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 Jared French  (1905 - 1987)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: surreal landscape-figures, mural

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BIOGRAPHY for Jared French
1905 (Ossining, New York)

New York

Self portrait - Self Portrait.

Often Known For
surreal landscape-figures, mural

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jared French was born in 1905, attended Amherst College in the 1920s, and died in Italy in 1988.  He was a painter, draftsman, sculptor, muralist and print-maker of enigmatic, nearly surrealist compositions of the male figure.  His work has also been described as magic realism.  Isolation, alienation and anxiety seem his major themes. However, French's intentions about his painting are almost as mysterious as the paintings themselves, and he clearly intended them to remain that way.  He hinted that the answer to his works could be found in the writings of the psychoanalyst, C.G. Jung, whose Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious was first published in 1939.

French was a strong early influence on the well-known artist Paul Cadmus, also a painter of the male figure, whom he met at the Art Students League.  French served as the model for Cadmus' first significant male nude entitled, "Jerry" (1931). Of the two, French had more formal education.  Under his guidance, Cadmus broadened his perspective by traveling to Europe, viewing the old masters and refining his aesthetic.

Jared French's egg tempera, "Business," 1959-1961, is typical of his style and content.  Four figures, isolated from each other but none-the-less involved in a mysterious relationship, enact their drama before a dark sea, probably symbolic of the unconscious.  A seated woman wears a bathing suit and a nude young man is seemingly trapped in his wooden chair.  Two standing male figures, a white-jacketed waiter holding an elongated phallic bottle on a tray, and an exotic man in "Turkish" costume with what seems a long pipe, complete the cast of characters.  "The Double," 22.5" x 30.8", tempera on board, is another typical Jared French painting, and has a pale foreground nude male in a hole in the ground up to his thighs, and is eyed by a black man in an undershirt.  A 19th Century matron holding an umbrella seems to be the dominant reason for the young man's predicament.

French executed a mural, "The Early Coal Miners," in the Plymouth, Pennsylvania post office in the mid-1930s.  Two studies are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In 2001, the Columbus Museum of Art, in Ohio, mounted a three-man show of works by Jared French, Paul Cadmus and George Tooker, three artists clearly related in their psychologically anxious, surrealist style.

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