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


Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
signed and dated 'F.LéGER.28' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'NATURE-MORTE F.LEGER-28' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
21 1/8 x 25½ in. (53.8 x 64.7 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris.
Galerie Jean-Claude Bellier, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976.
G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1925-1928, Paris, 1993, no. 555, p. 280 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions privées: collections particulières d'art moderne et contemporain en France, December 1995 - March 1996.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

Bursting with energy, the vibrant Composition sings with Fernand Léger's vision of contemporary life. In this picture, which shares almost the same composition with only a couple of differences with another work from the same year now in the Art Institute of Chicago, Léger has clearly foregone the Purism that had informed, but seldom dominated, his work during part of the 1920s, replacing it with an exuberant, even playful combination of forms that is at once vibrant and beguiling. Here, Léger, rather than focussing on only a couple of objects as he had done in many of his recent works, has instead provided the viewer with a jostling cornucopia of forms, some of them more legible than others, exploding with a jazz-like energy from the canvas.

A pipe, a brass fitting like a bedstead and what appears, at the right of the picture, to be the edge of a painter's canvas all give the impression that this image is rooted in the domestic reality of the artist himself. Yet over them all are various squiggles and leaf-like forms which present sumptuous, semi-abstract entertainment for the eye. Léger has depicted several of these with what appears to be a vinyl-like sheen, while the pipe has the warm reflective glow of wood. Meanwhile, other structures resemble metal. This results in an incredible sense of contrast in Composition. Here, the artist has juxtaposed these forms in an almost Surreal manner, echoing the parallel developments that were taking place at the time in Paris. By invoking the fantastical language of Surrealism yet anchoring it in the modern visual world of the products, architecture and industry that he so admired, Léger has managed to revive his old notion of the contraste de formes, the title he had used in his groundbreaking works of the 1910s. Here, he has accentuated the contrast of forms by also invoking the contrast of the objects and materials themselves, resulting in a picture that is constantly alive with a pictorial motion that belies its properties as an oil on canvas. The fact that Léger has included the canvas element, which is not present in the Chicago sister picture, adds a knowingness to Composition, revealing the fact that the artist was enjoying playing with his medium of choice, making free references to the entire process of image-making in the modern world.

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