Executed after a 1927 oil painting, Trois femmes sur fond rouge, which is now conserved at the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole, the present work displays Léger's passion for working beyond the studio and his ludic relationship with scale, colour, light and form. In his 1949 essay Comment je conçois la figure (How I Conceive of the Human Body), Léger wrote: ‘Abstract art came as a complete revelation, and then we were able to consider the human body as a plastic value, not as a sentimental value.’ It is this philosophy that designated him as the forerunner to Pop Art. The present work displays this presage through bold, brightly-coloured and graphic representations of objects that would become hallmarks of the Pop lexicon.
First training as an architect before moving to Paris and enrolling at the School of Decorative Arts in 1902, Léger was passionate about education and expanding his own knowledge. Alongside his own artistic projects and commissions, he founded a free school in 1924 with fellow artists Alexandra Exter and Marie Laurencin. Here, Braque was introduced to his students Georges Bauquier, the first owner of this work. Léger would collaborate with Bauquier over the course of many years, and together with Léger’s widow Nadia would eventually construct the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot.
To continue the spirit of collaborative large-scale works that Léger had begun before his untimely death, Bauquier continued to commission artisans like Roland Brice and Heidi Melano to realise a select group of Léger’s paintings in a variety of media. Melano was commissioned to execute the monumental mosaics that now cover the exterior of the Musée National Fernand Léger after designs that the artist had originally intended for the Olympic Stadium in Hanover.
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