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PROPERTY FROM THE PRESTIGIOUS COLLECTION OF ROGER DUTILLEUL, PARIS

Fernand Léger
NATURE MORTE
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Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,200,0002,800,000
LOT SOLD. 2,372,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
17

PROPERTY FROM THE PRESTIGIOUS COLLECTION OF ROGER DUTILLEUL, PARIS

Fernand Léger
NATURE MORTE
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,200,0002,800,000
LOT SOLD. 2,372,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sale

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Fernand Léger
1881 - 1955
NATURE MORTE
signed Fernand Léger and titled on the reverse
oil on canvas
65 by 54cm.
25 5/8 by 21 1/4 in.
Painted in 1923.
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Provenance

Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris

Roger Dutilleul, Paris (acquired from the above)

Thence by descent to the present owner

Literature

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger. Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, 1920-1924, Paris, 1992, no. 355, illustrated p. 271

Catalogue Note

Léger’s art of the early 1920s was characterised by a shift away from the abstract, mechanical inspirations of the preceding years, as he embraced the domestic, ‘animated’ settings and a lively bright palette. This period provided a new challenge for Léger, and he began to synthesise organic elements with the more rigid, geometric forms of his earlier career, all within the traditional contexts of still-life and figure painting. While Nature morte retains a pared-down effect achieved by the accumulation of stylised forms and geometric lines, it also presents a tableau brimming with life, from the nature seen through the window to the suggestion of human presence in the depiction of everyday objects on a table top.

Painted in 1923, Nature morte displays an array of objects, their curved, overlapping forms set against a grid of horizontal and vertical lines of the background. Léger’s still-lifes from the 1920s present carefully crafted collections of familiar forms, gathered together to achieve utmost balance in both colour and composition. As Léger described: ‘I organize the opposition of contrasting values, lines and curves. I oppose curves to straight lines, flat surfaces to molded forms, pure local colors to nuances of grey. These initial plastic forms are either superimposed on objective elements or not, it makes no difference to me. There is only a question of variety’ (quoted in E.F. Fry, Fernand Léger: The Functions of Painting, New York, 1973, pp. 24-25).

In its technique and subject matter Nature morte reflects the influence of various artistic trends as well as the broader cultural and historical context that characterised the post-war epoch. Moving away from the austerity and monochromaticity of Cubism, Léger nonetheless retained the fragmentation of objects in a manner more radical than Picasso’s art of this time, and applied this method to the Purist aesthetic pioneered by Le Corbusier and Ozenfant. The use of letters and bright colours connects Léger’s art of this period to the Dada aesthetic, while also foreshadowing the Pop Art movement and its use of mass-produced imagery (fig. 1).

The present work is a smaller version of the monumental canvas Nature morte au chandelier of 1922, formerly in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (fig. 2). Discussing Léger’s compositions from the early 1920s, Christopher Green wrote about the larger version of this image: ‘there is one, the grandest and most carefully finished of all, which is far more comprehensively attuned to the Ozenfant and Jeanneret of 1920-1: Nature-morte au chandelier. The pale warmth of the painting, with its intense central note of red for the cup against deep grey-blue, is hardly Purist, and neither is the incisive way the central sharp-edged plane cuts off the hemisphere of the cup, but the clear Cubist analysis of the candlestick, and the way in which the tilted table-top with its objects are contained by the strict verticals and horizontals of the planar surround, these factors are profoundly Purist’ (C. Green, Léger and the Avant-Garde, New Haven & London, 1976, p. 263).

Nature morte illustrates Léger’s fascination with film and the cinematographic quality of modern life. The letters ‘RO’, seen here against a bright orange background reminiscent of a street poster, feature in several other compositions (figs. 2&3). They derive from the title of the film La roue (‘The Wheel’), for which Léger wrote a review in the journal Comœdia in 1922. Léger praised the film’s innovations: ‘this new element…: close-ups, fixed or moving mechanical fragments, projected at a heightened speed that approaches the state of simultaneity’ (quoted in Fernand Léger 1911-1924, The Rhythm of Modern Life (exhibition catalogue), Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg & Kunstmuseum, Basel, 1994, p. 25). Whilst in Nature morte Léger takes as his theme the somewhat traditional imagery of a domestic interior setting, without any direct depictions of a mechanised world, his painterly technique is clearly indebted to the mechanical and cinematic elements that fascinated him in La roue. He builds the composition out of overlapping and fragmented shapes and objects, with the film’s title making a cameo appearance. Whilst the interior setting and the bucolic landscape seen through the window present a thematic departure from paintings such as La Ville, a series of depictions of modern urban life that Léger executed several years earlier, Nature morte displays the same sense of simultaneity and dynamism and is an exceptional example of the way Léger’s art responded to the complexities and changing pace of modern life.

 

Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sale

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London