10
10

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF BERNARD & JOSEPHINE CHAUS

Fernand Léger
COMPOSITION AU CHEVAL BLANC
Estimate
3,500,0005,000,000
LOT SOLD. 4,170,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
10

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF BERNARD & JOSEPHINE CHAUS

Fernand Léger
COMPOSITION AU CHEVAL BLANC
Estimate
3,500,0005,000,000
LOT SOLD. 4,170,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York

Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955
COMPOSITION AU CHEVAL BLANC
Signed F. Léger and dated 45 (lower right); signed F. Léger, dated 45 and titled Composition au cheval blanc on the reverse
Oil on canvas
26 by 36 in.
66 by 91.3 cm
Painted in 1945.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Samuel Kootz Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)

Blue Moon Gallery, New York

Ernest S. Heller, New York (acquired from the above in 1946 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 1990, lot 63)

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

Princeton University Art Museum, European and American Art from Princeton Alumni Collections, 1972, no. 104, illustrated in the catalogue

Adelaide, The Art Gallery of South Australia; Sydney, The Art Gallery of New South Wales & Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Fernand Léger, 1976, no. 34, illustrated in color in the catalogue

London, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, Fernand Léger, The Later Years, 1987-88, no. 32, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Fernand Léger, Zeichnungen, Bilder, Zyklen, 1930-1955, 1988, no. 58, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1944-1948, Paris, 2000, no. 1206, illustrated in color p. 93

Catalogue Note

Composition au cheval blanc is one of the artist’s boldly-modeled, figurative compositions that captures the celebratory spirit in the months immediately following the end of World War II. In contrast to the rarefied aesthetic of postwar abstraction, these paintings were intended to appeal to the public with a more accessible, figurative style and subject matter.  

While living in the United States during the war, Léger focused on expressive depictions of figures in action and delighted in depicting the curvature of their bodies and the solidity of their features.  Much of the inspiration for these figures was derived from watching female entertainers, including dancers and circus performers. Katherine Kuh wrote about Léger’s attraction to the theme of female entertainers, noting that they offered him a subject out of his ordinary realm of existence: “Léger has always been attracted by popular places of entertainment, finding excellent raw material for his paintings in burlesque shows, dance halls and circuses.  In this connection he says, ‘I did not frequent popular dance halls and the people’s quarters out of snobbism.  I used to go there because I had a real liking for the fellows and the girls of the district… The fifteen-cent burlesque shows of Chicago still offer material. It is only for the artist to select…’” (K. Kuh, Léger, Urbana, 1953, p. 64).

Acrobats in particular were a beloved motif for Léger. Peter de Francia examines this more closely: “The subject of acrobats, circuses, of the grouping together of those themes of leisure which Léger had always envisaged as the tangible symbols of man's freedom, are to be found in the very beginning of his work and throughout his paintings: Les Acrobates dans le cirque of 1918, Les Deux acrobats of 1921, Les Danseuses acrobats of 1930, Les  Acrobates aux perroquets of 1936 and Les Saltimbanques of 1939-40(P. de Francia, Fernand Léger, New Haven & London, 1983, p. 248).

Composition au cheval blanc exemplifies Léger's firm commitment to a populist aesthetic and his fascination with the expressive potential of color – the two defining stylistic factors of his work during the last decade of his life. Here he has rendered the pictorial elements with a sharp clarity that is characteristic of his mature work, and he articulates the contours with bold, black lines. The colors, in keeping with his works of this period, are fully saturated and dynamic. Portrayed against a chromatically-limited background, the figures achieve a monumental presence.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York