Settling in with Jared French
As it has been quite some time since my last post, I have felt increasingly anxious about updating. Given the length of time in which I last checked in I really wanted this post to be rather special.
Alas it isn’t going to be. My new life, here in San Diego is frankly banal, frightfully banal. I am here, ostensibly to tend to the mother-in-law; I spent most of today cooling my heels while she had her hair done.
I need to work on this.
Until that time, I will continue to lock myself in my studio, and in between my monastic retreats continue to patronize the numerous used bookshops in Hillcrest. They offer great solace, particularly as I am essentially living in a cultural wasteland.
Once again lovely musty books come to my rescue.
What popped out on a recent afternoon visit were several volumes on Piero della Francesca, a great favorite and one volume on Jared French. I’ve been thinking about French ever since George Tooker died. When I had written that post I felt a strong connection between Tooker ( and French) and Piero della Francesca. I quickly found out this was common knowledge, but I still find it very exciting. As I personally struggle with incorporating humanist elements into my own work, to see how seamlessly French accomplished this is encouraging, daunting and thrilling. One painting (of many exciting paintings) really stands out, that is Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; it is such a rich image, its Renaissance roots are palpable.
Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone
egg tempera on gesso panel
William Kelly Simpson
The book I happen to be reading concerning French and his work is Nancy Grimes’ Jared French’s Myths, it really is marvelous, you might want to add it to your own collection. She points out the della Francesca inspiration, particularly concerning this painting; she very reasonably presents the Baptism of Christ.
Baptism of Christ
egg tempera on poplar board
That connection is quite right, but so many of della Francesca’s painting must have influenced French ( and Tooker and Cadmus). My own random browsing of della Francesca’s work led me to his still arresting image of Hercules.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
Stumbling about, I came upon this sketch by French for Washing the White Blood from Daniel Boone; I’m always bewildered and intimidated by the “sketches” of the great.
What is so very frustrating about French isn’t his enigmatic images, what is so challenging is how little seems to be known about the fellow. Grimes does an admirable job piecing together bits of the puzzle; but from my research I could find very little new information. Even Wikipedia was mute.
I rather prefer the mystery that surrounds this boy from New Jersey ( my own home state), I will continue to grapple about for new tid-bits, enjoying his incredible work as I go about the task.
taken by Carl Van Vechten
This video clip has many more images of French’s work, worth checking out if so inclined.
Once again, please pardon this rather pedestrian post. The dust from packing has just settled, my studio is now freshly set up, still much to do of course, but beginning to feel a bit like home; albeit one situated in a rabidly right wing environment with a rather daunting homophobic mother-in-law.
Wish me luck.
Until next time,