Artista: Fernand Léger


Fernand leger

(February 4, 1881 - August 17, 1955). French cubist painter.

Born in Argentan, Normandy, into a peasant family, he was orphaned before he was two years old. He received instruction first in the school of his native town, and later in a religious institute in Tinchebray.
Between 1897 and 1899 he was a student of an architect in Caen; in 1900 he moved to Paris, where he worked as an architectural draftsman, while studying at the Julian Academy. After completing his military service (1902-1903), he entered the National Superior School of Decorative Arts when he did not get a place in the Fine Arts School, where, as a free student, he received lessons from León Gérome and Gabriel Ferrier. He regularly visited the Louvre Museum and, like other painters of his generation, owed the essence of his artistic training to Impressionism, which began in the galleries of Carrer de Laffitte.
His first works date back to 1905 and are clearly impressionist in influence.
In 1907, like other Parisian painters, he was deeply impressed by Cézanne's retrospective. In this same year he came into contact with the first cubism of Picasso and Braque.
From the first moments, Léger's cubism was oriented towards the development of the iconography of the machine.
Nudes in the Forest (1909-1910), possibly inspired by Picasso's 1908 painting of the same title, turns the subject into a room full of artifacts and robots, where it seems to depart from Cézanne's ironclad doctrine of painting from the cylinder and the cone; the sobriety of the colors, together with the frenzied activity of the robots, creates a symbolic atmosphere of a new and dehumanized world. In some respects it is an anticipation of Italian Futurism.
In 1910 he exhibited with Braque and Picasso at the Kahnweiler gallery where, in 1912, he also did his first solo. The following year he began to investigate machine shapes represented with primary colors, sometimes reaching an abstract structure that became more explicit with the titles, such as Contrast of Forms, from 1913, where he approached Delaunay's ideas on color contrasts, while maintaining the marked three-dimensionality of his early works. His fascination for geometric shapes and bright colors often leads him to the edge of abstract art, which he always ends up rejecting.
In Escalera, from 1914, he repaints the figure and its surroundings, but constructing it by means of the abstract forms previously used.
Between 1914 and 1917 he fulfilled his military service. The experience of war reveals the visual possibilities of machines as icons of modernity; Although his style was already predisposed in this direction, from then on he uses cylindrical and geometric shapes to devise a mechanized world, although, unlike the Futurists, he does not venerate the machine, but rather wants to reconcile its metallic and regular forms with organic forms, to build a humanistic vision.
The city, from 1919, is a key work in Léger's research on the relationship between reality and the painted surface. In this painting he controls the usual sculptural aspect of his painting through architectural rigidity, establishing the primacy of the two-dimensionality of the pictorial plane; He uses various advanced methods of Synthetic Cubism to achieve all kinds of illusionistic variations.
In works from this period that have the city as their theme, the human figure appears depersonalized and mechanized, adapted to the environment that surrounds it. The artist translates the energy of contemporary life into pictorial equivalents; mass, color and form confront each other in a multiplicity of relationships, creating independent images that produce simultaneous sensations; the planes are arranged in a balanced way and the compositions are organized by well-defined areas of pure, uniform and clearly delimited color. "The pictorial elements of Léger, clear, simple, varied, produce, like ideal machines, effects of extraordinary power" (Flint).
In the early twenties he collaborated with the writer Blaise Cendrars on some films, and designed sets and costumes for Rolf de Maré's Ballets suédois.
In 1923-1924 he worked on his first film without a plot, Ballet mécanique, in which Man Ray also appeared. In 1924 he opened a workshop with Ozenfant, and in 1925 he made his first murals in Le Corbusier's L'Esprit Nouveau Pavilion for the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Léger was open to the styles that developed. Some of his paintings from these years show certain influences from Kandinsky, De Stijl and Surrealism.
The theme that develops the most at this time is the figure, in compositions such as Tres mujeres (1921), where the figures are depersonalized, like mechanical volumes modeled on the geometric background, taking a step towards abstraction, at the same time as evokes an Art Deco atmosphere. In paintings like this he is clearly close to the purism of Ozenfant and Le Corbusier.
In 1931 he visited the United States for the first time, and in 1935 the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited his work.
Between 1940 and 1945 he lived in the United States, and returned to France at the end of the war. During his stay in the United States, he is a professor at Yale University.
In the last ten years of his life he made illustrations for books, paintings of monumental figures, wall paintings, stained glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures and theatrical scenographies. In 1955 he won the grand prize at the Sao Paulo Biennial.
He died on August 17 of that same year in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
Fernand leger