Fernand LEGER |
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France 1881 - 1955
French painter, born at Argentan. Normandy. He was apprenticed to an architect in Caen. 1897-9. and then worked as a draughtsman in an architect's office in Paris, 1900-2, and as a photographic retoucher, 1903-4.
In 1903, he failed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Paris, and studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Acadimie Julian. From (c. 1909 he was associated with the (CUBISTS and from 1911 was a member of the informal PUTEAUX. group. In 1913, he signed a contract with D.-H. KAHNWEILER. During his Cubist period his tubular and curvilinear abstractions contrasted with the rectilinear forms preferred by PICASSO and BRAQUE and c. 19I I he was the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction.
After having been gassed in the war, he was discharged in 1917 and formed a friendship with LE CORBUSIER and OZENFANT. He collaborated with Ozenfant in the ATELIER LIBRE and in 1925 he exhibited at Le Corbusier`s Pavilion de I`Esprit Nouveau. In 1925 also he did mural decorations in collaboration with DELAUNAY for the entry hall of the exhibition 'Les Arts Dicoratifs'. During this period of his association with the leaders of the PURIST movement his work exemplified the 'machine aesthetic' which Purism stood for. His paintings were static, with the precise and polished facture of machinery, and he had a fondness for including representations of mechanical parts.
During the late 1920s and 1930s he also painted single objects isolated in space and sometimes blown up to gigantic size. He also busied himself with theatrical decors, especially for the Ballets Suedois, and with the cinema. His Ballet Mechanic (1934) was the first film without scenario. During the Second World War he lived in the U.S.A.. teaching at Yale University together with Henri Focillon. Andre Maurois and Darius Milhaud, and at Mills College, California. His painting at this time consisted of compositions featuring mainly acrobats and cyclists. From his return to France in 1945 his painting reflected more prominently his political interest in the working classes. But its static, monumental style remained, with flat, unmodulated colours, heavy black contours and a continuing concern with the contrast between cylindrical and rectilinear forms.
In 1949 he opened a studio for ceramics with his former pupil Robert Brice and made there his glass mosaic for the University of Caracas (I954). At the same time he was working on the windows and tapestries for the church at Audincourt (1951). A Leger Museum was founded in his honour at Biot. with large ceramic panels designed by him. Memorial retrospective exhibitions were given at the Mus. des Arts Decoratifs. Paris, in 1956 and at the Haus der Kunst, Munich. in 1957. His influence on artists of his day was far-reaching and very diversified. ...
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