Bacon was born in Dublin, Ireland to English parents. The family moved back and forth between Dublin and London several times while he was growing up. He was a sickly child, and his father attempted to "toughen him up" by whipping his son. He was expelled from his family in 1925 when his homosexuality was discovered.
Bacon was largely self-taught as an artist. His influences included Pablo Picasso and Diego Velazquez. He once said that his most important surrealist influence was not a fellow painter but rather the films of Luis Bu˝uel. He later became disdainful of his own early work, and destroyed the majority of his work from before 1944.