A MAJOR work by artist Francis Bacon has gone on display at Huddersfield Art Gallery – just days after councils were urged to sell off valuable assets rather than cut services.
Figure Study II, highlighted as one Kirklees Council’s most notable assets, has spent periods of time in storage or in other galleries, but is now available for public viewing locally until the end of this month.
A council spokesman said Huddersfield Art Gallery was the only site in Kirklees with the right conditions for displaying the painting.
The Contemporary Art Society bought the painting and it was accepted by Ronald Gelsthorpe, the curator of the Bagshaw Art Gallery, on behalf of Batley Council in 1952.
Because of this, the council said, there were restrictions that prevent Kirklees from selling it on.
This is an important early painting by Bacon as he destroyed much of his work from 1935 to 1944.
Figure Study II has toured art galleries across the world. The 1946 painting was part of a Francis Bacon exhibition at Tate Britain, went on display at Museo Nacional del Padro in Madrid, and returned to Kirklees from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2009.
The painting also appeared in the BBC Four series British Masters, which looked at the legacy of Bacon along with other contemporary artists.
Francis Bacon is recognised as one of the most influential painters of the second half of the 20th century – although when Figure Study II was first exhibited in 1946 in London, the artist was largely unknown outside a small group of fellow artists and critics.
Last week, communities secretary Eric Pickles demanded that all local authorities publish a list of the buildings they own after the Government produced a map showing assets owned by 87 councils across England – including restaurants, pubs, golf courses and stadiums.
Kirklees is currently reviewing its property to see if anything can be sold to help cope with the public spending squeeze. The council is making budget cuts of £80m in the next three years.