Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (French: [leʒe]; February 4, 1881 – August 17, 1955) was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works he created a personal form of cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has caused him to be regarded as a forerunner of pop art.
Fernand Léger, c. 1916
|Born||February 4, 1881|
|Died||August 17, 1955 (aged 74)|
|Known for||Painting, printmaking and filmmaking|
Léger was born in Argentan, Orne, Lower Normandy, where his father raised cattle. Fernand Léger initially trained as an architect from 1897 to 1899, before moving in 1900 to Paris, where he supported himself as an architectural draftsman. After military service in Versailles, Yvelines, in 1902–1903, he enrolled at the School of Decorative Arts after his application to the École des Beaux-Arts was rejected. He nevertheless attended the Beaux-Arts as a non-enrolled student, spending what he described as "three empty and useless years" studying with Gérôme and others, while also studying at the Académie Julian. He began to work seriously as a painter only at the age of 25. At this point his work showed the influence of impressionism, as seen in Le Jardin de ma mère (My Mother's Garden) of 1905, one of the few paintings from this period that he did not later destroy. A new emphasis on drawing and geometry appeared in Léger's work after he saw the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne in 1907.
In 1910 he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in the same room (salle VIII) as Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. In his major painting of this period, Nudes in the Forest, Léger displays a personal form of Cubism that his critics termed "Tubism" for its emphasis on cylindrical forms.
In 1911 the hanging committee of the Salon des Indépendants placed together the painters identified as 'Cubists'. Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and Léger were responsible for revealing Cubism to the general public for the first time as an organized group.
The following year he again exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and Indépendants with the Cubists, and joined with several artists, including Le Fauconnier, Metzinger, Gleizes, Francis Picabia and the Duchamp brothers, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp to form the Puteaux Group—also called the Section d'Or (The Golden Section).
Léger's paintings, from then until 1914, became increasingly abstract. Their tubular, conical, and cubed forms are laconically rendered in rough patches of primary colors plus green, black and white, as seen in the series of paintings with the title Contrasting Forms. Léger made no use of the collage technique pioneered by Braque and Picasso.
Léger's experiences in World War I had a significant effect on his work. Mobilized in August 1914 for service in the French Army, he spent two years at the front in Argonne. He produced many sketches of artillery pieces, airplanes, and fellow soldiers while in the trenches, and painted Soldier with a Pipe (1916) while on furlough. In September 1916 he almost died after a mustard gas attack by the German troops at Verdun. During a period of convalescence in Villepinte he painted The Card Players (1917), a canvas whose robot-like, monstrous figures reflect the ambivalence of his experience of war. As he explained:
...I was stunned by the sight of the breech of a 75 millimeter in the sunlight. It was the magic of light on the white metal. That's all it took for me to forget the abstract art of 1912–1913. The crudeness, variety, humor, and downright perfection of certain men around me, their precise sense of utilitarian reality and its application in the midst of the life-and-death drama we were in ... made me want to paint in slang with all its color and mobility.
This work marked the beginning of his "mechanical period", during which the figures and objects he painted were characterized by sleekly rendered tubular and machine-like forms. Starting in 1918, he also produced the first paintings in the Disk series, in which disks suggestive of traffic lights figure prominently. In December 1919 he married Jeanne-Augustine Lohy, and in 1920 he met Le Corbusier, who would remain a lifelong friend.
The "mechanical" works Léger painted in the 1920s, in their formal clarity as well as in their subject matter—the mother and child, the female nude, figures in an ordered landscape—are typical of the postwar "return to order" in the arts, and link him to the tradition of French figurative painting represented by Poussin and Corot. In his paysages animés (animated landscapes) of 1921, figures and animals exist harmoniously in landscapes made up of streamlined forms. The frontal compositions, firm contours, and smoothly blended colors of these paintings frequently recall the works of Henri Rousseau, an artist Léger greatly admired and whom he had met in 1909.
They also share traits with the work of Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant who together had founded Purism, a style intended as a rational, mathematically based corrective to the impulsiveness of cubism. Combining the classical with the modern, Léger's Nude on a Red Background (1927) depicts a monumental, expressionless woman, machinelike in form and color. His still life compositions from this period are dominated by stable, interlocking rectangular formations in vertical and horizontal orientation. The Siphon of 1924, a still life based on an advertisement in the popular press for the aperitif Campari, represents the high-water mark of the Purist aesthetic in Léger's work. Its balanced composition and fluted shapes suggestive of classical columns are brought together with a quasi-cinematic close-up of a hand holding a bottle.
