Lot 49
  • 49

FERNAND LÉGER | Nature morte aux fruits sur fond bleu

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Fernand Léger
  • Nature morte aux fruits sur fond bleu
  • Signed F. Leger and dated 39 (lower right); signed F. Leger, dated 1939 and titled (on the reverse) 
  • Oil on canvas
  • 51 by 35 in.
  • 130 by 88.9 cm
  • Painted in 1939.


Estate of the artist, France

Nadia Léger, Paris (by descent from the above and until at least 1957)

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired by 1964)

Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above on January 18, 1969)

Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above on May 7, 1998 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 6, 2004, lot 150)

Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale)

Galerie Fabien Boulakia, Paris

Acquired from the above on December 6, 2005


Paris, Galerie Mai, Fernand Léger, oeuvres récentes, 1940

Stockholm, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, Retrospektiv Utställning Fernand Léger, 1948, no. 33

Copenhagen, Kunstforeningen, Fernand Léger, 1951, no. 20

Berlin, Hochschue für Bildende Künst, Berliner Festwochen, Werke französischer Meister der Gegenwart, 1952, no. 28

Paris, Musée des arts decoratifs & Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, 1956-57, no. 98 

Munich, Haus der Kunst, Fernand Léger 1881-1955, 1957, no. 83

Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, Fernand Léger 1881-1955, 1957, no. 27

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Fernand Léger, 1957, no. 97 

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Fernand Léger, 1881-1855, 1964, no. 65

Marseille, Musée CantiniFernand Léger, 1966, no. 61

Tel-Aviv, Museum of Tel-Aviv, Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, 1967, no. 21

Basel, Galerie Beyeler & London, The Waddington Galleries, Fernand Léger, 1969-70, no. 38

Milan, Galleria Il Milione, Fernand Léger: Olii, guazzi, lavis, disegni, 1969-70, no. 10

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, The Silent Dialogue: The Still Life in the 20th Century, 1978-79, no. 59

Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, 1980-81, no. 93, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Biôt, Musée national Fernand Léger & Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Hommage à Fernand Léger 1881-1955. Exposition du centenaire, 1981-1982, nos. 76 & 33

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Fernand Léger, 1881-1981, 1981-82, no. 33

Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Fernand Léger, 1983, no. 24

Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, "... und nich die leiseste Spur einer Vorschrift..." Positionene unabhängiger Kunst in Europa um 1937, 1987-88, no. 60

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Magic Blue, 1993-94, no. 47

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Fernand Léger: Werke 1925-55, 1994-95, no. 19, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Jean Painlevé, "A propos d'un 'nouveau réalisme' chez Fernand Léger" in Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1940, illustrated p. 73

Maurice Jardot, Léger, Paris, 1956, illustrated pl. 13

René Jullian, Fernand Léger, Basel, 1969, illustrated no. 47

Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, ed., Hommage à Fernand Léger, Paris, 1971, illustrated in color n.p.

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, 1938-1943, vol. VI, Paris, 1998, illustrated in color p. 133

Carolyn Lanchner, Fernand Léger (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, illustrated p. 145

Catalogue Note

The aesthetic that Léger adopted in the late 1930s came about as a response to the political atmosphere in Europe at the time. His commitment to abstraction reflected his political ideals, as he believed that Cubism endowed the object with the social value and promoted the idea of a universal language. As he proclaimed, “Painting takes on a social character in basing itself on the object. Painting becomes accessible to everyone and can be used in schools, in stadiums, in public monuments, etc.” (quoted in C. Lanchner, op. cit., p. 139).During this period, Léger painted a number of compositions using images of the natural world, such as butterflies, flowers and underwater plants. In Nature morte aux fruits sur fond bleu, images of fruits and branches are entangled with overlapping abstract forms, all painted in strong, unmodulated color and silhouetted against the flat background. Rather than depicting a narrative or imitating nature, Léger was concerned with the primacy of painting and explored the very language of painting in its fullest and purest form, namely the elements of color and form. 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 ibid., p. 225). The vivid, undulating forms of Nature morte aux fruits sur fond bleu epitomize these very ideas: the work is aesthetically stimulating and inspires one to reflect on the bold colors, the varying plasticity of the objects and the compelling, rhythmic arrangement. The resulting composition, devoid of a clear narrative, defies a sense of gravity and transcends the formal structures of traditional still life painting.