Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
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Fernand Léger (1881-1955)

Esquisse pour 'Paysage animé' (recto); Esquisse pour 'Personnages' (verso)

Details
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Esquisse pour 'Paysage animé' (recto); Esquisse pour 'Personnages' (verso)
signed with the initials 'F.L.' (lower right, recto)
pencil and grey wash on paper (recto); pencil on paper (verso)
8¾ x 11 in. (22.2 x 27.9 cm.)
Executed circa 1924
Provenance
Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris.
John Richardson, New York.
Saidenberg Gallery, New York (no. 297).
Private collection, Illinois.
Grace Hokin Gallery, Palm Beach.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2001.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Executed circa 1924, Esquisse pour Paysage animé is a vibrant drawing by Fernand Léger which shows two figures in the bustling landscape of the title. In this drawing, which was formerly in the collection of the author John Richardson, the geometric architecture of the railings and windows thrusts the two figures, rounded and organic, into bold relief. This was a compositional device that Léger explored in a group of related drawings, published under the title Personnages dans la ville in Jean Cassou and Jean Leymarie's Fernand Léger: Dessins et gouaches (Paris, 1972, nos. 111-13), as well as two oils called Paysage animé, one of which is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Cassou and Leymarie explained that the related drawings depicted Léger himself, in company with his friend and dealer Léonce Rosenberg during the course of a voyage they made through Italy during the summer of 1924. While the journey was important to Léger, he found himself sorely disappointed with the works of the Mannerists and Renaissance painters that he saw there, explaining later in the year:

'This Summer I spent twenty-five days in Italy with Léonce Rosenberg; we visited Florence, Rome, Venice, Ravenna and the whole North of Italy; I saw Michelangelo and Raphael, but I am horrified by the grandiose gestures of these gentlemen who make art instead of expressing themselves simply like the primitives whom I love infinitely; I also like Carpaccio and the mosaicists of Ravenna, but I detest the Italian Renaissance' (Léger, 1924, quoted in C. Derouet ed., exh. cat., Fernand Léger, Paris, 1998, p. 311).

In a postcard to the painter Gino Severini, Rosenberg wrote that, 'Venice disappointed Léger' (Rosenberg, quoted in C. Derouet (ed.), Correspondances Fernand Léger - Léonce Rosenberg 1917-1937, Paris, 1996, p. 147). Despite this, two of the artists he most admired during his Grand Tour were Carpaccio and Bellini who, he felt, 'loved the architecture of painting' (Léger, quoted in ibid., p. 148). That same love is clearly visible in Léger's own Paysage animé, in the contrast of forms between the man-made structures in the background and the figures in the foreground, who clearly espouse his love of the 'primitives,' be it the unknown mosaicists of Ravenna or his more recent predecessor, Henri 'Le Douanier' Rousseau. At the same time, the mechanical appearance of the backdrop shows Léger embracing and celebrating the modern world, just as he would in his film Ballet mécanique, show for the first time that same year.

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