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HomeUncategorizedFrench Abstract & Cubist Artist and Filmmaker - Fernand Leger

French ‘Cubist’ painter, sculptor, and filmmaker, Joseph Fernand Henri Léger or Fernand Leger was born on February 4, 1881, in Argentan, Normandy, in a family of shepherds. He was an architecture apprentice during 1897-1899 and Migrated to Paris in 1900, where he earned his livelihood as an architectural drafter. He served a year in the military, at Versailles, in 1902-1903. After being rejected by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Fernand Leger joined the School of Decorative Arts, Paris. Alongside, he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as a non-enrolled student and also joined the Académie Julian.

By the time Fernand Leger turned twenty-five, painting had become a fundamental component of his existence. The artist was immensely influenced by ‘Impressionism’ and it dominantly reflected in his famous painting titled, “Le Jardin de ma mere (1905),” meaning My Mother’s Garden. By 1909, Fernand Leger ranked amongst the top three ‘Cubist’ painters. He became a member of the ‘Puteaux’ group, also famous as the ‘Section d’Or’ (The Golden Section), in 1911, which had legendary artists, such as Delaunay, Jacques Villon, Henri Le Fauconnier, Albert Gleizes, Francis Picabia, and Marie Laurencin as its members. Fernand Leger was the first ‘Cubist’ to initiate ‘Non-figurative Abstraction’ and a pioneer in the use of ‘Curvilinear’ forms. These attributes are demonstrated in Fernand’s painting titled, “Nudes in the Forest (1909-10).”

The artist, during this time, was swayed towards ‘Italian Futurism’ and his successive paintings became increasingly ‘Abstract.’ After spending a couple of years at the warfront during the World War I, Leger worked on military themes, distinctly displaying artillery pieces, airplanes, and soldiers in trenches, as manifested in his artworks, “Soldier with a Pipe (1916)” and “The Card Players (1917).” In the year 1918, he painted the first collection of his “Disk” series of paintings, with “La Sortie des Ballet Russes” (Exit the Ballets Russes) scoring as one of the finest pieces in the series. In December 1919, he married Jeanne-Augustine Lohy.

Fernand Leger was drawn towards cinema and he designed the set for the ‘laboratory scene’ in the film, Marcel L’Herbier’s L’Inhumaine (The Inhuman One) (1924). In partnership with Dudley Murphy, George Antheil, and Man Ray, he produced and directed the iconic motion picture, “Ballet Mécanique (Mechanical Ballet).” In 1924, Fernand Leger, along with Amédée Ozenfant, launched a free school, where he taught along with Alexandra and Marie Laurencin. A year later, he created a series of ‘murals’ for ‘Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau’ at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, which are recognized as one his most ‘Abstract’ paintings.

Leger’s paintings are divided into two categories: ‘figurative’ and ‘non-figurative.’ His figurative paintings carried the essence of his ‘machine-world’ philosophy as is expressed in his paintings, “In the city (1919),” “Le Grand déjeuner (1921),” and “Woman with Flowers in Her Hand (1922).” The non-figurative paintings of Fernand Leger embody intimacy. They are based on still life motifs, as exemplified in his famous work, “The Compass (1926).” 1930s saw Leger lean more towards the figural style, as signified in his renowned works, “Two Sisters (1935)” and the various versions of “Adam and Eve.”

In 1935, his work was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in the New York City. Fernand Leger moved to the United States during the World War II and travelled extensively. The picturesque landscapes that he traveled through became his inspiration and he drifted away from the ‘Cubist’ style towards more traditional figures and landscape metaphors. This shift is effortlessly noticeable in his works titled “The Tree in the Ladder (1944),” “Three Musicians (1944),” “Romantic Landscape (1946),” and “Homage to David (1949).” Fernand Léger kept re-emphasizing the fact that his paintings were not the true recast of real-life things in the visible world, rather their equivalents in paint.

He moved back to France in the year 1945 and settled at Gif-sur-Yvette near Paris. After the death of his first wife, he married Nadia Khodossevitch in the year 1952. Fernand Leger continued painting until he passed away on August 17, 1955.


Source by Annette Labedzki

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