Fernand Leger (1881 - 1955)

:Born 1881, Argentan, Normandy, France; died 1955, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

Joseph Fernand Henri Léger was born February 4, 1881, in Argentan, France. After apprenticing with an architect in Caen from 1897 to 1899, Léger settled in Paris in 1900 and supported himself as an architectural draftsman. He was refused entrance to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but nevertheless attended classes there beginning in 1903; he also studied at the Académie Julian. Léger’s earliest known works, which date from 1905, were primarily influenced by Impressionism [more]. The experience of seeing the Paul Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907 and his contact with the early Cubism [more] of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had an extremely significant impact on the development of his personal style. From 1911 to 1914, Léger’s work became increasingly abstract, and he started to limit his color to the primaries and black and white. In 1912, he was given his first solo show at Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris.


Léger served in the military from 1914 to 1917. His “mechanical” period, in which figures and objects are characterized by tubular, machinelike forms, began in 1917. During the early 1920s, he collaborated with the writer Blaise Cendrars on films and designed sets and costumes for performances by Rolf de Maré’s Ballets Suédois; in 1924, he completed his first film without a plot, Ballet mécanique. Léger opened an atelier with Amédée Ozenfant in 1924 and in 1925 presented his first murals at Le Corbusier’s Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs. In 1931, he visited the United States for the first time. In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago presented an exhibition of his work. Léger lived in the United States from 1940 to 1945 but returned to France after the war. In the decade before his death, Léger’s wide-ranging projects included book illustrations, monumental figure paintings and murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs. In 1955, he won the Grand Prize at the São Paulo Bienal. Léger died August 17 of that year, at his home in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. The Musée Fernand Léger was inaugurated in 1960 in Biot, France.

French painter, who influenced cubism, constructivism, and the modern commercial poster and other types of applied art. Born in Argentan, France, he served a two-year architecture apprenticeship in Caen, France, and later studied unofficially under two professors at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Beginning in 1910 he was a prominent exhibitor and member of the Salon des Independants. Most of his early pictures were cubist in character, as in Nudes in the Forest. Along with his compatriot Georges Braque and the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, Leger played an important role in the development and spread of cubism.

Leger's subsequent work was influenced by his experiences in World War I (1914-1918). He began to use many symbols from the industrial world and attempted to depict his objects and people in machinelike forms. The City is one of his most notable paintings. Leger's work had an important influence on the movements of neoplasticism in the Netherlands and constructivism in the Soviet Union. He made highly successful efforts as a glass painter, as a sculptor, and in creating mosaics, ceramics, and tapestries. The modern commercial poster and other types of applied art were also influenced by his original designs.

In his late paintings, Leger separated color from his figures, which, while they retained their robotlike shapes, were painted in black lines. The color was then boldly laid over areas of the canvas to form a separate composition that tied the entire painting together. The Great Parade, one of his last paintings, is a monumental example of this original style.

Fernand Léger (1881-1955) was born in Argentan, Normandy and was apprenticed to an architect in Caen between 1897-1899. He then worked as a draughtsman in an architect's office in Paris between 1900 and 1902, and in a photographic studio, retouching photos in 1903-1904.

In 1903, he failed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and studied instead at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Académie Julian. From 1909 he was associated with the Cubists and became a member of the informal Puteaux Group two years later.

In 1913, he signed a contract with Daniel-H. Kahnweiler who had already discovered Picasso and Braque. During his Cubist period his tubular and curvilinear abstractions contrasted with the rectilinear forms produced by these painters while he became the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction.

After having been gassed during the First World War, he was discharged in 1917 and became a close friend of Le Corbusier and Ozenfant. He collaborated with Ozenfant in the Atelier Libre and in 1925 he exhibited at Le Corbusier`s Pavilion de I`Esprit Nouveau.

In 1925 also he did mural decorations in collaboration with Robert Delaunay for the entry hall of the exhibition Les Arts Décoratifs. During his collaboration with the leaders of the Purist movement his works exemplified the “machine aesthetic” which Purism exemplified. His paintings were static, with the precise and polished appearance of machinery, and he had a strong inclination for including representations of mechanical parts.

During the late 1920’s and 1930’s he also painted single objects isolated in space and sometimes amplified to gigantic size. He also produced theatrical decors, especially for the Swedish Ballets, and worked with the cinema. His Ballet Mechanic (1934) was the first film without a script.

During the Second World War Léger lived in the U.S and taught at Yale University and at Mills College, California. His painting at this time consisted of compositions featuring mainly acrobats and cyclists. After his return to France in 1945 his works reflected more prominently his political interest in the working classes. But their static, monumental style remained, with flat and pure colours, heavy black contours and a continuing concern with the contrast between cylindrical and rectilinear forms.

In 1949 he opened a studio for ceramics with his former pupil Robert Brice and made there his glass mosaics for the University of Caracas (1954). At the same time he was working on the windows and tapestries for the church at Audincourt (1951).

A Léger Museum was founded in his honour at Biot with large ceramic panels that he designed. Memorial retrospective exhibitions took place at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 1956 and at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, in 1957. Léger had a considerable influence over many artists and was hailed as one of the greatest French painters of his time.

gespiegelt von www.artcutl.com/leger.htm


Links: / http://www.musee-fernandleger.fr / LegerMuseum Biot