Lot 9
  • 9

Fernand Léger

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
1,690,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Fernand Léger
  • Etude pour "La grande parade"
  • Signed F.L., titled and dated 52 (lower right); inscribed Liberman Vogue Magazine below the artist's border (lower right)
  • Gouache, brush and ink and pencil on paper


Alexander Liberman, New York (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection (acquired from the above and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 19, 2007, lot 33)

Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


Werner Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, London, 1991, p. 126

Catalogue Note

Etude pour 'La Grande parade' is one of the final preparatory works for Léger's monumental masterpiece of 1954, La Grande parade, now in the collection of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. It manifests Léger's method of tireless experimentation with the same themes in a wide spectrum of adaptations and interchanges. Léger recognized this process as salient to his output: "The more I watch myself, the more I see that I am a classic. I do long preparatory work. First I do a quantity of drawings, then I do gouaches, and lastly I pass on to the canvas; but when I tackle that I have 80 percent assurance. I know where I'm going" (quoted in Werner Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, London, 1991, p. 126).

Léger had been developing ideas for La Grande Parade since as early as 1940, when he executed a highly finished drawing of acrobats and musicians, a theme to which he returned in the 1950s. In the preparatory series of La Grande Parade gouaches the figures are variously juxtaposed besides climbing acrobats, horses, and wheels. For Léger, performance and the circus were a passion: "If I have drawn circus people, acrobats, clowns, jugglers, it is because I have taken an interest in their work for thirty years... A year elapsed between the first state of The Great Parade and its final state. This interval corresponds to a lengthy process of elaboration and synthesis. The slightest transformation was long pondered and worked up with the help of new drawings. A local alteration often involved changing the entire composition because it affected the balance of the whole" (ibid., p. 126).

The first owner of the present work was Alexander Liberman, who was born in Russia and educated in London and Paris. In the 1930s Liberman designed stage sets, worked briefly with a landscape architect, and began his publishing career at Vu, the first magazine illustrated with photographs. Consequently, he became friends with Cartier Bresson, Brassai and Kertesz. In 1936 Liberman left the magazine and devoted himself to painting, writing and filmmaking. During the Second World War Liberman and his family fled France and settled in New York in 1941, and started working for Vogue magazine, where he remained until 1994. During his long tenure at Vogue, Liberman commissioned numerous artists, including Cornell, Dalí, Chagall, Duchamp, Braque, Rauschenberg and Johns, to work on projects for the magazine, becoming a well-known figure in artistic circles on both sides of the Atlantic.  From the inscription at the bottom of the sheet, now covered by the framing mat, there appears the inscription indicating that the artist may have given this picture to Liberman in connection with his position at Vogue.