THOMAS FRANSIOLI (1906–1997)
"King George Dies," 1959
Oil on canvas, 8 1/4 x 6 1/4 in.
Signed with initials and dated (at lower tight): T. F. / 1952
EXHIBITED: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, November 5–December 31, 2015, An Architect's Dream: The Magic Realist World of Thomas Fransioli, p. 46 no. 15
The present painting,“King George Dies”, dates to Fransioli's 1952 trip abroad and is of particular interest when considering the full parameters of his oeuvre. George VI, King of England, died in February 1952. Fransioli was likely in England at the time and this small, but deeply felt work commemorates that event in unique fashion. While Fransioli customarily painted wide-angle views, allowing for a profusion of architectural or landscape detail, this picture is a close-up view of a sliver of a London street. We see just the lower story of two bow-fronted townhouses, one in full sunlight, its nearer companion in deep shadow. A black cat at the center of the picture picks a silent way along the curb. Scattered in the street are headline pages torn from the daily newspapers. One announces, “King George Dies in His Sleep,” the second says “Nation Mourns: Queen Flies Home.” Elizabeth, George’s eldest daughter, had been traveling with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, to Kenya and Australia. When the couple flew back from Kenya, Elizabeth was already Queen. The disarray of the sheets of newsprint is an unwelcome intrusion into Fransioli’s “neat and tidy” world. George VI had been a powerful symbol of British unity and resolve, to Americans as well as to his own subjects. The Royal Family, George, his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and their two daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, famously remained in London during the Blitz, sharing the danger with their subjects. Fransioli doubtless felt a sense of loss and a flash of recollection of the chaos of war. But this small image offers hope as well as sadness. The headline in the nearer newspaper, “Queen Flies Home,” contains the promise of continuity.