Peter de Francia, 1921-2012

Peter de Francia: The Bombing of Sakiet, 1959. Photograph: James Hyman Gallery

It is with sadness that John Tagg notes the recent death of his inspiring mentor, the painter, writer and educator, Peter de Francia (1921-2012), former Principal of the School of Art at the University of London Goldsmiths’ College and later Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art in London. It was de Francia above all who nurtured Tagg’s early interest in the Marxist art historian Max Raphael, encouraged his reading of Benjamin and Barthes, and introduced him to the photographs of Eugène Atget, through his major work on Fernand Léger. Above all, in contrast to the prevailing manners and mores of the English art world, de Francia embodied a very French idea of the committed intellectual, conveying a sense of seriousness and a strong whiff of combative politics that seemed to come straight from a turbulent Paris. An extensive tribute to de Francia was published in the Guardian at

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