Artist
Fernand Léger
French painter

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Fernand Léger
French painter
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Birth Date

February 04, 1881

Death Date

August 14, 1955

ebrowne's picture

Contributor

Fernand Leger had an obsession with machines akin to that of a little boy.

He really just couldn’t get enough. Not even his time fighting in World War I deterred him from the subject, which let’s be honest is a little disturbing. It all began in 1881, Normandy. Leger was born to a cattle dealer, who hoped greatly that his child would follow in his footsteps. Poppa was disappointed when little Fernand showed talent and passion for art rather than cows, but what’re you gonna do? Fernand when to Paris to work as an architectural draftsman, an influence that he would incorporate into his later work. Leger applied to the École des Beaux-Arts with no such luck so he studied at the Paris School of Decorative Arts instead, while being tutored on the D.L. by Beaux-Arts professors. He was kind of an Impressionist guy but then went to a Paul Cezanne exhibition, which changed everything. He began with his geometric shapes that would soon be dubbed “tubism.” Get it? Like cubism, but with tubes.

Soon after he got into his artistic groove, he had to go fight for France in World War I. He spend two years at the front and miraculously only almost died. Mustard gas landed Leger in the hospital for several months after which he was discharged. Leger spent the years in between world wars focusing on mechanics in his art, a theme that would never leave his painting. He hopped over to America when things got dicey in Europe during the second world war and was completely inspired by American culture. He began exhibiting his work in various museums, teaching at Yale University, and accepting commissions from high rollers like Nelson Rockefeller. Life was pretty good in America, but he returned to France for the end of his life, being the patriot that he was.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. Russell, John. "FERNAND LEGER: POWERED BY THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE". Nytimes.com. N.p., 1982. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
  2. "Fernand Leger Facts, Information, Pictures". Encyclopedia.com. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
  3. "Fernand Léger". Biography.com. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Fernand Léger

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.

Biography

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.

1909–1914

In 1909 he moved to Montparnasse and met Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz, Marc Chagall, Joseph Csaky and Robert Delaunay.

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.

1914–1920

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.

1920s

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.

1930s

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.

1940s

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.

1950s

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.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Fernand Léger.