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Oiled: A Portrait of Henrietta

Documentary On One, RTÉ on January 25, 2013 14:32

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In early 2012, the art world held its breath when a Francis Bacon painting fetched 25 million euros at auction in London.

The painting, entitled "A Portrait of Henrietta Moraes" depicts a naked woman lying on an unmade bed. It is rendered as a mixture of grotesque violence alongside highly charged sexuality.

In "The Documentary on One, Oiled: A Portrait of Henrietta" Joe Kearney seeks to discover who is artist's muse Henrietta and how did she come to spend so much time in Ireland?

For a period starting in the mid-50s, Henrietta Moraes (Hen to her friends) was the uncrowned Queen of Soho. She lived her life on the margins of the rich, the famous and the dangerous. Dazzled by reflected glory, she drifted into chronic alcoholism, drug abuse and prison. The muse of Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud ended her life in abject poverty, reliant upon the charity of others.

During her troubled lifetime she frequently sought sanctuary in Ireland. Here she found refuge amongst the crumbling Georgian mansions of the Irish midlands and sufficient peace to write her life story.

This documentary features Marianne Faithfull - for whom Henrietta worked as tour manager and Desmond Guinness who was one of her close friends. It also includes a rare interview with Henrietta's son Josh who had a troubled relationship with his mother.

Acquainted with rock stars, aristocracy and artists, Henrietta lived her life to the full, never fearful of the future or troubled by the past. Alcoholism was a dominant force in her life, but her beauty and presence lasted a lifetime in spite her many excesses. She left a lasting impression upon those who came under her spell.

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