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Oil on canvas board
43.3 x 52.9 cm (17 x 20 ¾ inches)
Signed and dated lower right, 44 F. LEGER
Titled, LES PAPILLONS DANS la roue and signed, F. LEGER. 44 on the reverse


Provenance
Valentine Gallery, New York, 1945
Perls Galleries, New York
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Fernand Léger
Les Papillons dans la Roue, FERNAND LÉGER - Modern, Cubism, Abstract, Insects

1944

About

Oil on canvas board 43.3 x 52.9 cm (17 x 20 ¾ inches) Signed and dated lower right, 44 F. LEGER Titled, LES PAPILLONS DANS la roue and signed, F. LEGER. 44 on the reverse Provenance Valentine Gallery, New York, 1945 Perls Galleries, New York Private collection, Miami Sotheby’s New York, 12th May 1993 Private collection, Paris, acquired from the above Exhibited New York, Valentine Gallery, New Paintings, 1945, no. 15 Literature Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger: Catalogue Raisonné de l’Œuvre Peint 1944-1948, Paris, 2000, no. 1159, p.16, p. 17 (illustrated in colour) Sigfried Giedion, Léger in America, Magazine of Art, The American Federation of Arts, Washington, vol. 38, December 1945, p. 296 (illustrated; titled Two Butterflies and a Wheel) This work is part of the Rouses Point series. * This price excludes 5% import duty applicable if the work remains in the EU. Fernand Léger was a French painter, sculptor and filmmaker. He was born in Argentan, Normandy, 1881, the son of a cattle farmer. Legér moved to Paris in 1900, where he attended the Académie Julian. At the same time, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts as a non-enrolled student under the supervision of Gerôme and other celebrated artists. Legér was twenty-five before he began to work seriously as a professional painter. Between 1909 and 1914, Léger moved in the avant-garde circles of his new neighbourhood of Montparnasse. Here, he became acquainted with artists such as the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and the painter Robert Delaunay. At this time, his paintings become populated with tubular and geometric shapes composed in black, white and the primary colours, representing his own personal engagement with Cubism. Indeed, when he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in 1910, and later in the Salon des Indépendants in 1911, his work was placed together with those by painters who would be later recognised as 'Cubists'. Léger's experience of the First World War, however, had a significant impact on his work. He spent two years at the front at Argonne, where he sketched airplanes and his fellow soldiers in the trenches, until he was almost killed in a German gas attack at Verdun in September 1916. The period of convalescence following this incident marked a new phase in the artist's painting, where his tubular forms became incorporated into machine-like images. This ‘mechanical’ style continued to characterise the artist's oeuvre throughout the 1920s and onwards, and it can certainly be interpreted as Léger's reaction to the conflict. Léger was a great enthusiast of the cinema, as an artistic expression of the modern; indeed, for a long time he considered renouncing painting for filmmaking. In 1923, he designed the set for the laboratory scene of Marcel L'Herbier's film, L'Inhumaine, and in 1924 he produced and directed the Futurism-inspired film, Ballet Méchanique, in collaboration with Dudley Murphy, George Antheil and Man Ray. Léger made his first trip to the United States in 1931, and within four years of this initial visit, the Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York City showcased the artist in an exhibition of his work. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Leger decided to return to the United States to live. During this period he taught at Yale University, before returning to France in 1945. In the twilight of his life, Léger lectured at Bern and designed mosaics and stained-glass windows for the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. He died at his home in 1955.

Details

  • Dimensions
    H 17.05 in. x W 20.83 in.H 43.3 cm x W 52.9 cm
  • Gallery Location
    London, GB
  • Reference Number
    LU26122550723
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About Fernand Léger (Artist)

A painter as well as a filmmaker, illustrator, stage-set designer, ceramicist and printmaker, Fernand Léger was one of the most prolific artists of the first half of the 20th century. His early mature work as a Cubist was marked by the use of bold colors and contrasts and a visual vocabulary inspired by industrial technology. In his later career, Léger turned to idiomatic, almost naïve depictions of human figures, in a belief that his work should be accessible to ordinary people and relevant to their lives.

     Born in Normandy, the son of a cattle trader, Léger worked as an architectural draftsman in Paris while studying art. By 1908 he was a member of an artistic circle that included Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, and the poet Guillaume Appolinaire, and through them he became connected to the Cubists. As opposed to the flat planes and neutral hues seen in the paintings of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Léger’s Cubist abstractions were devised with vivid colors and forms that had dimensionality. Soon after his army service in World War I — he was gassed at the Battle of Verdun — Léger entered his “mechanical” period. Convinced that technology would improve the human condition, he painted compositions of tubular shapes and cylinders that are reminiscent of machine parts. In other work, Léger sought to capture the bustle and brio of modern life with references to railroad stations, factories, street signs and billboards.

     Léger had also emerged from the trenches with a deep concern to make his art engage the sorts of men and women he had met during the war. He sought to bring his work to a wider audience through film, theater sets and book illustrations. In the 1920s, influenced by Purism — a variant on Cubism that promoted a simpler and more direct approach to forms and compositions — Léger produced a series of paintings depicting everyday objects: a soda siphon, an accordion, a guitar and vase. The human figure returned to his work. By 1930, pure abstraction disappeared almost completely from Léger’s art in favor of simple studies of people. Their boldly outlined forms, placed against a bright background, can be regarded as an assemblage of parts — yet in these representations of dancers, acrobats and folks on bicycles, Léger seems to be articulating a kind of kinship and affection. You will see from the works on offer why Fernand Léger is often regarded as the warmest and most humane of the great modern artists.

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