André Fougeron


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French painter, born in Paris. He came from a working-class family and in the 1930s was drawn to left-wing politics. In 1937 he painted Martyred Spain (Tate), a work which mixes the distortions of Masson with dramatic Baroque dark and light, as a comment on the Spanish Civil War. During the German occupation he was involved in the printing of clandestine journals as well as Vaincre, an anti-Nazi collection of lithographs. After the war Fougeron became the official painter of the French Communist Party. An album of his drawings issued in 1947 had a preface by Louis Aragon in which abstraction was attacked. Fougeron's most powerful work during this period was a series of paintings of miners, which denounced the harsh conditions in which they lived. The Pensioner (1950) depicts a retired miner who has lost his legs. He has a photograph of the Communist Party leader Maurice Thorez on his mantelpiece. These paintings were toured around the mining centres of France before being shown in Paris at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. Fougeron's style at this point drew on the example of the Neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825). In 1953 Fougeron exhibited Civilization Atlantique (Tate), a vast polemical painting denouncing the influence of America on French life. It is dominated by the image of an automobile from which emerges a soldier with a gun. Sarah Wilson points out that there is an explicit elision between ‘American capitalism and the Nazi occupation of France’. This painting was attacked by Fougeron's old ally Aragon on the grounds that its montage techniques ran counter to realism, but the real reasons for sidelining Fougeron may have been political. The strident anti-Americanism of the painting was no longer popular and the party wanted to capitalize on the membership of Picasso, whose portrait of Stalin Fougeron had publicly denounced. In retrospect this much-criticized painting seems to anticipate the way in which European artists of the 1960s such as Erŕo and Arroyo used disjointed popular imagery for political commentary.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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