Lot 141
  • 141

Fernand Léger

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
485,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Fernand Léger
  • Composition sur fond rouge
  • signed F. Léger and dated 38 (lower right), signed F. Léger and dated 30 (upper left); signed F. Léger, titled and dated 38 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


Nadia Khodasevich-Léger (the artist's wife)
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the above by 1965)
Konstsalong Samlaren, Stockholm (acquired in 1965)
Sven Bergman, Jönköping (acquired from the above in 1967)
Acquired from the above by the late owner in 1972


Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, Léger, 1965
Stockholm, Konstsalongen Samlaren, L'Éspace pictural de Léger et l'éspace cubiste, 1967, no. 2, illustrated in the catalogue
Lund, Skånska Konstmuseum, Fernand Léger, Den Vandrande blomman, 1967, no. 2, illustrated in the catalogue
Bordeaux, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, La Peinture française en Suède: Hommage à Roslin et à Wertmüller, 1967, no. 79, illustrated in the catalogue


Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné 1929-1931, Paris, 1995, no. 734, illustrated in colour p. 215

Catalogue Note

This dynamic painting is a striking example of Fernand Léger’s work from the 1930s that reflects his interest in pure colour, composition, and mechanical objects. In this period, Léger’s focus shifted away from industrialism toward more natural and biomorphic forms as evident in the present work. Reminiscent of a human body, the dark organic form in the background strongly contrasts with the sharp, geometrical objects that are suspended throughout the composition. Léger explained: ‘We must master the subject in painting. The painting must emerge, not the subject… Painting must not be neglected; painting first, then the subject’ (quoted in Carolyn Lanchner, Kristen Erickson, Matthew Affron, Jodi Hauptman & Beth Handler, Fernand Léger, New York, 1998, p. 225). Devoid of a clear narrative, the present work demonstrates this very idea: the work is aesthetically stimulating and inspires one to reflect on the bold colours, the varying plasticity of the objects, and the compelling arrangement. 

Within the present work the interplay and placement of the forms creates a strong sense of movement, emphasised by the bright plane of red in the background that adds vibrancy to the work. As Léger describes, ‘I placed objects in space so that I could not place an object on a table without diminishing its value. I selected an object, chucked the table away. I put the object in space, minus the perspective. Minus anything to hold it there. I then had to liberate colour to an even greater extent’ (quoted in Dora Vallier, ‘La Vie Fait l’œuvre de Fernand Léger' in Cahiers d’Arts, no. 2, Paris, 1954, pp. 152 – 53). In the present work, the forms appear to be floating, orbiting around each other free from any natural setting. Lines, planes and volumes coexist harmoniously in Composition sur fond rouge and are presented to the viewer from multiple perspectives, creating a lively and engaging composition.