... Francis expected that I would be shocked. He was a little disconcerted. He said it gave him a certain pain to show it to me, but if I didn’t like it I needn’t buy it. The Marlborough Gallery would want it. I stammered: ‘Well—I can’t say what I think of it. It’s so utterly different from anything of yours I’ve ever seen!’
Beaton thought the picture was “of an unusual violence” painted in a manner that broke all the rules. Sensing Beaton’s horror, Bacon was typically gallant and charming offering his friend to take it and if he didn’t like to send it back. Beaton was baffled at the offer, then asked if he bought it could he sell it again? “Of course!” Bacon replied, “It’s yours to do what you want with.”
Beaton returned home “crushed, staggered and feeling quite a great sense of loss.” No sooner had he written these very words in his diary, the telephone rang.
‘This is Francis, and I’ve just destroyed your portrait.’It was Francis. In an ecstatic voice he said:
‘No—I don’t like my friends to have something of mine they don’t like. And I often destroy my work in any case; in fact, I’ve destroyed most of the pictures for the Marlborough. Only I just wanted to let you know so that you needn’t pay me.’‘But why? You said you liked it? You thought it such a good work, and that’s all that matters!’
It seemed little to Francis to waste all that work. He seemed jubilant at not getting paid, at not finishing a picture. He said that perhaps, one day he’d start again, or do one from memory: ‘They often turn out the best,’ he said.