(Australia 08 Oct 1928– )
122.6 x 137.9cm board; 124.8 x 140.2 x 3.8cm frame
Metamorphosis from life to death - from the sea ascend-
ing - flesh-image wrapped in the already breaking
winding-sheets. Campion is dead - fish alive swim
in a dark sea - in a soft sky the other regal fish
disintegrates without pain.
Leonard French, work-notes for 'Death and transfiguration'
'Death and transfiguration' is one of a series of twelve paintings based on the life of the sixteenth century Jesuit priest, Edmund Campion, the first and most famous of the British Jesuit martyrs who was hanged, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered on December 1, 1581.
French's work was influenced by the massive forms of Romanesque architecture and the structure of mosaic, as well as with the work of Belgian painter Constant Permeke, Robert Delauney's circle and Leger's candid juxtapositions of colour. His sources were often literary, and the theme of the heroic voyage, both as a physical and spiritual journey, is one which continually emerged in French's work, presenting a rich insight into the psychology of heroism.
French left school at the age of 14 to become an apprentice sign-writer, where he gained invaluable knowledge of materials and techniques. His distinctive built-up enamel and gilded surfaces are exquisitely crafted with the utmost precision, and utilise a repertoire of geometric devices: circle and hemisphere, square and rectangle, plant and fish-form within a controlled, web-like schema.
Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2001
Maudie Palmer (b.1944) (Editor), Encounters with Australian modern art, South Yarra, 2008, 42. General reference
In our own image: the story of Australian art 2002, 2002, 154 (colour illus.).
In our own image: the story of Australian art 1995, 1995, 148 (colour illus.).
Sasha Grishin AM (Australia) (Author), Leonard French, East Roseville, 1995, 30.
William Splatt (Author), Barbara Burton (Author), 100 masterpieces of Australian painting, Adelaide, 1973, 198, 199 (colour illus.). plate no. 96
Editor Unknown (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Domain, 1972, 115 (colour illus.).
'Leonard French Retrospective Adelaide Arts Festival, March 1970' by Terry Smith, pg. 39., Other voices: critical journal [vol. 1, no. 1] Jun 1970-Jul 1970, Jun 1970-Jul 1970, 39 (illus.). dated 1961, image Couresty Art Gallery of N.S.W.
Lou Klepac (Australia; Croatia, b.1936) (Editor), Adelaide Festival of Arts 1970: Special exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Unknown, 1970, 26, 29 (colour illus.). cat. no. 39
'Leonard French: Everything on a large scale' by Brian Buckley, pg. 24-26., Bulletin 10 Jun 1967, 10 Jun 1967, 26.
Alan McCulloch (Australia, b.1907, d.1992) (Author), Donald Bowen (England) (Curator), Leonard French: Australia, London, 1967, not paginated. catalogue entry, no numbers given
'French's Campion paintings' by Daniel Thomas, pg. 437-439., Meanjin Dec 1963, Dec 1963, 437-439.
Vincent Buckley (Australia, b.1925) (Author), Leonard French. The Campion paintings, Melbourne, 1962, 17, 19, 24, 80, 81 (colour illus.), 102. plate no. 28
12 paintings on the life of Edmund Campion, Farmer's Blaxland Gallery, Oct 1961 -.
Life of Edmund Campion, Argus Galleries Melbourne, Nov 1961 -.
Acquisitions 1962, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 10 Apr 1963–12 May 1963.
Leonard French. Australia, Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, 21 Mar 1967–16 Apr 1967.
Leonard French OBE, Art Gallery of South Australia, Mar 1970–Mar 1970.