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 His style epitomised the combination of historical reference and accessible political comment embodied in Socialist Realism.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