, marble, 1778
© Royal Academy of Arts, London Portrait of John Bacon
from The European Magazine
, line engraving, 1790
© Royal Academy of Arts, London Drawing for Major Pierson's memorial, Jersey
, pen & ink & wash, by 1784
© Royal Academy of Arts, London A group of cherubs
, pen & ink & wash, ca.1770
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
was the son of a cloth-worker, and was originally apprenticed to Nicholas Crispe, the owner of a porcelain factory, in 1755. Here he learnt to create designs for small scale productions in both ceramic and metalwork. In 1759 he was ambitious enough to enter the first of many sculptures into the Society of Arts premium competitions. He was successful in winning 11 premiums as well as being awarded the Society's gold medal. Bacon went on to work with Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton and James Tassie. By 1769 the establishment of the Royal Academy Schools provided further opportunities and Bacon enrolled as a student by June of that year. He was again successful in the RA Schools competitions and won a gold medal in his first year there. His rise in the Royal Academy was rapid as he was elected as Associate of the Royal Academy in 1770 and a full Royal Academician in 1778.
His Diploma Work, given to the Royal Academy on his election to full Membership, was
which is a copy of the head of figure which forms part of the monument to Thomas Guy in Guy's Hospital Chapel, London (1779). Completed in 1779 the founder of the Hospital is depicted life size, in contemporary dress, bending down to help an emaciated, ailing man. Unlike his contemporary and rival Thomas Banks, Bacon never visited Rome and was not greatly interested in looking to classical prototypes. The tortured expression of 'Sickness' is more naturalistic than the Neo-classical ideal of noble simplicity would allow.
Bacon's exhibits at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibitions attracted notice and a fortunate commission for a bust of George III by Christ Church, Oxford was the start of a friendship with the King. Bacon was clearly favoured in a competition for a monument to William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham which Bacon successfully won and executed for Westminster Abbey in 1778. Other commissions followed such as the memorial monument to Major Pierson (1757-1781) who was killed defending Jersey against an attack by the French army. The pyramid-shaped memorial was erected as a wall plaque in St Helier's Parish Church in 1784. This drawing 
is for a circular relief panel at the bottom of the plaque. The scene is an allegorical representation of Pierson's heroic death. The soldier about to kill him holds a banner decorated with fleurs-de-lys, symbolising France.
Although Bacon is best known for his monumental sculptures his initial training was in small-scale ornamental design and despite his success as a sculptor he continued to provide designs for leading ceramic and metalwork manufacturers. It is not known if this drawing 
of a group of eight cherubs with garlands of flowers was ever executed, but it is possibly a design for a ceiling or another decorative project.
The bust of Sickness
can be seen in the exhibition Antiquity Rediscovered: Innovation and Resistance in the 18th Century
at the Louvre, Paris until 14 February 2011.