114
114
Fernand Léger
STUDY FOR THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL MURAL: A PAIR
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 225,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
114
Fernand Léger
STUDY FOR THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL MURAL: A PAIR
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 225,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

A Modernist Vision: Property from the Collection of Nelson & Happy Rockefeller

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New York

Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955
STUDY FOR THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL MURAL: A PAIR
Each signed with the initials F.L. (lower right); inscribed Orig accepted sketch U.N. W.K.H. (lower center)
Gouache on paper
(I) 7 7/8 by 7 7/8 in.; 20 by 20 cm
(II) 7 3/4 by 7 3/4 in.; 19.7 by 19.7 cm
Executed in 1952.
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Provenance

Wallace K. Harrison, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
A gift from the above in fall 1952

Catalogue Note

Flanking the east and west walls of the General Assembly’s plenary hall, Léger’s murals for the United Nations are a culmination of the artist’s personal philosophy on the social role of art in society (see fig. 1). A member of the Communist Party from 1945 onward, Léger possessed a long-held desire to bring Modern art to a broader public audience through murals and civic commissions. A swift return to post-World War II France had convinced the artist more than ever that the purpose of art was to communicate with the masses. He stated that “It is inexcusable that after five years of war, the hardest war of all, men who have been heroic actors in this sad epic should not have their rightful turn in the sanctuaries. The coming peace must open wide for them the doors that have remained closed until now. The ascent of the masses to beautiful works of art, to Beauty, will be the sign of the new time” (quoted in Fernand Léger (exhibition catalogue), Helly Nahmad Gallery, New York, 2005, p. 26).     

Léger’s call to expose the masses to Modern art through murals and public commissions found fertile ground in post-New Deal America. Organizations like the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Art Project had funded public ventures including murals, posters and graphic art across the country throughout the preceding decade. At the same time, the United Nations had been created in 1945, and by the early 1950s the fledgling body had asserted itself as a global organization chartered “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” (http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/ (accessed on September 15, 2018)). The clear alignment of this mission and Léger’s own artistic aims further facilitated the artist’s commission for the project.

More intimate in scale and production than the final artwork, Léger’s pair of studies for the 1952 mural underscores the immediacy of the artist’s hand and showcases the process of developing his characteristic biomorphic forms into a large-scale work. The pair was originally acquired by Léger’s friend and frequent collaborator Wallace K. Harrison, who served as architectural advisor to Nelson Rockefeller as well as a lead architect for the United Nations headquarters. Harrison subsequently gifted these works to Rockefeller in the fall of 1952, and they remained in the family’s collection until Happy's passing.

A Modernist Vision: Property from the Collection of Nelson & Happy Rockefeller

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New York