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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955
GIF-SUR-YVETTE
signed F. Leger and dated 54 (lower right); signed F. Leger, titled and dated 54 on the reverse
oil on canvas
54 by 73cm., 21 1/4 by 28 3/4 in.
Painted in 1954.
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Provenance

Galerie Louis Carré, Paris
Itoh Gallery, Tokyo (acquired by 1964)
Private Collection, Tokyo (sold: Mainichi Auction, Tokyo, 9th March 2019, lot 808)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Tokyo, Itoh Gallery, F. Léger, 1964, n.n., illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

Georges Bauquier, Irus Hansma & Claude Lefebvre du Preÿ, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint et supplément 1954-1955, Paris, 2013, no. 1614, illustrated p. 48

Catalogue Note

Gif-sur-Yvette is a striking example of Fernand Léger’s bold utilisation of colour and manipulation of form, which had reached a peak of creative assurance by the time the present work was painted in 1954. The title of the work refers to a small suburb southwest of Paris, home to the National Centre for Scientific Research and the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Agency. While the composition is dominated by a still life of flowers in the foreground, the geometric forms of the background suggest the architecture of an industrial townscape.

Primary colours pervade the present work, as they held particular significance for Léger throughout his career. According to the artist, these were the colours that expressed the reality of the medium of painting. Speaking at The Museum of Modern Art in the 1930s, he outlined the core precepts of his artistic practice: 'It is possible to assert the following: that colour has a reality in itself, a life of its own; that geometric form has also a reality in itself, independent and plastic...' (quoted in Picasso, Braque, Léger: Masterpieces from Swiss Collections (exhibition catalogue), The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1975, pp. 65-69). Léger’s affinity for primary colours traces back to the principles of Purism, a movement that was a part of the broader rappel à l’ordre in the aftermath of World War I. Pivoting away from Cubism, Léger sought to strip down his art to the pure essence of things and once dynamic still lifes devolved into forms with simple outlines. Flat planes of colour took precedence over the dizzying deconstruction of perspective and an orderly arrangement of objects was prized above a faithful representation of reality.

In the present composition, Léger's focus on strong lines and bright colours is evocative of techniques associated today with the generation of Pop artists and street artists who followed the artist in their radical re-evaluation of images that populate our collective consciousness. Traces of Léger’s legacy as a still-life painter of the industrial world can be found in the works of such contemporary artists as Roy Lichtenstein (see fig. 1). As Philippe Büttner states: 'Lichtenstein recognized that his own art shared many things in common with Léger's, such as an interest in industrial subjects, in factories and the city, and emphasized that these things surely also had something fundamentally to do with Pop' (Fernand Léger, Paris—New York (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2008, p. 21).

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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