De Francia, Peter (11 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 continues talking about Cooper which leads back to Léger and how he met him in '68 [?real date '58 as he talks of working with him on the Peace Conference of '62]. PdeF describes Léger's studio, saying that he moved in in 1920 and changed nothing from that point on. He mentions that Doré Ashton said that he only way to get an answer from FL was to read the expression on his face, which deF describes as being rather medieval like Rollin the Chancellor of the French court. He mentions that Léger was very hospitable and unpretentious having no interest in theory except in relation to architecture and colour. He mentions Léger's having been on a trip with Alvar Aalto. This leads a two anecdotes about Aalto and Erno Goldfinger. Moving to his teaching career he talks briefly about lecturing at Morley College, and St. Martin's School of Art, a post he obtained through his friendship with Eron Schaff. Switching to the Royal College [referred to as The College], he mentions the family like nature of the staff at the time which included Christopher Cornford. He describes the long unprogrammed seminars that went on into the night, comparing it with the sausage machine that it has evolved into. PdeF reminisces about Lord Esher's passion for elm trees, and his lack of interest in rows which were a constant feature of the RC. PdeF begins to talk about the petty politics of the Royal College and how they affected him, particularly singling out Jocelyn Stevens for flack. He goes on to talk about his own role and the approach in his time which he felt was very fruitful. He comments on the 50/60's painter's mind as being one that was interested in theory [in the sense of philosophical ideas] above practice and not at all interested in the promotional world, an area which he feels is so detrimental to today's students. Briefly returns to St. Martin's where Caro was one of his fellow tutors. He suggests there was not much cross fertilisation between departments, but that there was a huge variety of guest lecturers, an idea which he notes is no longer economically viable. Shifting back to the College he describes the outrage he caused amongst his fellow staff when he handed staff studios over to the students. He talks of Guyatt who succeeded Lord Esher trying to get rid of him for his political subversiveness. On reflection he feels that he did his job 'reasonably well'. He refers to Darwin as having no intellect or imagination, but a lot of animal intelligence. Gives hilarious accounts of RC/Imperial College joint dinners. PdeF says that he did not dislike Darwin at all but he [PdeF] was not a club man. He briefly mentions Peter Blake and his generation of teachers drifting in and out being relatively unhelpful to students. He notes that they had no interest in theory at all. He also describes his fury at Jocelyn Stevens being responsible for the College giving up their purpose-built studios at the V&A saying that the replacement building had none of the qualities of those studios which are now used as a store. Continuing talking about the College, he notes that there was no relationship between the Painting and Design Departments although he set up a Middle Eastern Design section with a colleague Critchlow. He talks of Jocelyn Stevens initially being very supportive as he felt it might attract wealthy Middle Eastern students/patrons. In the event it did not work out like that. He talks of their being interesting people at the College early on including Leach, an Oxford scholar on Levi-Strauss. PdeF refers to a post '68 Trotskyist student rebellion which he successfully contained. He continues talking about the politics of the College as it moves towards Thatcher's time which he felt led to Jocelyn Stevens 'political' appointment. This goes on to a lengthy general discussion about the ethics of the self promotion culture of the Royal College which de Francia suggests is no longer the leading design college. This leads to a general conversation about architecture again led by PdeF's dislike of self-promotion

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