Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)

Le Déjeuner

Details
Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Le Déjeuner
signed with initials and indistinctly dated 'F.L 1" (upper left)
watercolor, brush and India ink over pencil on paper
10 ¼ x 14 1/8 in. (26 x 36 cm.)
Painted in Spring 1921
Provenance
Galerie de l'Effort Moderne (Léonce Rosenberg), Paris.
The Zwemmer Gallery, London (by 1936 and until circa 1960).
J.P.L. Fine Arts, London (by 1978).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 1 April 1987, lot 351.
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Christie's, New York, 15 May 1997, lot 392.
Private collection, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
E. Holding, "London Shows" in Axis, Spring 1936, no. 5, p. 27 (illustrated, p. 26).
Exhibited
London, J.P.L. Fine Arts, Fernand Léger: Drawings and Gouaches 1910-1953, March-April 1978, no. 5 (titled Femme attablée).
London, Annely Juda Fine Art, Abstraction 1910-40, July-September 1980, p. 49, no. 89 (illustrated; titled Femme attablée).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the fixed fee for taking on the guarantee risk may be netted against the final purchase price.

Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

Fernand Léger painted this watercolor of contrasting pictorial elements during the spring of 1921; the subject as titled, as well as the imagery that comprises this work, identify it as one of the studies on paper he created in preparation for his pair of iconic, master statements of the modernist figure and interior style, completed later that year: Le petit déjeuner (Bauquier, no. 310; formerly in the Collection of Burton and Emily Hall Tremaine; sold, Christie’s New York, 5 November 1991, lot 10), and Le grand déjeuner (no. 311; The Museum of Modern Art, New York). “I never put my work directly on the canvas,” Léger stated. “I put my work together study by study, piece by piece, like an engine or a house” (quoted in J. Cassou and J. Leymarie, Fernand Léger Drawings and Gouaches, London, 1973, p. 48).
In 1920 Léger relented in his post-First World War preoccupation with industrial and machine-like imagery to return to the female figure and domestic interior settings. A commemorative exhibition of Renoir’s late paintings in the 1920 Salon d’Automne may have galvanized Léger’s interest in these themes; he debuted Le grand déjeuner exactly one year later at the same venue. The sleek, metallic volumes of the three nudes in his new painting—as mechanically inspired as their geometric setting—shocked the public.
The pencil drawings among the Déjeuner studies are firmly contoured and finely shaded to suggest volumes in space. The present watercolor instead emphasizes the flatness of superimposed figure and object forms that would ultimately characterize the two Déjeuner canvases and subsequent compositions. To this end, Léger practiced feats of pictorial legerdemain; instances of adroit sleight-of-hand puzzle and tantalize the eye. Having painted in grisaille the substantial shapes in this watercolor, as well as portions of form in shadow, Léger enhanced with color the tabletop and a decorative surface at rear right. Utilizing the whiteness of the sheet, he elsewhere left forms, objects, and surfaces unpainted, an effect that ostensibly suggests negative space, an absence or void, but actually represents key components in his imagery.
There are two women at leisure in this Déjeuner study. The figure seated at the circular table is partly defined by some shadow in her head and upper body, but primarily by the black robe draped over her shoulders. Only the dark fall of hair at far left outwardly indicates the presence of the second figure, reclining across the width of a sofa (behind the seated woman), with her legs drawn back at far right. Léger has indicated the corporeal presence of the two women as pure light, bright as the illumination that streams through the window behind them. Painted forms appear to advance, the unpainted areas recede—or, paradoxically, the reverse works just as well. The artist has tasked the viewer to decide how to visualize and complete the picture.

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

View All
View All