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.

Jared French

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.

Pierro della Francesca

Baptism of Christ


egg tempera on poplar board 

National Gallery, London

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.

Jared French, January 25th 1939,

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,

Babylon Baroque

14 Responses to “Settling in with Jared French”

  1. I do wish you luck! Now your studio is set up, you may feel more ar home so ro speak.

  2. Thanks for sharing the connection between these artists…something I did not know, but am looking forward to exploring further. re: San Diego. I understand that the museums in Balboa Park have very active volunteer organizations, particularly the photography museum, although outside your area of study, it might offer you some artistic companionship and stimulus. It may be that by your very being there, that that homophobic mother-in-law may learn to embrace the differences that exist in the world and allow herself to love you.

  3. Thoughts:

    Glad you’re back! Sounds like you’re gradually adjusting. If your mother-in-law is indeed a homophobe, she may or may not change but it will be an opportunity for you to grow in patience and compassion.

    As for these images, I love how the “naughty bits” have been tastefully concealed.

    Lastly, anytime a portrait has been taken by Van Vechten, I can’t help but hastily jump to various conclusions…

  4. Leonard, you’ve taken on quite a task there, and I know all visitors to Babylon Baroque will be sending you support and love via the blog, so please don’t abandon it.

    Settling in to a new home in an unfamiliar place can be hells daunting. We experienced this ourselves when Peter’s job brought us to West Wales seven and a half years ago, and for nearly two of them I found myself isolated and lonely at a time when he was completely preoccupied with all the tasks awaiting him. It passed and we survived, but it was bloody tough.

    Whatever it takes to care for your mother-in-law, don’t neglect your own social needs. It’s easy to do when you continually put yourself on the back-burner, and a ‘crises’ can be reached without you having noticed how bad you’ve been feeling until the pressure cooker is about to blow. Forgive the advice. You’ll gather that I know whereof I speak.

    As for the homophobic mother-in-law, wiser heads than mine have already left some common-sense support here. Most of the homophobes I’ve known are that way because they’re scared of what they don’t understand and of what they have no experience of. She’ll have to work damned hard to hold onto her prejudices in the face of the very people caring for her, though no doubt she’ll try. Be steadfast and kind but take no nonsense. Don’t chew on things said that rankle. Clear the air. You may be her carer, but whether she knows it or not yet, you’re going to be her tutor too!

  5. PS. How have the dogs coped with the move? I guess home for them is largely down to be wherever their masters are.

    • Thank you for the advice and kind encouragement. I don’t want to sound as if I am whining(which of course I am doing) but i do at times feel quite forlorn. The responses to this blog have been a comfort and encouragement to carry on with dignity and compassion.
      As per the pups, they are wild for the place, nice yard, happy grass, pretty birds and beautiful Balboa Park has an expansive doggie park.They are in heaven!

      • Just remember that wherever we are is where we’re meant to be, for reasons we may discover along the way. This comes from a middle-aged man who currently finds himself living with his elderly parents!

  6. Well from one middle aged man living with his folks ( his husband’s mother to be specific) to another, I wish us both the grace to deal with the situation with dignity and humor and the wisdom to glean what is offered. Just this evening, with Fox television blaring in the background, Mrs, B and I managed to have a rather delightful conversation. Perhaps there is hope.
    Thank you my friend for your kind words.

  7. Thom and Leonard ROCK!!! With your combined experiences and wisdom you could run a help line!

    Maybe there’s the foundation of an organisation embodied in your circumstances. The Handsome-Older-Gay-Dude-Living-With-Mom Club!

    I think you’re both wonderful There, I’ve said it and I’m glad. (-;

  8. Hi Leonard. I can’t seem to find your email address. Would you mind dropping me a line at thombeau(at)post(dot)com? There’s something I must ask. Thanks!

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