As an enthusiast of the modern, Léger was greatly attracted to cinema, and for a time he considered giving up painting for filmmaking. In 1923–24 he designed the set for the laboratory scene in Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine (The Inhuman One). In 1924, in collaboration with Dudley Murphy, George Antheil, and Man Ray, Léger produced and directed the iconic and Futurism-influenced film Ballet Mécanique (Mechanical Ballet). Neither abstract nor narrative, it is a series of images of a woman's lips and teeth, close-up shots of ordinary objects, and repeated images of human activities and machines in rhythmic movement.
In collaboration with Amédée Ozenfant he established a free school where he taught from 1924, with Alexandra Exter and Marie Laurencin. He produced the first of his "mural paintings", influenced by Le Corbusier's theories, in 1925. Intended to be incorporated into polychrome architecture, they are among his most abstract paintings, featuring flat areas of color that appear to advance or recede.
Starting in 1927, the character of Léger's work gradually changed as organic and irregular forms assumed greater importance. The figural style that emerged in the 1930s is fully displayed in the Two Sisters of 1935, and in several versions of Adam and Eve. With characteristic humor, he portrayed Adam in a striped bathing suit, or sporting a tattoo.
In 1931, Léger made his first visit to the United States, where he traveled to New York City and Chicago. In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented an exhibition of his work. In 1938, Léger was commissioned to decorate Nelson Rockefeller's apartment.
During World War II Léger lived in the United States. He taught at Yale University, and found inspiration for a new series of paintings in the novel sight of industrial refuse in the landscape. The shock of juxtaposed natural forms and mechanical elements, the "tons of abandoned machines with flowers cropping up from within, and birds perching on top of them" exemplified what he called the "law of contrast". His enthusiasm for such contrasts resulted in such works as The Tree in the Ladder of 1943–44, and Romantic Landscape of 1946. Reprising a composition of 1930, he painted Three Musicians (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in 1944. Reminiscent of Rousseau in its folk-like character, the painting exploits the law of contrasts in its juxtaposition of the three men and their instruments.
During his American sojourn, Léger began making paintings in which freely arranged bands of color are juxtaposed with figures and objects outlined in black. Léger credited the neon lights of New York City as the source of this innovation: "I was struck by the neon advertisements flashing all over Broadway. You are there, you talk to someone, and all of a sudden he turns blue. Then the color fades—another one comes and turns him red or yellow."
Upon his return to France in 1945, he joined the Communist Party. During this period his work became less abstract, and he produced many monumental figure compositions depicting scenes of popular life featuring acrobats, builders, divers, and country outings. Art historian Charlotta Kotik has written that Léger's "determination to depict the common man, as well as to create for him, was a result of socialist theories widespread among the avant-garde both before and after World War II. However, Léger's social conscience was not that of a fierce Marxist, but of a passionate humanist". His varied projects included book illustrations, murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs.
After the death of Leger's wife Jeanne-Augustine Lohy in 1950, Léger married Nadia Khodossevitch in 1952. In his final years he lectured in Bern, designed mosaics and stained-glass windows for the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, and painted Country Outing, The Camper, and the series The Big Parade. In 1954 he began a project for a mosaic for the São Paulo Opera, which he would not live to finish. Fernand Léger died at his home in 1955 and is buried in Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne.
Léger wrote in 1945 that "the object in modern painting must become the main character and overthrow the subject. If, in turn, the human form becomes an object, it can considerably liberate possibilities for the modern artist." He elaborated on this idea in his 1949 essay, "How I Conceive the Human Figure", where he wrote that "abstract art came as a complete revelation, and then we were able to consider the human figure as a plastic value, not as a sentimental value. That is why the human figure has remained willfully inexpressive throughout the evolution of my work". As the first painter to take as his idiom the imagery of the machine age, and to make the objects of consumer society the subjects of his paintings, Léger has been called a progenitor of Pop Art.
