Le Campeur incorporates the solidly linear figures that had populated Léger's best work since the 1920s. Shape and form were primary concerns for the artist, but by the last years of his career he began to incorporate narrative into his highly-geometric compositions. In this picture, the juxtaposition of the curvilinear family against the architecturally detailed natural setting reveals the medley of shapes and forms that have become part of the contemporary landscape. Léger was fascinated with social progress, and the campers, construction workers, and circus performers that he painted in the 1950s celebrate the activities of modern life.
Concerning the contrasts inherent in these pictures from the 1950s, Léger said, "If I was able to approach very close to a realistic figuration, it was because the violent contrast between my workmen and the metal geometry in which they are set is at its maximum. Modern sculptures, whether social or other, are valid insofar as this law of contrasts is respected; otherwise one falls back on the classical picture of the Italian Renaissance" (quoted in W. Schmalenbach, op. cit., p. 162). Léger’s painting of this time was to have a profound effect on color-field and Pop Art painting in the later twentieth century. Artists from Frank Stella to Roy Lichtenstein would incorporate elements of Léger’s work into their canvases. "Léger's presence in Lichtenstein's oeuvre," writes Philippe Büttner, "is indeed more than obvious. Again and again he gives places of prominence to quotations of Léger's motifs.... 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; see fig. 4). Part of Léger's genius, throughout his career, was to embrace both the fully abstract and fully representational. His deconstructed canvases just before World War I would be heavily entwined with the Orphists and Cubists, while his Purist bent in the 1920s is perhaps the most emblematic of the "Call to Order" felt immediately after the war in France. During his remaining decades he would marry these two principles, creating concrete imagery which would be inspirational to future generations.
Writing about the present work in comparison to La Partie de campagne in his monograph on the artist, Werner Schmalenbach has observed that "the red patch in the middle makes it more brilliant than the main version, which has several white areas. But quite apart from this, the coloring in general is brighter: the green plant in the foreground, the big yellow flower in the girl's hand, the ball, the cactus, and the tree—green, not stone gray—that towers up in the yellow sky. The contrast motifs have also been expanded, in particular by the iron landing stage and the telegraph mast; harking back to his early period, Léger has violated idyllic nature with the constructions of the technological age. The figures, matching the upright format of the canvas, are more erect than in The Country Outing and also less relaxed; they hold their objects like emblems. Even the children are depicted facing the spectator. What prevents this work from becoming a mere genre picture is the stereotype treatment of the faces. Still, they are more earthy and 'healthier,' less dreamy and unreal than the masklike faces in The Country Outing, which have a touch of poetic enchantment" (W. Schmalenbach, op. cit., p. 164). A final version of Le Campeur, measuring three meters in height, hangs in Léger's eponymous museum in Biôt. Closely related in color, execution and exacting detail to the present work, Le Campeur, définitif brings together the twining threads of the artist's later works in a monumental masterpiece (see fig. 5).
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