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

Femme nue

Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Femme nue
signed with initials and dated 'F.L 21' (lower right)
pencil on paper
15 3/8 x 12 3/8 in. (39 x 31.3 cm.)
Drawn in 1921
Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris.
Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
Clifford Odets, Los Angeles; Estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 15 May 1969, lot 56.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owners.

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Allegra Bettini
Allegra Bettini

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Lot Essay

As Léger responded to the post-war rappel à l'ordre, the "call to order" taken up by the Paris avant-garde, he turned away from the brashly dynamic, mechanical manner of his earlier work, and his art began to assume a calmer, more balanced and consciously classical appearance. He remained steadfast to his basic principle of seeking contrasts in forms, but he now pursued these ideas in a different context, in which harmony and order supplanted dissonance. Léger became increasingly interested in the value of tradition, and he now strove in his art for the permanence of the classical and humanistic ideals that informed the great and enduring art of the past. He was keen on making his own significant statement, a monumental art, in which he would unite the order of classicism with modern life. Léger gave new emphasis to the idealization of the human figure, especially the female nude. Léger gave his women smooth full-bodied forms, which he derived from the voluptuous late nudes of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and the odalisques of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix, using their presence to contribute a leisurely, sensual dimension to his Purist interiors.
Femme nue relates to the series of female figure paintings that Léger undertook in 1920-1921, which culminated in the pair of masterworks, Le petit déjeuner and the final version of this subject, Le grand déjeuner. The presence of the figure henceforth assumed primary and central importance in Léger’s work. These figure paintings in 1921 mark an important turning point for Léger during the years immediately following the First World War. They reveal the process by which the artist was investigating, testing and synthesizing various pictorial ideas that he observed around him as he navigated the many diverse cross-currents of post-war modernism. His style of this period stems from the voluble interaction of three pictorial styles: classicism in the conception of the female figure, primitivism in the purist-influenced simplification of the various still-life objects, and Cubism in the structural elements that serve as a foundation for the grid-like spatial conception of this composition.

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