Catalogue entry

T03259 CASIMIR DUPONT 1980

Inscribed on reverse ‘Casimir Dupont/1980/Anthony Green’
Oil on five hardboard panels in separate frames, overall size 85 1/2 × 85 3/8 (217.4 × 217.1)
Purchased from the Rowan Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Exh: Anthony Green: Recent Paintings, Rowan Gallery, July–August 1981 (no catalogue)

In 1961, a year after he left the Slade, Anthony Green decided that the subject of his painting would be himself and those close to him, particularly his fiancée, Mary Cozens-Walker, whom he married that year. This has now become, says Green, ‘a continuing chronicle of the artist's life and immediate family’. His paintings of c. 1980–2 have been particularly concerned with his childhood and adolescence.

The main subject of the present painting is Green's maternal grandfather Casimir Dupont (1880–1961) who was born of a peasant family at Pont St Mamé, between Bergerac and Perigaux in the Dordogne. Dupont started work at the age of 13 in a bazaar in Bordeaux and at the same time taught his parents to read and write; he then got himself a job in a restaurant in Bordeaux and gradually worked his way to Paris in the catering trade. Like many French chefs he went to London, in about 1900, later working for Escoffier at the Ritz and then got the top job as chef at the Waldorf 1917–40. He retired in 1953 when he went to live at Châteauroux, Department of the Indre.

The central panel of the painting shows the scene (as Green imagines it) in the living room of 14 Lissenden Mansions, London N.W.5., where Casimir Dupont lived with his wife Jeanne, at 9p.m. on 17 June 1940. Dupont sits with his head in his hands, in despair at the news of the Fall of France; the newspaper headlines read ‘French Army gives up/Petain ...with broken heart I say we must cease.’

The top left panel shows on the left the villa at Châteauroux which Dupont had built in 1923. In the grounds of the villa is a small cottage where his brother, Albert, lived. Green visited Châteauroux in 1948 with his maternal grandparents and witnessed Casimir, who held right-wing views, discussing politics and quarelling with Albert, who was a communist. Casimir is seen in the picture wearing a panama hat; at the top right of the panel the third brother of the family, Ernest, killed in the 1914–18 war, is shown as a spirit floating above, wrapped in the French flag. Ernest is depicted as wearing a blue uniform worn by the French army during much of the First World War. Technically this is incorrect in Ernest's case, as he was killed early on in the war when the French infantry went into action wearing red trousers.

The top right panel is based on Green's memories of the kitchen of 14 Lissenden Mansions; Casimir is depicted wearing his chef's clothes and on the dresser are blue and white plates, now owned by his elder daughter Yvonne, who lives at Châteauroux, and his younger daughter Madeleine Joscelyne, Green's mother who lives in North London.

The bottom left panel shows the interior of a fish business, Sidney Barber & Co., Billingsgate, which supplied fish both wholesale and retail; Dupont bought this business on retirement from the Waldorf in 1940 and ran it for 13 years until 1953 when he returned to France. During the 1939–1945 War, his two daughters Yvonne Lissac and Madeleine Joscelyne helped him to run it. They are depicted at the cash desk, Yvonne on the left; Casimir is seen filleting plaice.

The bottom right panel shows Casimir in retirement at Châteauroux; his appearance is based on a portrait of him painted from life by Green during a visit to France in 1960. In the Tate picture, Casimir is seen holding a medal for services to culinary art presented to him by the French government in about 1953 or 1954 on his return to France. In the cabinet in the picture are two military medals awarded to his dead brother Ernest, the youngest of the three Dupont brothers, during the 1914–18 War. Casimir himself, the eldest brother, was unable to serve in the war as he had tuberculosis.

The overall format of the painting ‘Casimir Dupont’ is based on part of the equipment used for a popular French game Le Jeu du Nain Jaune (the game of the yellow dwarf) involving cards, counters and a tray having five divisions, the latter depicted in the central panel of the painting. The borders of the five panels are the attempted re-creation by Green of the borders of the five compartments of the tray used for the game. Green played the game when a child on visits to the Duponts's flat at 14 Lissenden Mansions.

'Casimir Dupont’ was painted in Green's studio in April, May and June 1980. Green made about 20 drawings in March–May 1980. He says the ‘break-through’ came when he decided that the format would be based on the game Jeu du Nain Jaune. He had once before painted a picture consisting of more than one discrete panel, ‘Pictures of Our Garden’ 1979 which consisted of 9 rectangular panels each 29 × 33 inches, each having a ‘strong green’ border.

The Tate owns a painting by Green ‘Souvenir de Jeunesse: Madeleine Joscelyne's Lounge’, 1967. In that picture, a Japanese vase is seen at the upper left hand; the same vase is seen on the central panel of ‘Casimir Dupont’ on a sideboard in front of Jeanne Dupont. It was one of the first presents that Madeleine and Yvonne gave their parents after saving up their pocket money.

This entry, approved by Anthony Green, is based on a discussion between him and the compiler on 3 February 1983.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984