Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE VIKTOR AND MARIANNE LANGEN COLLECTION
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)

Paysage à l'arbre bleu

Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Paysage à l'arbre bleu
signed and dated 'F.LEGER. 37' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'PAYSAGE A L'ARBE [sic] BLEU F.LEGER 37' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
36 3/8 x 25 5/8 in. (92.5 x 65 cm.)
Painted in 1937
Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 25 January 1961, lot 69.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, by 1963.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 4008).
Viktor & Marianne Langen, Meerbusch, by whom acquired in 1973, and thence by descent to the present owners.

D.H. Kahnweiler, Meine Maler - meine Galerien, Cologne, 1961, p. 121 (illustrated).
P. Descargues, 'Fernand Léger et la règle des contrastes', in XXe siècle, Paris, December 1969, no. 33, p. 42 (illustrated).
'Hommage à Fernand Léger', in XXe siècle, Paris, 1971, p. 65 (illustrated).
W. Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, New York, 1976, p. 139 (illustrated pl. 34).
P. de Francia, Fernand Léger, London, 1983, fig. 6.14, p. 126 (illustrated).
V. & M. Langen, Sammlung Viktor u. Marianne Langen. Kunst des 20ten Jahrunderts, vol. I, Ascona, 1986, p. 62 (illustrated).
G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné 1932-1937, Paris, 1996, no. 939, p. 240 (illustrated p. 241).

Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Franse landschappen van Cézanne tot heden, October - November 1963, no. 55.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Fernand Léger, May - July 1964, no. 36 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Fernand Léger 1881-1955, October - November 1964, no. 56.
London, Gimpel Fils Gallery, Fernand Léger, Paintings 1918-1939, June - August 1965, no. 22 (illustrated).
Vienna, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Fernand Léger, April - June 1968, no. 36.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Fernand Léger, August - November 1969, no. 30 (illustrated p. 41).
Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Fernand Léger, December 1969 - February 1970, no. 74 (illustrated).
London, Waddington Galleries, Fernand Léger, April - May 1970, no. 30.
Paris, Grand Palais, Fernand Léger, October 1971- January 1972, no. 124, pp. 22-23 (illustrated p. 98).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Fernand Léger, Werke 1925-1955, October 1994 - January 1995, no. 15, p. 38.
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Antoine Lebouteiller
Antoine Lebouteiller

Lot Essay

Paysage à l’arbre bleu was painted in 1937 and perfectly condenses the sense of playful lyricism and dynamism that characterised Fernand Léger’s works during this period. The composition is dominated by the star-like form of the blue tree of the title. Next to it is a similar red tree, while in the background several more are shown in a contrasting manner, modelled and almost metallic in their rendering, rather than the strips of red or white and blue of the two main ones. Elsewhere, a cow is shown, as well as other distant trees that are mainly depicted as green globules while mysterious ladders also stretch up in the lower right section. The perspective of the landscape is conjured through the use of ribbons of colour, with a red road-like banner crossing the canvas at the bottom and a black one the centre, each at a diagonal angle that adds to the general sense of pulsing movement and rhythm.

The vivid sense of energy of this picture is accentuated by its vertical composition, which seems at odds with its landscape format. However, it is clear that the trees themselves are the focus, their interplay of colour, of texture and of form. In this, they adhere to Léger’s concept of ‘New Realism’, with its focus on depicting and celebrating the world around us.

While eschewing the intense scrutiny of some of Léger’s highly-observed and even exaggerated studies of the period, Paysage à l’arbre bleu nonetheless insists on the landscape and on the trees in particular as focuses for our attention, devoid of narrative, but in their own right. At the same time, in their verve, their capriciousness and their intense colours, the trees may reveal Léger’s response to the works of his friend Alexander Calder, whom he had met in 1930.

Paysage à l’arbre bleu presents the viewer with a composition that is very similar to another painting Léger created the same year, in which many of the details are reversed, which was aptly entitled Paysage animé. That smaller work also featured bands of yellow, especially in the sky. The motifs and elements that these pictures share in part capturing the theatrical aspect of his work. Indeed, Paysage à l’arbre bleu was painted during the period in which he had become increasingly involved in set design, creating stages that often featured trees similar to those shown here. His work formed a backdrop to plays and public displays alike, allowing him bring art to the crowds, to the masses, to provide entertainment through whimsy and colour alike. This offers an insight into Léger’s idealism and his belief in art as a vehicle for the improvement of the lives of others. At the same time, the constituent parts of Paysage à l’arbre bleu also prefigure the design of Nelson Rockefeller’s fireplace, a commission Léger received the following year and completed in 1939.

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