Executed circa 1953.
Aimé Maeght, Paris
Dr. & Mrs. Pom, United Kingdom
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Léger’s L’Acrobat et le cheval is a masterful achievement of a theme Léger sought to conquer throughout the final phases of his lifetime. Through his employment of bold flat colours, forceful black contour line and definitive subject matter, L’Acrobat et le cheval is one of a number of compositions that is a variation of Léger’s monumental work of 1953, La Grande Parade, which hangs in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (fig. 1).
Like La Grande Parade, the present work wholly embraces and seeks to convey the playfulness and absurdity that exists in the jugglers, acrobats, circus performers on horses and their intangible ubiquitous energy. The dynamic expression of Léger's palette, featuring solid colours with little variation in form, has matured into a very distinctive one.
In the present work, the horse and acrobat retain a monumental classicism which refers to Léger’s study of early Gothic and Romanesque sculpture. The composition also recalls stained-glass windows with the presence of the heavy black line fragmenting the various colours.
As Léger himself remarked, 'It is quite useless to make an attempt to force people to be aware of reality by simply showing them a replica of the reality surrounding them since… they are aware of it already. And it is no use claiming that in doing so one is revealing something that they have either failed to notice or remained insensitive to. Painters are not conjurors. But what is important is to make them aware, through the unexpected things they discover in a painting, which may at first appear new and strange, of the newness of a reality they would like to know – something that could add enormously to their lives' (quoted in Peter de Francia, Fernand Léger, New Haven, 1983, p. 210).
Fig. 1, Fernand Léger, La Grande Parade, oil on canvas, 1953, Soloman R Guggenheim Museum, New York
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