Fernand Leger

Artist Fernand Leger was born on February 4, 1881, in Argentan, France. After apprenticing with an architect in Caen from 1897 to 1899, Fernand Leger moved to Paris in 1900 and supported himself as an architectural draftsman. Fernand Leger applied to the Ecole des Beaux–Arts but was rejected. Nevertheless Leger attended classes there beginning in 1903 as a non–enrolled student while also studying at the Academie Julian. Fernand Leger began to work seriously as an artist at the age of 25.

Leger´s earliest known artworks, which date from 1905, were primarily influenced by Impressionism. The experience of seeing the Paul Cezanne´s retrospective at the 1907 Salon d´Automne had a positive influence on Leger's artwork, fostering a new emphasis on geometry. In 1909 Fernand Leger moved to the artist collective at Montparnasse where Leger met avant–garde poets, musicians, and writers including: Marc Chagall, Robert & Sonia Delaunay, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miro. Leger´s contact with the early Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had a significant impact on the development of Leger´s style. Leger´s critics would label Leger´s style of Cubism as ‘Tubism´ due to its emphasis on cylindrical forms.

From 1911 to 1914 Leger´s work became increasingly abstract, and Fernad Leger adopted a palette limited to the primary colors and black & white. In 1912 Fernand Leger was given his first solo show at Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris.

Fernand Leger served in the French Army from 1914 to 1917 during World War I. The war years had a significant impact on Leger. Fernand Leger began painting in a clean and precise ‘mechanical´ style, reflecting the ambivalence of Leger´s experience of war. Often Fernand Leger used cityscapes and machine forms as a subject matter during this "mechanical period."

In 1920 Fernand Leger befriended artist Le Corbusier; Fernand Leger and Le Corbusier would remain lifelong friends. Leger´s artwork during the 1920´s combined the classical with the modern, influenced greatly by Le Corbusier and the aesthetic of Purism. Purism was a style intended as a rational, mathematically based corrective to the impulsiveness of Cubism.

Fernand Leger made three visits to the United States in the 1930s. New York was impressive to Leger: "I'm still constantly astonished by the vertical urge of these people drunk with architecture. From my room on the thirtieth floor, the night is the most astonishing spectacle in the world, nothing can be compared to it....This city is infernal. A mixture of elegance and toughness."

In 1935 the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago held exhibitions of Leger´s work. Fernand Leger lived in the United States from 1940 to 1945, where Leger taught at Yale University and Mills College.

In the decade before Leger´s death, Leger´s wide–ranging projects included book illustrations, lithographs, etchings, monumental figure paintings and murals, stained–glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs. In 1955 Fernand Leger won the Grand Prize at the Sao Paulo Bienal. Fernand Leger died on August 17 of that year at the Leger home in Gif–sur–Yvette, France. The Musee Fernand Leger was inaugurated in 1960 in Biot, France.

Leger's influence can be found in the lithographs, etching, and original prints of: Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Milton Resnick, Louise Bourgeois, Richard Lindner, Arshile Gorky, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Brice Marsden, Frank Stella, Tom Wesselmann and James Rosenquist, among others.

"The beautiful is everywhere; perhaps more in the arrangement of your saucepans on the white walls of your kitchen than in your eighteenth–century living room or in the official museums." – Fernand Leger

Select Museum Collections:
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Detroit Institute of Arts, Miami
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Musée National Fernand Leger, France
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
Tate Gallery, London

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