Man needs colour to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water

Fernand Leger

Woman with a Cat  1921

The French painter Fernand Leger {lay-zhay’, fer-nahn’}, b. Argentan, Feb. 4, 1881, d. Aug. 17, 1955, was a major figure in the development of cubism and a prime expositor of modern urban and technological culture.

After moving (1900) to Paris he worked as an architectural draftsman and a photographic retoucher and also studied informally at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julien. By 1911, Leger had become a key member of the evolving cubist movement. His personal style of cubism is characterized by tubular, fractured forms and bright colors highlighted by juxtaposition with cool whites — a decorative scheme that conveys a sense of form in relief. Major works of this cubist period include La Noce (1911-12; Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris), Woman in Blue (1912; Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel), and Contrasts of Forms (1913; Philadelphia Museum of Art).

Following World War I, Leger concentrated more and more on urban and machine imagery, which led logically to his association (1919-c.1925) with the purism of Le Corbusier and Amedee Ozenfant. In paintings such as The Mechanic (1920; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) and Three Women (1921; Museum of Modern Art, New York City), he favored sharply delineated, flat shapes, unmodeled color areas, and combinations of human and machine forms. After 1930, Leger’s style favored precisely delineated and monumental forms modeled in planes and set in shallow space, and he concentrated on depicting scenes of proletarian life, such as his Great Parade (1954; Guggenheim Museum, New York City).



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