He was active as a teacher for many years, first at the Académie Vassilieff in Paris, then in 1931 at the Sorbonne, and then developing his own Académie Fernand Léger, which was in Paris, then at the Yale School of Art and Architecture (1938–1939), Mills College Art Gallery in Oakland, California during 1940–1945, before he returned to France. Among his many pupils were Nadir Afonso, Paul Georges, Charlotte Gilbertson, Hananiah Harari, Asger Jorn, Michael Loew, Beverly Pepper, Victor Reinganum, Marcel Mouly, René Margotton, Saloua Raouda Choucair and Charlotte Wankel, Peter Agostini, Lou Albert-Lasard, Tarsila do Amaral, Arie Aroch, Alma del Banco, Christian Berg, Louise Bourgeois, Marcelle Cahn, Otto Gustaf Carlsund, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Robert Colescott, Lars Englund, Tsuguharu Foujita, Sam Francis, Serge Gainsbourg, Hans Hartung, Florence Henri, Asger Jorn, William Klein, Maryan, George Lovett Kingsland Morris, Marlow Moss, Aurélie Nemours, Gerhard Neumann, Jules Olitski, Erik Olson, and Richard Stankiewicz.
In 1960, the Musée Fernand Léger was opened in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes, France.
In August 2008, one of Léger's paintings owned by Wellesley College's Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Mother and Child, was reported missing. It is believed to have disappeared some time between April 9, 2007 and November 19, 2007. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the safe return of the painting.
Ballet Mécanique (1923–24) is a Dadaist post-Cubist art film conceived, written, and co-directed by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with the filmmaker Dudley Murphy (with cinematographic input from Man Ray). It has a musical score by the American composer George Antheil. However, the film premiered in a silent version on 24 September 1924 at the Internationale Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik (International Exposition for New Theater Technique) in Vienna presented by Frederick Kiesler. It is considered one of the masterpieces of early experimental filmmaking.Biot, Alpes-Maritimes
Biot is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It is located near Antibes Juan-les-Pins (av. 6 km), between Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet on the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, about 40 kilometers from Monte Carlo.
Biot was a pottery centre from the beginning of the 16th century until the 18th century.
In the middle of the 20th century, Biot once again became famous for its decorative pottery and glasswork.Biot is well known for its glassblowers and bubble glass products Eloi Monod started the village's glass-blowing tradition. The Fernand Léger museum stands at the foot of the village.European Heart House, the official headquarters of the European Society of Cardiology, is located within the borders of the commune of Biot.Fernand Léger Museum
The Fernand Léger Museum, French: Musée national Fernand Léger, is a French national museum in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes, in south-eastern France. It is dedicated to the work of the twentieth-century artist Fernand Léger. Although originally privately owned, it is now a state museum entitled to style itself Musée de France.Fondation Maeght
The Maeght Foundation or Fondation Maeght (pronounced [mɑɡ]) is a museum of modern art on the Colline des Gardettes, a hill overlooking Saint-Paul de Vence in the southeast of France about 25 km (16 mi) from Nice. It was established by Marguerite and Aimé Maeght in 1964 and houses paintings, sculptures, collages, ceramics and all forms of modern art.The collection includes works by many important 20th-century artists including Jean Arp, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Ellsworth Kelly, Fernand Léger and Joan Miró among others.The building was designed by the Spanish architect Josep Lluís Sert, houses more than 12,000 pieces of art and attracts "on average, 200,000 visitors ... every year". There is a small chapel dedicated to Saint Bernard, in memory of Bernard, the son of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght who died of leukemia, aged eleven. The foundation is entirely independently funded with no reliance on state subsidies. Adrien Maeght is the chairman of the foundation's administrative council, which also includes Isabelle Maeght and her sister Yoyo Maeght.Groupe de femmes
Groupe de femmes, also called Groupe de trois femmes, or Groupe de trois personnages, is an early Cubist sculpture created circa 1911 by the Hungarian avant-garde, sculptor, and graphic artist Joseph Csaky (1888–1971). This sculpture formerly known from a black and white photograph (Galerie René Reichard) had been erroneously entitled Deux Femmes (Two Women), as the image captured on an angle showed only two figures. An additional photograph found in the Csaky family archives shows a frontal view of the work, revealing three figures rather than two. Csaky's sculpture was exhibited at the 1912 Salon d'Automne, and the 1913 Salon des Indépendants, Paris. A photograph taken of Salle XI in sitiu at the 1912 Salon d'Automne and published in L'Illustration, 12 October 1912, p. 47, shows Groupe de femmes exhibited alongside the works of Jean Metzinger, František Kupka, Francis Picabia, Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Le Fauconnier.
