Lot 13
  • 13

Fernand Léger

Estimate
3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
Sold
6,325,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Fernand Léger
  • Deux figures et une fleur
  • Signed F. Léger and dated 49 (lower right); signed F. Léger, dated 49 and titled on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas

Provenance

Louis Carré, Paris (sold: Palais d'Orsay, Paris, April 27, 1978, lot 56)

Galerie Moos, Toronto

Equinox Gallery, Vancouver (acquired from the above on November 28, 1980)

Private Collection, Toronto

Daniel Varenne, Switzerland

Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich

Private Collection, New York (1987)

Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris

Acquired from the above in 2004

Exhibited

New York, Louis Carré Gallery, Léger, 70th Anniversary Exhibition, 1951, no. 16, illustrated in the catalogue

Venice, XXVI Biennale di Venezia (French Pavilion), 1952, no. 275

Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Fernand Léger, 1955, no. 68, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Francois Martineau, "Interview de Fernand Léger," Magnum, Frankfurt, 1954, no. 3, illustrated

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue Raisonné, 1949-1951,  no. 1317, illustrated in color p. 15

 

Catalogue Note

Boldly modeled with an expressive palette, Deux figures et une fleur is one of the artist's definitive compositions of the late 1940s. In contrast to the rarefied aesthetic of postwar abstraction, these paintings were intended to appeal to the public with a more accessible, figurative style and subject matter. During his stay in the United States, during the Second World War, Léger was drawn to bold depictions of women, delighting in the curvature of their bodies and the solidity of their features.  Much of the inspiration for these figures was derived from watching female entertainers, including dancers and acrobats, perform feats of great physical stamina or agility.  Katherine Kuh has written of Léger's attraction to the theme of female entertainers, noting that they offered him a subject out of his ordinary realm of existence: "Léger has always been attracted by popular places of entertainment, finding excellent raw material for his paintings in burlesque shows, dance halls and circuses. In this connection he says, 'I did not frequent popular dance halls and the people's quarters out of snobbism. I used to go there because I had a real liking for the fellows and the girls of the district.... The fifteen-cent burlesque shows of Chicago still offer material. It is only for the artist to select...."'(K. Kuh, Léger, Urbana, 1953, p. 64). 

“Truth in painting is color at its fullest: red, black, yellow.”'  Léger believed, and his philosophy informed the color palette for the present work.  The figures themselves are rendered in a pure white, made all the more  powerful by its contrast with the richly saturated background of red and the unmodulated yellow and green of their clothing.  While Léger often positioned his figures in the mid to near distance within the space of the picture, he brought the women and the flower in this composition so close to the picture plane that their dimensions become monumental.  The canvas itself cannot even contain the figures who are cropped by its edges.

Léger’s figures are mostly characterized by their volumetric treatment, the frequent lack of shading and their nearly expressionless faces.   While the artist was sensitive to the life of the common man/woman, particularly the workers of the day, he also treated the bodies like a lexicon of forms integrated into the design of the composition. “As long as the human body is considered a sentimental or expressive clue in painting, no evolution in pictures of people will be possible.  Its development has been hindered by the domination of the subject over the ages… If the person, the face, and the human body become objects, the modern artist will be offered considerable freedom”  (Fernand Leger, "The Human Body Considered as an Object,” 1945, reprinted in Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, Art in Theory, 1900-1990, Cornwall, 1993, p. 640).

Deux figures et une fleur exemplifies Léger's firm commitment to neoclassical figuration and his fascination with the expressive  potential of color, the two defining stylistic factors of his work during the last decade of his life. Here he has rendered the pictorial elements with a sharp clarity that is characteristic of his mature work. The colors, in keeping with his works of this period, are fully saturated, voluminous and substantial.

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