Léger, Fernand

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Léger, Fernand

(fĕrnäN` lāzhā`), 1881–1955, French painter. Léger first studied architecture, then he began to paint, studying briefly at the École des Beaux-Arts. He became known for his cubist paintings in 1910, and a modified cubism is apparent in much of his subsequent work. In works such as The City (1919; Phila. Mus. of Art), Léger celebrated the machine in a naive, energetic style characterized by flat tones of pure color, black, white, and gray. He taught painting in Paris and New York City. Two of his mural designs were executed by a pupil at the United Nations, New York. Several of his paintings are in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.


See studies by K. Kuh (1953), R. L. Delevoy (tr. 1962), and J. Casson and J. Leymarie (1974).

Legér, Fernand


Born Feb. 4, 1881, in Argentan, Normandy; died Aug. 17, 1955, in Gif-sur-Yvette, Normandy. French painter and master of decorative art. Became a member of the French Communist Party in 1945.

From 1903 to 1905, Léger studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Between 1940 and 1945 he lived in the United States. Léger adopted the cubist style in 1909. His cubist works are marked by a dynamic organization of space and by contrasts of pure colors (Nudes in the Forest, 1909–10, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Lady in Blue, 1912, Public Art Collection, Basel). The search for the abstract sculptural expressiveness of color attracted Léger to abstract art, which he later abandoned (in his easel paintings).

In the late teens and throughout the 1920’s, Léger executed terse constructivist compositions, which are distinguished by clear outlines and striking geometric forms and areas of local color. In these works he sought to interpret aesthetically the appearance of the industrial city and to find harmony between man and the modern technological world (The City, 1919, Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Gioconda and Keys, 1930, Musée National Fernand Leger, Biot).

Elements of decorativeness appeared in Léger’s paintings of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s; at the same time a clear thematic basis appeared. Central to Léger’s work were the themes of the labor and recreation of workers, which he embodied in monumental, generalized, and cheerful images (The Builders, 1951, Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow).

Léger’s striving for a synthesis of the arts appeared as early as 1925, when he collaborated with Le Corbusier in the design of the Pavillion de L’Esprit Nouveau. This striving was realized more fully later in his mosaics and stained glass for the churches at Assy (1949) and at Audincourt (1951) and for the University of Caracas (1954), as well as in his murals for the United Nations in New York (1952). Léger’s designs were used in the construction of the Musée National Fernand Léger in Biot (1956–60) and for the stained glass windows in the M. Thorez Institute in Paris (1966) and the House of Cinema in Moscow (1968). He also made ceramics and rugs, illustrated books, and worked for the theater and cinema.


Fonctions de la peinture. [Paris] 1970.


Zhadova, L. Fernan Lezhe [Album]. Moscow, 1970.
Descargues, P. Fernand Léger. Paris, 1955.
Hommage à Fernand Léger. Paris, 1971.


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