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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Jared French


Jared French (1905-1988) was a painter who specialized in the ancient medium of egg tempera. He was one of the masters of magic realism, part of a circle of friends and colleagues who all painted surreal imagery in egg tempera. Others included George Tooker and Paul Cadmus.

French received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College in 1925. He met and befriended Cadmus in New York City, became his lover, and persuaded Cadmus to give up commercial art for "serious painting". In 1937 French married Margaret Hoening, another artist. For the next eight years Cadmus and the Frenches summered on Fire Island and formed a photographic collective called PAJAMA ("Paul, Jared, and Margaret"). French painted numerous murals for the WPA.

French's early paintings are eerie, colorful tableaux of still, silent figures derived from Archaic Greek statues. His later work shows "a kind of classical biomorphism," strange, colorful, suggestive organic forms.

Jungian psychology was probably an important influence upon the dream-like imagery in the paintings of French's maturity. The highly stylized, archaic-looking figures in his paintings suggest that they are representative of the ancestral memory of all mankind, what Carl Jung called "the collective unconscious". French himself was never explicit about the sources of his imagery, although on a stylistic level, the influence of early Italian Renaissance paintings by such masters as Mantegna and Piero della Francesca is evident, as it is also in the work of both Tooker and Cadmus. On the level of content, he made only one, short, public statement regarding his intentions:

My work has long been concerned with the representation of diverse aspects of man and his universe. At first it was mainly concerned with his physical aspect and his physical universe. Gradually I began to represent aspects of his psyche, until in The Sea (1946) and Evasion (1947), I showed quite clearly my interest in man's inner reality.

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