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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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After Fernand Léger
1881-1955
LA LECTURE
bears the signature F. Léger (lower right)
mosaic
230.3 by 294.6cm., 90 5/8 by 116in.
Commissioned from Heidi Melano and executed before 1990; this work is unique.
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Provenance

Georges Bauquier, France
Simone Bauquier, France (by descent from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Literature

Georges Bauquier (ed.), Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint 1920-1924, Paris, 1992, illustration of the oil painting p. 291
Yvonne Brunhammer, Fernand Léger, The Monumental Art, Paris & Milan, 2005, illustration of another mosaic variant p. 172

Catalogue Note

La Lecture was executed by the mosaicist Heidi Melano after Fernand Léger’s 1924 painting of the same title in which two monumental figures—one dressed and the other nude, each clutching an over-sized red book—regard the viewer without expression. Léger's composition is structured around a series of contrasts and repetitions, with echoes and tensions between horizontal and vertical masses, rounded and angular forms, and hot and cold colours which Melano has recreated with extraordinary flair.

The present mosaic was originally in the collection of Georges Bauquier. An artist himself, Bauquier entered Léger’s atelier as a student in 1936 and over the years became the artist’s friend and closest collaborator. He dedicated his life to collecting and promoting Léger’s works and produced the seminal Catalogue raisonné of the artist’s oils. After Léger’s death, Bauquier and the artist’s widow Nadia Léger devoted themselves to the construction of the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot, in southeastern France. The exterior of the museum is itself decorated with monumental mosaics executed by Heidi Melano after designs that Léger had originally intended for the Olympic Stadium in Hanover.

Léger’s interest in architectural works was sparked by his involvement in the 1937 mural Les Transports des forces at the Palais de la Découverte for the Exposition Internationale in Paris as well as a mural for the 1939 World Fair in New York. It was  Roland Brice, however, who introduced the artist to the potential that ceramics, and eventually mosaics, presented for decoration on a monumental scale. Many of the commissions that Léger received to adorn the façades of churches and monuments in the 1940s and 1950s were ultimately realised in mosaic under the artist’s direction and at the time of his death in 1955, there were several other commissions in production. In the spirit of Léger’s collaborative large-scale works, Bauquier continued to commission artisans to realise a select group of Léger’s paintings in a variety of media over the following decades, among which the present work is one particularly striking example.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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