artist Francis Bacon have been found for sale on a market stall, on the back of paintings by a local artist.

Lewis Todd’s work (pictured right) was painted on the back of canvases featuring early sketches from Francis Bacon’s famous ‘Screaming Pope’ series (left)

The pictures were found by the family of Lewis Todd, a Cambridge caricaturist who had been given them by the Heffer Gallery, on the condition that he cut them up first.

Todd, who died in 2006, was given the canvases for free because they were suitable for painting on the front and had only been used on the reverse by Bacon, whom the gallery also supplied with materials.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is known to have painted mainly on the unprimed reverse of canvases. He was well known for being his own most ruthless critic, and would mutilate any pieces that he was not satisfied with or deemed “too perfect”.

One of the canvases which has been found was cut from the ‘Screaming Pope’ series produced in the 1950s, inspired by Velazquez’s ‘Portrait of Pope Innocent X’, which Bacon used as a way of expressing the horror of war and its aftermath.

Chris Ewbank of the Surrey auctioneers expressed delight and surprise at the find, encouraging “anyone who owns a painting by Todd” to “take it off the wall and check the back of the canvas.”

“Those seemingly random daubs of paint could indicate a work of far greater significance”, he said.

Todd was educated at the Perse School in Cambridge and served in the Home Guard based in Histon, before starting work at the Cambridge Daily News (now Cambridge Evening News).The five canvases, all of which have been authenticated by the Francis Bacon Authentication Committee at Northumbria University, will be sold by Surrey fine art auctioneers Ewbank’s on 20 March.

They are estimated to fetch at least £100,000. In November 2012, one of Bacon’s untitled ‘Pope’ painting dating from 1954 was sold in an auction at Sotheby’s for £18.7m.

Maddy Bell – Deputy News Editor