• Impressionist/ Modern Evening  auction at Christies

    Sale 2311

    Impressionist/ Modern Evening Sale

    4 May 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 67

    Fernand Leger (1881-1955)

    Nature morte à la statuette

    Price Realised  


    Fernand Leger (1881-1955)
    Nature morte à la statuette
    signed and dated 'F. LÉGER. 29' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'F. LÉGER. 29 Composition' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    28¾ x 36 in. (73 x 92 cm.)
    Painted in 1929

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    Fernand Léger's Nature morte à la statuette was painted in 1929 and captures the atmosphere of that heady historical moment, with its peak of decadence and its all-too-vivid Great Crash. In its lyrical, Art Deco stylings, its jazz-like progression of motifs across the canvas and the looping letters of the incitement, "vivre," Nature morte à la statuette captures both the aesthetics of its era and Léger's clear enjoyment of his own liberation from the constraints of the architectonic style that had formerly characterized so many of his works. Influenced in part by contemporary music and in part by the Surreal movement which had involved so many of his friends and fellow artists during the same period, Léger abandoned the rigid verticals and horizontals of his works from the years just previous, introducing instead the sinewy forms that dance across and indeed burst from the canvas here.

    It is a tribute to this painting's success in capturing the spirit of its age that Nature morte à la statuette was included in one of Léger's most important international exhibitions, held in 1933 at the Kunsthaus Zurich. On that occasion, Christian Zervos published an edition of Cahiers d'Art dedicated to Léger and featuring this painting. Contributors included a range of artists, writers and collaborators writing in French, German and English, indicating Léger's increasing international status; they included Blaise Cendrars, Le Corbusier, Amedée Ozenfant, Maurice Raynal and James Johnson Sweeney.

    As well as showing the work in its entirety (under the title Chaise et statuette), a detail of the titular statuette also took up an entire page of Cahiers d'Art. This shows the importance of its role in the context of Léger's complex play with the various forms, artforms and textures within Nature morte à la statuette. The statuette, which relates to a number of studies of the female form that Léger had made during this period, has been depicted using a more organic variation of the almost mechanical and geometric methods with which Léger had more recently treated "human" subjects. However, he has taken advantage of the texture of the monochrome statuette to heighten the dynamic range of contrasts within the composition. This is accentuated by the undulating pool of vinyl-like orange in the background, by the stylised rendering of the chair, and by the sinuous lines which snake their way rhythmically through so much of the picture. This sense of motion reveals the artist revelling in the presentation of objects in space, a notion linked to his cinematic output and again contrasting with the intense rigor, stillness and discipline of his paintings from only shortly prior to Nature morte à la statuette. Here, it is a playful accessibility and rhythmic exuberance that dominate rather than the search for almost technical "harmony" or order.


    Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris.
    Valentine Gallery, New York.
    Private collection, Switzerland.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1990.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the amended provenance:

    Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris.
    Valentine Gallery, New York.
    Private collection, Switzerland.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1990.

    Pre-Lot Text



    C. Zervos, "Fernand Léger et le développement de sa conception des objets dans l'espace," in Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1929, pp. 154-155, no. 4 (illustrated; titled Chaise et statuette).
    C. Zervos, "Fernand Léger, Exposition au Kunsthaus de Zurich," in Cahiers d'Art, 1933, no. 3-4 (illustrated).
    Gazette du Palais, Paris, 1990, p. XXV (illustrated in color).
    H. Von Waldegg, "Buchstaben und Wörter. Ihre Bedeutung in Bildren Fernand Légers" in Kunst aund Antiquitäten, Munich, 1991, p. 61, no. 7 (illustrated).
    G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint 1929-1931, Paris, 1995, vol. IV, pp. 28-29, no. 612 (illustrated, p. 29).


    Kunsthaus Zurich, Fernand Léger, 1933.
    Milan, Palazzo Reale, Fernand Léger, Mostra antologica, 1990, p. 99, no. 25 (illustrated).
    Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Musée d'Art Moderne, Fernand Léger, 1990, p. 116, no. 27 (illustrated in color).