Top Image: Jared French, “Evasion”, 1947, Tempera on Canvas Mounted to Panel, 54.5 x 29.2 cm, Cleveland Museum of Art
Bottom Image: Jared French, “Learning”, 1946, Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel, 61.6 x 58.4 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
French was well regarded during the 1940s and 1950s as one of the most accomplished and fascinating magic realist painters. A still understudied group of artists, the magic realists revived painstaking old master techniques to make convincing their enigmatic images that address a wide range of personal and social concerns. Part of a series of works French made to chronicle the human condition, “Evasion” symbolizes an individual’s attempt to deny the physical self. As such, the painting manifests tensions regarding sexual mores in mid 20th-century America. While it is reductive to attribute French’s iconographic interest in “Evasion” solely to his bisexuality, the fact remains that French was one of the first American artists whose same-sex desires were recognized and acknowledged by contemporaries who viewed his work.
Note: For those interested in more information on Jared French, I recommend Emily Sachar’s “Jared French’s State Park: A Contextual Study”, which was submitted for he Master of Arts degree. It includes a chapter of French’s artistic circle of friends, including his freindship with Paul Cadmus, as well as several images of French’s most notable works. The article can be found at: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1289&context=hc_sas_etds