De Francia, Peter (10 of 20). National Life Stories Collection: Artists' Lives.

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  • Recording date

    2000-02-24, 2000-03-23, 2000-05-15, 2000-07-20, 2000-08-11, 2000-09-28, 2000-10-04, 2001-02-14

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home in London

  • Interviewees

    De Francia, Peter, 1921-2012 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Roberts, Melanie (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Peter de Francia [PdeF] talks about his friendship with John Berger and Roland Penrose, referring to falling out with Berger following a criticism of B's work by de Francia. He mentions knowing Penrose less well but liking him very much for his eccentricity. Describes Penrose as a typically competitive collector (hence his animosity toward Cooper). This leads to a hilarious story about a visit he made to Douglas Cooper's mansion in France. Talking about the works he saw there, he particularly comments on a technique used to size up a Picasso image onto a wall of special material, the form then being etched to create a white line in a black marble like substance. He also mentions a room full of de Stael torn paper works. Referring to his politicality, PdeF discusses the fact that he considers his Marxism to have been understated in his public persona. He refers again to Berger and his having introduced him to Guttoso which led to JB writing a book on his which was published in East Germany. PdeF talks of Berger being a better journalist than novelist, particularly citing what he sees as Berger's failure in the sexual passages in 'M'. Gives a hilarious account of their failure likening them to Hollywood inserts in low grade Brazilian movies. He continues to talk about John Berger saying that he has not been in touch with him for more than eight years. He comments on how very little interest people's personal lives hold for him which is why he is not interested in relationship centred novels. This leads on to a necessarily very brief discussion of his own personal life before he quickly closes it. Although married twice PdeF explains that the idea of the couple is mysterious to him. He has had no children. The discussion moves briefly to Jesuitism and Nicholas Serota and then on to the dealers he calls carpet baggers - Gargosian and Saatchi. This develops into a short discussion of rivalries and power amongst the commercial dealers. PdeF starts discussing his friendship with Matta who he likes enormously for his exuberance. He tells of St. Catherine's College turning down an enormous curved painting of Matta's because they would have to move some ventilation equipment. Commenting on Matta's relatively low visibility in relation to Surrealism, de Francia says that he was never a member of Breton's legion, always on the periphery. He talks of M's wonderful house in the capital city of the Etruscans, Tarquinia, and of his making a house in Turin made from discarded bits from the Fiat factory. Talking about his major book on Léger published in 1969 [? Mix up re dates - Parade book 1969/ Big Léger book 1983]. He gives the background to the book and describes the problems of researching while working. He refers to Léger's 'much maligned' wife who he rather admired for her persistence which he suggests led to Léger's Museum at Biot being founded. He comments on Cooper's accusation of many of the works being forgeries which he felt was nonsense.

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