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EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Fernand Léger
PAYSAGE ANIMÉ
Estimate
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,400,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
16

EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Fernand Léger
PAYSAGE ANIMÉ
Estimate
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,400,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York

Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955
PAYSAGE ANIMÉ
Signed F. Leger, titled Paysage animé 1er état and dated 1921 (on the reverse)
Oil on canvas
25 1/2 by 19 7/8 in.
65 by 50.7 cm
Painted in 1921.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Galerie Simon, Paris

Nierendorf Gallery, New York 

J.B. Neumann, New York

Sidney Janis Gallery, New York

Samuel A. Berger, New York (acquired by 1965 and sold by the estate: Sotheby's, New York, April 27, 1972, lot 71)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)

Sale: Christie's, London, April 3, 1979, lot 42

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, Galerie Chalette, Fernand Léger: The Figure, 1965, no. 4, illustrated in the catalogue

Berlin, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, 1980-81, no. 29

Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Fernand Léger - Selected Works from a Private Collection, 1994, illustrated in color in the catalogue 

Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg & Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Fernand Léger 1911-1924Le Rythme de la vie moderne, 1994, no. 63, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Literature

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Paris, 1992, no. 269, illustrated p. 123

Catalogue Note

A master of balance and harmonious tension, Léger set himself apart from other avant-garde artists in the early 1920s with a revolutionary new genre born from the tensions of the past and future. The epitome of Léger’s nuanced and genre-bending work from this period, Paysage animé presents itself at the crux of figuration and abstraction, suspends between the alternating yet cohesive worlds of modernity and classicism.

Léger’s shift away from his prior, more abstract mechanical inspirations of the preceding years coincided with the pervading sense of rappelle à l’ordre in the wake of World War I (see fig. 1). What Léger had witnessed as a stretcher-bearer on the battlefront had forced him to re-prioritize his artistic objective so that clarity of form would reign supreme in his compositions. The progression of Léger’s work also echoed the Purist theories of fellow artists like Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant (see fig. 2). The Purist movement, which rejected the more picturesque aspects of Cubism in favor of simplified lines and forms, emphasized a mathematical order and logic in its artistic iteration that resonated in the reconstruction era of post-war Europe. Perhaps unintentionally, Léger’s works from the Paysage animé series stand as clear embodiments of the Purist credo set forth by Le Corbusier and Ozenfant’s 1918 manifesto, Après le Cubisme, which stated: “Superficially experienced or observed, nature seems like a magma of continually changing and variable incidents. But carefully studied or seriously experienced, nature seems not like an unplanned fairyland, but rather like a machine” (quoted in C. Green, Leger and the Avant-Garde, New Haven & London, 1976, p. 255).

This moment in the 1920s provided a new challenge for Léger, as he began to synthesize organic figures with the planned, mathematical forms of his earlier career within the traditional contexts of landscape and figure painting—epitomized by his triumphant Three Women (Le Grand déjeuner) (see fig. 3). While the present work retains a pared-down effect achieved by the accumulation of refined forms and geometric lines, Paysage animé also presents a tableau brimming with life, from the vegetal forms at the side of the composition to the familiar duo of man and dog at center. With deliberate attention to chromatic and structural harmony, Léger balances the bright red and yellow hues of the man-made structures with open spaces of white and surrounds the geometric forms of the buildings with the soft, undulating lines of the clouds, flora and fauna. Léger’s treatment of the human figure at center, whose coloration best resonates with the elements of earth and sky while its linear definition echoes the more manufactured aspects of the scene effectually situates humanity somewhere between the realms of the organic and the industrial. The sleek buildings and clouds of smoke in the distance recall the industrialization of Paris in the twentieth century and reinforce the relentless pursuit of time and human progress in an era of rapid evolution.

This rich period of exploratory figuration in the 1920s would influence the latter part of Léger’s oeuvre, which witnessed a heavy emphasis on groups of people in diverse settings ranging from campsites to construction zones, always retaining the artist’s signature balance of color (see fig. 4). As Léger later recalled, “I needed a rest, to breathe a little. After the dynamism of the mechanical phase, I felt, as it were, a need for the static quality of the large forms that were to follow. Earlier I had broken up the human body. Now I began to put it together again. Since then I have always used the human form. Later it developed, slowly, towards a more realistic, less schematic representation” (quoted in J. Cassou & J. Leymarie, Fernand Léger: Drawings and Gouaches, London, 1973, p. 47).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

|
New York