André Fougeron

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

1937

Artist
André Fougeron 1913–1998
Original title
Les Quatre Chevaliers de l'Apocalypse
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 498 x 654 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 2001
Reference
T07707

Not on display

Summary

The proficiency and urgency of André Fougeron's drawings exemplify his powerful draughtsmanship. The Four Horsemen, like The Tournament and Homage to Franco!!! (Tate T07708, T07709), dates from the moment in his mid-twenties when he began to make a reputation in the context of the ideological realism codified as the Socialist Realist style of the International Communist Party. Together with many of his colleagues in Paris, Fourgeron was deeply concerned when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 as it seemed to presage the advance of totalitarian fascism in Europe.

Fougeron made The Four Horsemen in the following year. It is not explicitly related to the war in Spain, and may be seen as a broader commentary on the chaotic state of the political and social situation in Europe. The riders are evidently the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who signal the end of the world. The drawing achieves a visionary quality through the extreme contrasts of black and white. The three upper horsemen and their charges are silhouetted against the black sky, but this relationship is reversed for the fallen rider and horse who are darkened against the glowing curve of the earth. The skeletal men and slavering wild-eyed beasts are appropriately dramatic. The horses are treated with a limited hatching and are particularly close to the pair in The Tournament. This handling translates to the more schematic treatment in the contemporary oil painting Martyred Spain (T07703), where the fallen horse symbolises the country.

One point of reference for The Four Horsemen seems to be the woodcut of the same subject by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) in his series The Apocalypse 1498. Fougeron's dense use of black and white is close to the effect of a print. This shows how diverse the sources of Socialist Realism could be, and may be seen to augment Fougeron's recollection of the importance to him at that time of the work of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and of the German Expressionists (Paris-Paris, 1981, p.50).

Further reading:
André Fougeron, 'André Fougeron se souvient …', in Paris-Paris, exhibition catalogue, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre George Pompidou, Paris 1981, pp.50-1

Matthew Gale
August 2001

Display caption

Fougeron viewed the chaotic political and social situation in the late 1930s from the perspective of a committed communist. The riders in this drawing are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, allegorical figures in the Book of Revelation who are traditionally interpreted as representing war, famine, plague and death. Here the skeletal men and slavering wild-eyed beasts almost certainly stand for the advance of Fascism across Europe. The drawing achieves a visionary quality through Fougeron’s extreme contrasts of black and white.

Gallery label, August 2005