Lot 5
  • 5

Fernand Léger

600,000 - 900,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Fernand Léger
  • Les Constructeurs
  • Signed with the initials FL (lower right)
  • Gouache and ink on paper
  • 20 by 26 in.
  • 50.8 by 63.5 cm


Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Saidenberg Gallery, New York

Dr. Theodore Leshner, New York (acquired from the above in 1958)

Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

The present work is a superb study from Léger's celebrated Constructeurs series, representing one of the pivotal subjects of his late oeuvre.  Léger himself gave an account of how he arrived at this subject:  "I got the idea travelling to Chevreuse by road every evening.  A factory was under construction in the field there. I saw the men swaying high up on the steel girders!  I saw man like a flea; he seemed still lost in his inventions with the sky above him.  I wanted to render that; the contrast between man and his inventions, between the worker and all that metal architecture, that hardness, that ironwork, those bolts and rivets.  The clouds, too, I arranged technically, but they form a contrast with the girders" (quoted in W. Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, New York, 1976, p. 158).

The artist first embarked on the theme of construction workers in 1940, and in the following decade produced a number of paintings, drawings and sketches on this subject, culminating in the monumental oil Les Constructeurs of 1950, now in the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot.  Léger continuously reworked this subject in 1950 and 1951, producing several varients in oil and on paper.  Having executed the Biot painting in 1950, he returned to this theme in the following year, making drawings and studies of the workers' heads, hands and legs.  Never before in his career had Léger expressed such interest in the human body, and his series of construction workers, including numerous studies of body parts, indicates a direction towards the "humanization" of his style.

Writing about this series of works, Werner Schmalenbach commented:  "When Léger took up the theme of construction workers in 1940, it looked as if he was reverting to the technical, mechanical world of his youth.  But his attitude to that world was very different from what it had been thirty years before.  Then he celebrated the glory of modern technology, which he placed above humanity; now, in the Constructors series, man asserts his freedom even in the face of technological constraint.  The technoid, robot-like puppets of 1920 have become natural human beings, and the artist has gone so far as to bestow on them some individual features.  Man no longer obeys the laws of technology but only the less strict, more relaxed law of the picture" (ibid., p. 158).