At the 1913 Salon des Indépendants Groupe de femmes was exhibited in the company works by Fernand Léger, Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, André Lhote, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Jacques Villon and Wassily Kandinsky.The whereabouts of Groupe de femmes is unknown and the sculpture is presumed to have been destroyed.Henri Le Fauconnier
Henri Victor Gabriel Le Fauconnier (July 5, 1881 – December 25, 1946) was a French Cubist painter born in Hesdin. Le Fauconnier was seen as one of the leading figures among the Montparnasse Cubists. At the 1911 Salon des Indépendants Le Fauconnier and colleagues Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Fernand Léger and Robert Delaunay caused a scandal with their Cubist paintings. He was in contacts with many European avant-garde artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, writing a theoretical text for the catalogue of the Neue Künstlervereinigung in Munich, of which he became a member. His paintings were exhibited in Moscow reproduced as examples of the latest art in Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (The Blue Rider Almanac).La création du monde
La Création du monde, Op. 81a, is a 15-minute-long ballet composed by Darius Milhaud in 1922–23 to a libretto by Blaise Cendrars, which outlines the creation of the world based on African folk mythology. The premiere took place on 25 October 1923 at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.Les Mages
Les Mages is a commune in the Gard department in the Occitanie region in southern France.Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art
The Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art (LaM), formerly known as Villeneuve d'Ascq Museum of Modern Art, is an art museum in Villeneuve d'Ascq, France.
With more than 4,500 artworks on a 4,000-square-metre (43,000 sq ft) exhibition area, the LaM is the only museum in Europe to present simultaneously the main components of the 20th and 21st centuries art : modern art, contemporary art and outsider art. LaM's holdings include some masterpieces of Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder and the biggest outsider art collection in France. LaM possesses also a library and a rich park of sculptures.
The museum's collection offers an overview in modern and contemporary art, including drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books and artist's books, and electronic media.Man and Woman
Man and Woman may refer to:
Man & Woman (album), a 1974 album by George Freeman
Man and Woman (film), a 1920 American silent film drama
Man and Woman (Fernand Léger), a 1921 oil on canvas paintingMan and Woman (Fernand Léger)
Man and Woman is an oil on canvas painting by French artist Fernand Léger from 1921, located in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. It is a cubist portrait of a man and a woman locked in a passionate embrace at odds with their depersonalized, industrialized setting.Nadia Khodasevich Léger
Nadia Khodasevich (Grabowski) Léger (Belarusian: Надзе́я Пятро́ўна Хадасе́віч-Лежэ́) (23 September 1904 – 7 November 1982) was a French artist. She was the first wife of Polish painter Stanisław Grabowski and the second wife of French artist Fernand Léger. The Russian form of her name can be transliterated as Nadezhda Khodasevich or Khodassevich or Khodasievitch; and from the Polish form, Wanda Chodasiewicz.Peter de Francia
Peter Laurent de Francia (25 January 1921 – 19 January 2012) was a French-born British artist, who served as Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, from 1972 to 1986. He was the author of two books on Fernand Léger: Leger: The Great Parade (Painters on Painting) (1969) and Fernand Léger (1983).Still Life with Candlestick
Still Life with Candlestick (French: Nature morte aux chandeliers, Nature morte, chandeliers, Nature morte au chandelier, Le chandelier) is an oil painting created in 1922 by the French artist Fernand Léger.
This painting was stolen on 20 May 2010 from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The museum reported the overnight theft of five paintings from its collection, valued at €100 million ($123 million USD), though this figure may be conservative.The principal suspect, Vjeran Tomic (nicknamed "Spider-Man" for his ability to scale buildings), was commissioned by antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez to steal this painting by Léger. In the process, he stole paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, and Braque.The paintings taken, in addition to Still Life with Chandeliers, were Le pigeon aux petits pois (Dove with Green Peas, or Pigeon with Peas, 1911) by Pablo Picasso, La Pastorale (1906) by Henri Matisse, L'Olivier Près de l'Estaque (Olive Tree near L'Estaque, 1906) by Georges Braque, La Femme à l'Éventail (Woman with a Fan, 1919) by Amedeo Modigliani. A window had been smashed and CCTV footage showed a masked man taking the paintings. Authorities believe the thief acted alone. The man carefully removed the paintings from their frames, which he left behind.The theft, executed with an extreme level of sophistication, is being investigated by the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme specialist unit of the French Police. It is unclear why the alarm systems in the museum failed to detect the robbery. Staff only noticing when they arrived at the museum just before 7:00 am. The museum closed on 20 May 2010, citing "technical reasons". The theft follows the $162 million heist of masterpieces by Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet from Foundation E.G. Bührle in Zurich in February 2008 and could be one of the biggest art thefts in history (by value). It has been described as the "heist of the century". The French auctioneer and president of the Association du Palais de Tokyo, Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr, commented, "These five paintings are unsellable, so thieves, sirs, you are imbeciles, now return them."
