Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1940-2012 — Kemplay Road (Hampstead)


Painter and teacher Peter Laurent de Francia was born on 25 January 1921 in Beaulieu-sur-Mer Alpes Maritimes, France. His father was a corporate lawyer from Genoa; his mother was English. He grew up in Paris where he attended the American School and studied art in Brussels. Having moved to London in 1940, he was a student at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1945 to 1948. 

For decades he remained a Displaced Person, opposed to all the art establishment stood for. He considered leaving Italy the greatest mistake’ of his life. As a consequence, his talent was largely ignored in British art circles. His work was influenced by socially engaged painters such as Gustave Courbet and Honoré Daumier, but his real education was the reawakening of Italian neo-Realism and his time spent at the studio of Renato Guttuso. In London, he was an internal exile whose imaginative life was in France and Italy. 

For some time he shared a house with art critic John Berger at no. 23 Kemplay Road, Hampstead. He later lived alone in a rented Georgian house off the Old Kent Road, Southwark. De Francia remained politically involved. An atrocity in the Algerian War sparked his 1959 masterpiece The Bombing of Sakiet. It was in complex charcoal drawings (in the tradition of Bosch and Goya) that he would excel. From 1972 to 1986 he served as Professor of Painting at London’s Royal College of Art (RCA). He was the author of two studies on Fernand Léger (1969 and 1983). He died in January 2012.


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