Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2012


born 1928

enamel and hessian on composition board

121.0 x 120.5 cm

signed lower right: French

$30,000 - 40,000
Sold for $28,800 (inc. BP) in Auction 26 - 29 August 2012, Melbourne

Greenhill Galleries, Perth
Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth, acquired from the above in 1987 (label attached verso)


Leonard French: Paintings 1977–1987, Greenhill Galleries, Perth, September – October 1987, cat. 4 (label attached verso)
The Song of the Lamb: The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 19 August – 2 October 1989


Gooding, J., Topliss, H., Sharkey, C., and Horridge, N.,The Song of the Lamb: The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 1989, p. 99 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Leonard French is a major figure in Australian religious art. Although renowned for his monumental stained glass installations, more exactly chunk glass works such as the ceiling of the great hall at the National Gallery of Victoria of 1962-67, his other significant achievements during the sixties include the Campion paintings of 1960, and the Seven Days of Creation series of 1964-65 at the Australian National University, Canberra. Individual Campion paintings are found in many of Australia's national and state galleries, including Death in the Garden in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and Autumn in the Garden in the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. The Burial, in Canberra's National Gallery of Australia, was awarded the 1960 Sulman Prize. French also won the Blake Prize for Religious Art in 1963 with Ancient Fragments.

Each work is peopled with known and individual forms of telling iconographic significance - the Celtic Cross, birds, fishes, angels, and powerful geometric forms, especially the circle. The tooled, low relief surfaces painted and glazed to shape complex icons of power and great beauty, inspire awe and wonder. In Rainbow Celebration, French called upon Old and New Testament symbols of reconciliation, the rainbow, dove, and angels, dominated by the cruciform figure. After the Flood, God set a rainbow in the heavens and sent a dove bearing an olive branch of peace to Noah as a sign of His covenant with man. For French the dove form is also that of an angel. French added the Christian symbol of the fish, surrounding the figure of the Crucified, arms outstretched, offering and blessing as repeated in the sacred ceremony of salvation.The rainbow reaches from hand to hand, symbolically uniting the Testaments Old and New in a triumphal hymn of praise. These are the images favoured by French - the cruciform found in the Campion paintings The Mass and Cruciform, the bird/angel in The Seventh Day, the circle, symbol of the Host, harmony and perfection. The angel, like the dove, is also a bringer of good news. This is truly a moment of celebration, realised by French in the symbolic and geometric forms that characterise his art. As with all symbols, they overflow with meaning first given them by the artist and extended by the experience of the viewer. Attracted by the epic, French drew upon The Bible, The IliadThe Odyssey and even the legend of Sinbad the Sailor for his paintings.