The thief and his sponsor were found one year after the heist, and the latter declared that he was seized by panic after a police raid and a phone call by the police. For fear that investigators were closing in, accomplices apparently destroyed the paintings. "I threw them into the trash," cried Yonathan Birn, one of three people on trial in the case, "I made the worst mistake of my existence." However, neither the judge or other defendants believe Birn is telling the truth. Authorities believe all of the paintings were removed from France. Birn's co-defendants testified he was "too smart" to destroy €100 million worth of artwork.The City (Léger)
The City (French: La Ville) is a 1919 painting by French painter and sculptor Fernand Léger. The painting is Cubist in style and is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as part of the collection donated by Albert Eugene Gallatin. Gallatin donated the piece to the museum 1952 and it has also been shown at the Guggenheim Museum. In reviews of the Guggenheim exhibit, both The City and other works in the show were praised.The Cubist Painters, Aesthetic Meditations
Les Peintres Cubistes, Méditations Esthétiques (English, The Cubist Painters, Aesthetic Meditations), is a book written by Guillaume Apollinaire between 1905 and 1912, published in 1913. This was the third major text on Cubism; following Du "Cubisme" by Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger (1912); and André Salmon, Histoire anecdotique du cubisme (1912).Les Peintres Cubistes is illustrated with black and white photographs of works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, Marie Laurencin, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. Also reproduced are photographs of artists Metzinger, Gleizes, Gris, Picabia and Duchamp. In total, there are 46 halftone portraits and reproductions.Published by Eugène Figuière Éditeurs, Collection "Tous les Arts", Paris, 1913, Les Peintres Cubistes was the only independent volume of art criticism published by Apollinaire, and represented a highly original critical source on Cubism. He elucidates the history of the Cubist movement, its new aesthetic, its origins, its development, and its various features.
Apollinaire first intended this book to be a general collection of his writings on art entitled Méditations Esthétiques rather than specifically on Cubism. In the fall of 1912 he revised the page proofs to include more material on the Cubist painters, adding the subtitle, Les Peintres Cubistes. When the book went to press, the original title was enclosed in brackets and reduced in size, while the subtitle Les Peintres Cubistes was enlarged, dominating the cover. Yet Les Peintres Cubistes appears only on the half t.p. and t.p. pages, while every other page has the title Méditations Esthétiques, suggesting the modification was made so late that only the title pages were reprinted.A portion of the text was translated into English and published with several images from the original book in The Little Review: Quarterly Journal of Art and Letters, New York, Autumn 1922.Tubism
Tubism is a term coined by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1911 to describe the style of French artist Fernand Léger. Meant as derision, the term was inspired by Léger's idiosyncratic version of Cubism, in which he emphasized cylindrical shapes. The style was developed by Léger in his paintings of 1909–1919, such as Nudes in the Forest (1909-10) and The Card Players (1917).Wolfgang Beltracchi
Wolfgang Beltracchi (born Wolfgang Fischer on 4 February 1951) is a German art forger and artist who has admitted to forging hundreds of paintings in an international art scam netting millions of euros. Beltracchi, together with his wife Helene, sold forgeries of original works by famous artists, including Max Ernst, Heinrich Campendonk, Fernand Léger and Kees van Dongen. Though he was found guilty for forging 14 works of art that sold for a combined $45m (£28.6m), he claims to have faked "about 50" artists. The total estimated profits Beltracchi made from his forgeries surpasses $100m.In 2011, after a 40-day trial, Beltracchi was found guilty and sentenced to six years in a German prison. His wife, Helene, was given a four-year sentence, and both were ordered to pay millions in restitution. Beltracchi was freed on January 9, 2015, having served just over three years in prison.