Man in Blue VI by Francis Bacon is up for auction after being in the same ownership for nearly 40 years with an estimated sale price of up to £6m.

Man in Blue VI is part of a series of seven major paintings that Bacon made in the spring of 1954, possibly the most intense, creative and much celebrated period in the artist’s career. During this period Francis Bacon was in the midst of a tempestuous and violent romance with Peter Lacy, a veteran Spitfire pilot whom he described as the great love of his life.

The seven paintings depicting Man in Blue are unusual in that Bacon appears to have painted the sitter from life, as opposed to using a photograph which was his usual method. The sitter is an unknown man who Bacon is thought to have met at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-upon-Thames where he was living after moving out of the cottage that he shared with Lacy nearby.

The work depicts an ordinary figure pulsating with life and apparent inner turmoil at the centre of a dark void. This form of depiction contrasts to that of the screaming agony of the heads and popes that the artist had been painting the previous year, and offers a more subtle representation of personal anxiety and torment.

    It was during the 1950s that Bacon gained international recognition; his portraits and paintings of Popes were exhibited at museums around Europe and the United States.

    Christies Post War and contemporary art auction will also feature works by Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, Willem de Kooning and Bridget Riley. The Auction takes place at Christies, 8 King Street, London on February 11th.