Audio transcript

Jean Fautrier 'Large Tragic Head'

Narrator: The poet Al Alvarez considers Fautrier's 'Large Tragic Head' in terms of the political and artistic atmosphere of the years following World War Two.

If you look back on one level it's a slum of a century. One of the great achievements of the twentieth century, as it were, is the totalitarian system, via the Nazis, via the Stalinists, whereby the individual disappears and becomes a number, and if this is what the century produced then the arts have to register the horror of that - twisting the shape of the body, trying to express great horror, great pain. It wasn't just raw art, it was also brutal art. And with the Fautrier, what he's done is just claw away one side of the face in this brutal way. It was a response to a brutal time.