André Fougeron

Return from the Market

1953

Original title
Retour du marché
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1946 x 1297 x 20 mm
frame: 1995 x 1345 x 50 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2001
Reference
T07705

Summary

During the early 1950s, when Return from the Market was painted, André Fougeron was at the height of his career as a realist painter allied to the French Communist Party. His style epitomised the combination of historical reference and accessible political comment embodied in Socialist Realism. In Return from the Market Fougeron's wife, Henriette, is shown in the kitchen of their home in Montrouge, a working class district of Paris. She is still wearing her coat, presumably having just returned from shopping. The loaf, vegetables, and money within her reach attest to a simple life, as does the functionalism of the standard tiling of the floor and sink. Fougeron's realist style is here modified through varied techniques: the extensive use of the palette knife for the tiling, and the scumbling across the patterned tablecloth.

Henriette Fougeron (1907-90) served as a model for a number of Fougeron's paintings during these years. A similarly forceful likeness is recognisable in Homage to André Houllier, 1949 (reproduced in Paris-Paris, exhibition catalogue, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre George Pompidou, Paris 1981, p.211). She was also the model for the central figure in Parisians at the Market, 1947-8 (reproduced in James Hyman, The Battle for Realism, London 2001, p.172) a painting which, through the daily concern with food, shares with Return from the Market an exposure of the austerity of working class existence in this period. However, even these images of modest means contrast with Fougeron's immediately preceding portrayal of the hard lives of the miners of northern France, chronicled in the cycle that included The Cock Fighters, 1950 (Tate T07704). His historical point of reference for the restraint of Return from the Market seems to be to domestic scenes such as those by the seventeenth-century Le Nain brothers (Antoine c.1600-48, Louis c.1603-48 and Mathieu c.1607-77). This atmosphere contrasts with Fougeron's public works, notably the massive rhetorical painting of the same year, Atlantic Civilisation (Tate T07645).

Further reading:
André Fougeron: Pièces détachées 1937-1987, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Jean-Jacques Dutko, Paris 1987

Matthew Gale
November 2001

Display caption

Fougeron was the leading artist associated with the French Communist Party in the early 1950s. This is a portrait of his wife. By surrounding her with the details of their own modest domestic interior - the loaf and vegetables, the standard tiling and utilitarian sink - he indicates a simple life of material struggle. And by applying the precision of his ''new French realism'' to his own family and home, Fougeron emphasises his role as artist of the people.

Gallery label, August 2004

Technique and condition

The painting comprises a primed linen support stretched over a six-member wooden stretcher. The composition appears to have been drawn with pencil onto the primed support. The paint has then been applied, the artist using a variety of brushes and a palette knife. Evidence of palette knife work is visible in the white tiles behind the kitchen sink.The composition has been applied in three systems. Firstly, thinner paint has been used to construct the finer details such as the table, tap, pots and pans. Secondly, the sitter, the tiled floor, hanging fabric top right and money on the table have been painted in quite vehicular paint. Finally, textured and more paste-like paint has been used to paint in the rest of the details such as the water-carrier, shopping bag etc. Raking light photographs clearly show that the artist has returned to the tiled floor and incised the out-line of each tile into the paint.

The painting is in a fair condition, mainly suffering from neglect. The support has suffered two tears with surrounding surface deformation, one top left on the fold edge and one in the tiles towards to the right of the tap. The canvas also has some water staining on the reverse and is quite dusty. The most disturbing feature of this painting are the drying cracks visible in the wine bottle and table legs. A very slightly discoloured and uneven varnish and a thick layer of dirt and brown stains cover the paint layer.

Rachel Barker
June 2001