Peter de Francia was a British artist who was born in France in 1921.
The son of an Italian father and an English mother, he was brought up in Paris and moved to Brussels at the age of 18 to study at the Academy of Arts. When the war broke out in 1939, he escaped Belgium by bicycle and made his way to England, where he joined the British Army.
After the war was over, De Francia studied at the Slade School of Art and travelled widely, spending long spells in Italy, America, France and North Africa. He developed a prestigious reputation as a teacher, holding posts at St Martin’s School of Art, Goldsmith’s College, and finally the Royal College of Art, where he was Professor of Painting from 1972 to 1986.
A committed socialist, De Francia was an intellectual artist whose work was heavily informed by his political beliefs. His multi-lingual abilities facilitated close friendships with numerous European intellectuals, while his widespread travels and his experiences during World War Two instilled in him a great awareness and sensitivity towards human suffering and political crisis. His best-known work, The Bombing of Sakiet, has often been referred to as his version of Picasso’s Guernica, while his poignant renderings of the human condition have drawn comparisons with William Hogarth, Francisco de Goya, Max Beckmann and George Grosz.
De Francia was highly regarded amongst intellectual and artistic circles and well-respected for his skilful draughtsmanship and the ambitious scale and subject matter of his paintings. His involvement in the art world also saw him work as a broadcaster and producer for television and radio, and he wrote numerous reviews and published two major studies on the work of Fernand Léger.
He died on January 19th 2012 at the age of 90.