Léger’s call to expose the masses to Modern art through murals and public commissions found fertile ground in post-New Deal America. Organizations like the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Art Project had funded public ventures including murals, posters and graphic art across the country throughout the preceding decade. At the same time, the United Nations had been created in 1945, and by the early 1950s the fledgling body had asserted itself as a global organization chartered “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” (http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/un-charter-full-text/ (accessed on September 15, 2018)). The clear alignment of this mission and Léger’s own artistic aims further facilitated the artist’s commission for the project.
More intimate in scale and production than the final artwork, Léger’s pair of studies for the 1952 mural underscores the immediacy of the artist’s hand and showcases the process of developing his characteristic biomorphic forms into a large-scale work. The pair was originally acquired by Léger’s friend and frequent collaborator Wallace K. Harrison, who served as architectural advisor to Nelson Rockefeller as well as a lead architect for the United Nations headquarters. Harrison subsequently gifted these works to Rockefeller in the fall of 1952, and they remained in the family’s collection until Happy's passing.
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