The present work relates to Fautrier's poignant series of small paintings known as the Partisans which he created to commemorate the bloody suppression by the Red Army of a popular uprising in Budapest in the autumn of 1956. This was the artist's most overt political statement since he painted his famous Otages pictures thirteen years earlier.
The Otages series was Fautrier's bitter response to the outrages committed in France by the German occupation forces during the Second World War. Using as a medium his own recipe of white paste, layered like porridge on paper and heightened with inks and powdered colour, he depicted decapitated heads and mutilated body parts, crushed under foot and shattered by shrapnel.
The Partisan series similarly shows heads squashed under the wheels of Russian tanks, the fleshy mass of impasto often bearing the imprint of a smeared track-mark. Whereas the Otages represented a single murdered victim, the Partisans portrayed a whole crowd or people annihilated.
Tête (Partisan) shows a simplified profile floating against a pale ground of pastel blue. The outline of the head is marked in black, emphasising with a T-shape the plausible eyebrows and nose of the victim. This facial form has its roots in the Otages paintings, but relates more closely to a group of heads produced in 1956, to which the artist gave names such as L'Etrique, Texas Bill and Sweet Baby.
In the majority of Partisan heads, the pathos is reinforced by an inscription written at the bottom of the painting that was taken from Paul Eluard's famous poem Liberté. The present picture does not bear such a line and must convey its tragedy through its formal qualities alone. In this, it amply succeeds and one is left with a bitter-sweet sadness that pervades the small canvas.