Joseph Fernand Henri Léger is an outstanding representative of French art of the first half of the 20th century, painter, sculptor, filmmaker, one of the founders of Cubism. The multifaceted work of Fernand Léger, like the bright pages of his biography, reflects the continuous striving for freedom, the beauty of ordinary objects and the unique artistic look of the master. His paintings are filled with bold interpretations and innovative approaches, making the viewer think and discern new meanings.
Fernand Léger was not afraid to reform art, including his own. Influenced by the industrial era and the two world wars, he developed his own style, combining precise monochrome lines and bold, pure colors, which “a person needs to live” because “it is as necessary an element as fire and water.” He created accessible art, establishing links with architecture, literature, cinema, and filled it with “everyday poetic images.”
Biography of Fernand Léger
Fernand Léger was born in the small town of Argentan. The future master spent his childhood in the countryside. He did not gravitate towards art, and it was not encouraged in the family. At the age of 16, at the insistence of his family, the young man went to Cannes to become an architect. But after 2 years he abandoned his studies and moved to Paris, where he got a job as a simple draftsman.
Here, in the French capital, saturated with the air of art workshops and the greatest works of the Louvre, a young man chooses for himself the path of fine art, attends academies as a free listener and is imbued with the spirit of unlimited freedom. The modern city, with its endless movement, dynamism and industrial innovations, will become the master’s favorite theme for life.
Fernand Léger began to create as an artist at the age of 25. However, the novice master did not see any constructive force in the impressionist works. But he made attempts to increase it with the help of volume hypertrophy.
The early Cubist paintings
The early Cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had a great influence on the work of Fernand Léger. The young artist focused on drawing and geometry. Truncated cones, disconnected volumes and deformed arms become the basis of almost all of his works. Critics would later call this form of Cubism “tubism” because of the emphasis on cylindrical shapes.
In 1911-1914, the work of Fernand Léger became more and more abstract. He begins to limit his palette to basic colors in combination with black and white. 1912 was marked by the first personal exhibition of the master at the Kahnweiler gallery.
After three years of participation in the First World War, war gas poisoning and long-term treatment, a “mechanical” period begins in the work of Fernand Léger. His objects and figures become tubular, machine-like. Propellers, cylinders, discs, gears appear in the compositions.
In the early 1920s, the artist developed an interest in cinematography, collaborated with the writer Blaise Cendrars, and designed costumes and sets for ballet performances. In 1924 he completed the filming of his own film “Mechanical Ballet”, which by design is neither narrative nor abstract. But presents a series of seemingly unrelated images: female lips, cars, ordinary objects and movements. “Film without a script” is intended to oppose machines and inanimate objects to a person and parts of his body.
In the 1930s, the painter is fond of creating monumental paintings and wall decorations, transfers his art to the streets and outer walls of buildings. His large paintings glorify the people, depict acrobats, cyclists, builders, and reflect interest in the working class. Fernand Léger gives a lot of lectures on contemporary art, in which he criticizes both socialist realism and abstractionism. At the beginning of World War II, he moved to the United States, and after its completion he returned to France.
The most famous paintings by Fernand Léger
Some art critics consider the artist’s work undeservedly underestimated. Nevertheless, his work is featured prominently in the world’s most prestigious collections. Some of the most famous paintings by Fernand Léger:
- “Naked in the Forest” (1910) in this picture, critics first called the artist’s style “tubism”.
- The Smokers (1912) is one of the master’s first cubist works, characterized by complex geometric shapes and a predominance of calm gray shades.
- “Lady in Blue” (1912) the picture brought success to the author at the first solo exhibition.
- “City” (1919) the work reflects two of the artist’s most beloved themes the dynamics of urban life, filled with freedom and new opportunities, and the unfolding era of industrialization.
- “Reading. Portrait of Nadia Leger, the Artist’s Wife ”(1949) the painting is notable for the lack of synchronization between the colored planes and the contour of the figure. The method is relevant in modern design, but was an innovation at the time of writing.
The Builders (1951) is an epic work by the master, exalting the labor of the working class who has reached heaven.
Fernand Léger left a bright mark on art. His works are often exhibited at prestigious world auctions. Every year they increase in value and arouse genuine interest among contemporaries.