- Fernand Léger
- Élément mécanique
- Signed F. LEGER and dated 25 (lower right); signed F. LEGER, titled and dated 25 on the reverse
- Oil on canvas
- 25 1/2 by 17 3/4 in.
- 65 by 45 cm
Private Collection (acquired from the above in the 1930s)
Acquired by descent from the above
Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; Madrid, Museo nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia & New York, Museum of Modern Art, Fernand Léger, 1997-98, no. 44, (title in singular Élément mécanique)
“Fernand Léger au Kunsthaus de Zurich,” Cahiers d’Art, Paris, 1933, illustrated
Jean Cassou & Jean Leymarie, Léger, dessins et gouaches, Paris, 1972, illustrated T46
Léger et l’Esprit moderne 1918-1931 (exhibition catalogue), Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1982, fig. 13, illustrated p. 96
Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné, 1925-1928, Paris, 1993, no. 401, illustrated in color p. 14 (titled in the plural Éléments mécaniques)
This boldly-colored rendering of “mechanical element” alludes to the importance of architecture and structural design in Léger's painting in the years after the war and his association with the Purist artists Amédée Ozenfant and Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier). Le Corbusier, who made more of a name for himself as an architect than as a painter, was a leading proponent of mathematical precision and the solidity of form in art. Léger was initially drawn to the general principles of Purism but ultimately found them too rigid for his painting. But in this picture, Léger focuses on the clarity and solid geometry of his objects, adhering to the primary concerns of the Purist objective.
Writing about Léger's oil paintings from 1924-27, Christopher Green commented: "They are the product of a pictorial idea of the figure or object whose brutal 'plastic' simplicity is personal, but which is the product of an approach to the realities of modern life indelibly tinged with the idealism of L'Esprit Nouveau, an approach which remains stubbornly 'realist' but whose highly selective vision of the world picks out the most useful, the most geometrically 'pure', the most precisely finished of its manufactures, and subjects even the nude or the figurative fragment to the mass-production yet 'classical' values thus extracted. And in their grand, harmonious architecture with its clear articulation of spatial incident, these paintings are at the same time the product of an international avant-garde [...] Their assurance and the conviction they carry is founded on more than fifteen years of faith in what was then most modern about the industrial world, of openness to what was most new in the avant-garde and of experiment in book illustration, theatre and film as well as in painting" (C. Green, Léger and the Avant Garde, p. 310).