Fernand Léger Biography, Artwork, Galleries Online | BLOUIN ARTINFO
Louise Blouin Media
Louise Blouin Media, Inc.
88 Laight Street
10013
New York
Blouin Artinfo

Subscriber login

Biography

Occupation: Painter, Print-maker, Sculptor, Film Maker
Movement: Tubism, Cubism and Modernism
Education: Ecole des Arts Decoratifs
 
Fernand Léger’s Famous Artworks
“Woman in Blue,” 1912
“Contrast of Forms,” 1914
“Soldier With a Pipe,” 1916
“The City,” 1919
“Three Women,” 1921
“Woman and Child,” 1921
“Mona Lisa With the Keys,” 1930
“Two Sisters,” 1935
“Three Musicians,” 1944
“Deauville,” 1950
 
Fernand Léger was a French artist, filmmaker and sculptor, associated with Cubism. He pioneered a version of cubism strongly influenced by modern industrial technology, creating a personal style of ‘machine art’, characterized by robotic forms in bold hues. 
 
Fernand Léger’s Early Life and Education
Léger was born in 1881 in the small town of Argentan in Lower Normandy. Although his father, who raised livestock, encouraged him to adopt a practical trade like his own, Léger showed artistic talent from a young age and his father let him choose his own vocation. After school, he apprenticed for two years with an architect’s agency in Caen. He then went to the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1903. While pursuing his degree, he worked on the side as an architectural draftsman and a photograph retoucher. He also studied privately under teachers from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Academie Julian. 
 
Léger’s artworks from his student days were heavily influenced by Impressionism, as seen in “My Mother’s Garden,” but there is not much else that exists from this period as he burned most of his paintings from the early 1900s. Léger’s discovery of Cezanne steered him towards a more modern style – what we now call Cubism – and the majority of his work reflects that movement. 
 
Fernand Léger's Art and the Birth of Cubism
While living in Montparnasse, Léger met a number of experimental painters such as Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz and Joseph Csaky, who fuelled the progress of his personal style. He began developing his own brand of Cubism – marked by a predominance of cylindrical forms – that the critics called Tubism. This distinguished Léger from both Picasso and Georges Braque. An early example of this new form is 1909 “Nudes in the Forest.” By the next year, his standing in the art industry was prominent enough for the Salon des Indépendants to include him in the organized group that was presented to the public as the Cubists. 
 
Fernand Léger and the Machines of World War I 
The First World War saw Léger enlisted as a military engineer in the French Army in 1914. In the two years he spent in Argonne, he witnessed life in the trenches and developed a concern for making art accessible to the lower and middle classes. The machinery of war also interested him afresh in cylindrical forms. There are many sketches of airplanes, artillery and soldiers from this period. 
 
In 1916, he suffered injuries from a mustard gas attack by German troops at Verdun and was hospitalized in Villepinte. It was during his convalescence that Léger painted “The Card Players”, an image whose human figures were reminiscent of robots, combining geometric and cylindrical forms with bold colors. It marked the beginning of his ‘mechanical period’, where humans and their environments appeared as geometric and mechanized as each other. “Three Women” from 1921 is his most famous piece and a good example of this aesthetic.
 
Fernand Léger’s Post-War Projects
On his return from the war, Fernand Léger attempted to put his new ideologies into practice. In 1924, he opened a free art school in collaboration with Amedee Ozenfant where he taught with Alexandra Exter and Marie Laurencin. He also started illustrating books, designing mosaics, stained glass, sets and costumes for ballet as well as movies. In 1926, he wrote, directed and produced “The Mechanical Ballet”, an abstract film shot by Man Ray and Dudley Murphy and set to music by George Antheil. It features recurring images of human and mechanical activity in pulsing movement and close-ups of everyday objects. 
 
Léger also became close to Le Corbusier and the Communist Party and his interest in social equality during this time is evident in his embracing of a less abstract style and new subject matter. During this time he made the paintings “Country Outings”, “Constructors”, “Cyclists” and “Drivers”. 
 
Fernand Léger’s Death and Legacy
Léger married a second time in 1952. He lived out his time lecturing at Bern and designing murals and stained-glass windows for various institutions in South America. He died in 1955 and is buried in Essonne. As the first painter to incorporate common products from consumer culture and geometric imagery from the machine age into his work, Fernand Leger is seen as a progenitor of Pop Art and has a museum dedicated to his art in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes in France. You can buy Fernand Léger’s artworks online.
 
Fernand Léger's Major Exhibitions
1910  -  Salon d’Automne, Paris
1911  -  Salon des Independants, Paris
1912  -  Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris
1925  -  Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs, Paris
1928  -  Galerie Fleichteim, Berlin
1935  -  Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
1935  -  Museum of Modern Art, New York
1937  -  Exposition Universelle, Paris
1949  -  XXV Biennale de Venise, Venice
1949  -  Retrospective, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
1956  -  Retrospective, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
1959  -  Galerie Ziegler, Zürich
1981  -  Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
1997  -  Museum of Modern Art, New York
1998  -  Museum of Modern Art, New York
1998  -  Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
2002  -  Galerie Ziegler, Zürich
2003  -  Fondation Joan Miro, Barcelona
2004  -  Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence
2004  -  Musée Cantini, Marseille
2004  -  Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon
2008  -  Fundación Unicaja, Malaga
2011  -  Oriol Galeria d'Art, Barcelona
2011  -  6th White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York
2011  -  Galerie Boisserée, Cologne
2011  -  Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2011  -  Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
2012  -  Museu da Electricidade, Lisbon, Portugal
2012  -  Galerie Pankow, Berlin, Germany
2012  -  Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
2012  -  Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg
2012  -  Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
2013  -  Flushing Town Hall, New York
2013  -  Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
2013  -  Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall
2013–2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art
 
Fernand Léger's Museums/Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Musée National Fernand Léger, Biot
Tate Gallery, London
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
 
Books/Publications
“Fernand Léger” by De Francia
“Fernand Léger: The Later Years” by Nicholas Serota and Joanna Skipwith
“Fernand Léger” by George Bauquier
 

 

NEWS

Unlike Frieze, Unlike TEFAF Maastricht

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 4, 2018

Christie's to Auction Works from Joan and Preston Robert Tisch’s Collection

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | April 30, 2018

‘Selected Works by 20th Century Masters’ at Helly Nahmad Gallery, New York

By Nicolette Loizou | April 27, 2018

Christie’s Adds $65 Mln Léger Work to Sale Starring Da Vinci, Warhol

By Mark Beech | October 17, 2017

Evolution of Non-Objective Painting at Leila Heller Gallery, New York

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | February 4, 2017

‘21 rue La Boétie’ at Musée Maillol, Paris

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | January 10, 2017

SLIDESHOWS

Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 16, 2018

Impressionist& Modern Art Evening Sale May 14,2018

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 15, 2018

Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 10, 2018

Impressionist&Modern Art Evening Sale May 14,2018

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | May 8, 2018

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | April 25, 2018

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | March 20, 2018