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Francis Bacon painting on show at Barber Institute

Gallery at the University of Birmingham is showcasing a Bacon work for the first time

A painting by renowned artist Francis Bacon has gone on display in Birmingham.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is showing Two Figures in a Room, 1959 for the next six weeks at its gallery on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston.

The Barber does not own a work by him and no example has ever been exhibited there previously.

Two Figures in a Room has been lent to the Barber by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia - only the second time it has been shown publicly in the UK outside the centre since 1962.

The painting is a disquieting image from Bacon's middle years, one of a series of similar compositions.

Two Figures in a Room, 1959, by Francis Bacon goes on display at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Two Figures in a Room, 1959, by Francis Bacon goes on display at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Barber said the faceless figures may be read as two lovers, apparently both men, a daring and provocative image to paint at a time when homosexual acts between men in private were still illegal in the UK.

Works by Matisse and Degas featuring bathers, and even the Michelangelo sculpture Crouching Boy, have been suggested as sources for the two figures, the institute says.

Two Figures in a Room joins Frank Auerbach's Primrose Hill - Winter (1981/2) - the only painting in the Barber collection by a living artist - also on display in the Red Gallery.

Deputy director Robert Wenley said: "Both juxtapositions emphasise the continuity of the European painting tradition and the continuing relevance of historic art to modern and contemporary artists."

The painting is on display until March 26.

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