Bacon said that his parents had banished him from his home in 1926 when they found him wearing his mother’s clothing. After this episode, he moved to other cities where he was able to express himself more freely, thanks to the money his mother forwarded to him. First he went to London, after that to Berlin, and later to Paris. The countless images of men wrestling, cut-outs from men’s fitness magazines, and the advertisements that papered his studio and became part of his paintings give us an idea of the visual forms of homosexuality in the 1950s. Even though sexual relations between men were partly decriminalized in the U.K. in 1967, Bacon continued to be associated with the “illicit” for many years. One of the first works in which the artist implicitly showed two sexualized male figures is Man Kneeling in Grass (1952), shown in gallery 205.

In a conversation with his friend, art critic David Sylvester, Bacon mentioned that the numerous depictions of mouths in his oeuvre could be interpreted as sexual references, although they were originally inspired by the color plates from a secondhand book on mouth illnesses that he had bought in Paris.