Leonard French

(Australia 08 Oct 1928 – )

Death and transfiguration

Not on display
Further information

Metamorphosis from life to death - from the sea ascend-
ing - flesh-image wrapped in the already breaking
winding-sheets. Campion is dead - fish alive swim
in a dark sea - in a soft sky the other regal fish
disintegrates without pain.

Leonard French, work-notes for 'Death and transfiguration'

'Death and transfiguration' is one of a series of twelve paintings based on the life of the sixteenth century Jesuit priest, Edmund Campion, the first and most famous of the British Jesuit martyrs who was hanged, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered on December 1, 1581.

French's work was influenced by the massive forms of Romanesque architecture and the structure of mosaic, as well as with the work of Belgian painter Constant Permeke, Robert Delauney's circle and Leger's candid juxtapositions of colour. His sources were often literary, and the theme of the heroic voyage, both as a physical and spiritual journey, is one which continually emerged in French's work, presenting a rich insight into the psychology of heroism.

French left school at the age of 14 to become an apprentice sign-writer, where he gained invaluable knowledge of materials and techniques. His distinctive built-up enamel and gilded surfaces are exquisitely crafted with the utmost precision, and utilise a repertoire of geometric devices: circle and hemisphere, square and rectangle, plant and fish-form within a controlled, web-like schema.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2001

synthetic polymer paint, collage and gold leaf on jute canvas on hardboard
122.6 x 137.9 cm board; 124.8 x 140.2 x 3.8 cm frame
Signature & date

Signed c. verso on board, black oil ".../.../ LEONARD FRENCH/.../". Not dated.

Purchased with assistance from the Sir Charles Lloyd Jones Bequest Fund 1962
Accession number