- Fernand Léger
- COMPOSITION SUR FOND BLEU
- signed F. Léger and dated 37 (lower right); signed F Léger, titled and dated 1937 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
Galerie Benador, Geneva
Galerie Motte, Paris
Sale: Christie's, London, 19th June 1964, lot 65
Sale: Palais d'Orsay, Paris, 12th December 1979, lot 99
Alexander Iolas, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1984
During the late 1930s, Léger's work focused largely on international interior design projects, and his paintings from this period often incorporated the crisp imagery that he devised for these purposes. In 1937, he designed stage sets for the Paris opera house, as well as decorations for the Trade Union Congress at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in Paris and the Transport des Forces for the Palais de Découverte in Paris. Léger continued to work in this capacity in 1938, when he was commissioned to decorate the apartment of Nelson Rockefeller in New York. These various design projects brought forth a particular decorative flair in many of the artist's formal compositions on canvas, including the present work. Focusing on the pictorial elements of colour and form, Léger's paintings of this period reached an increasingly, although never entirely, abstract manner. In the present work, he isolated a single object, a biomorphic shape that resembles an underwater plant, which appears to be floating against a flat, monochrome blue background.
Léger himself explained the abstract element of his painting: 'The realistic value of a work of art is completely independent of any imitative character. This truth should be accepted as dogma and made axiomatic in the general understanding of painting [...] Pictorial realism is the simultaneous ordering of three great plastic components: Lines, Forms and Colours [...] the modern concept is not a reaction against the impressionists' idea but is, on the contrary, a further development and expansion of their aims through the use of methods they neglected [...]. Present-day life, more fragmented and faster moving than life in previous eras, has had to accept as its means of expression an art of dynamic divisionism; and the sentimental side, the expression of the subject (in the sense of popular expression), has reached a critical moment [...]. The modern conception is not simply a passing abstraction, valid only for a few initiates; it is the total expression of a new generation whose needs it shares and whose aspirations it answers' (quoted in Dorothy Kosinski (ed.), Fernand Léger, 1911-1924, The Rhythm of Modern Life, Munich & New York, 1994, pp. 66-67).