FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
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FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Roger Sant Collection
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)

Nature morte à l'encrier

FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
Nature morte à l'encrier
signed and dated 'F. LÉGER. 27' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'NATURE-MORTE F. LÉGER. 27' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
29 x 36 3/8 in. (73.6 x 92.4 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris.
André Lefèvre, Paris (by 1951); his sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, 29 November 1966, lot 89.
Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, Paris (acquired at the above sale, until at least 2001).
Galerie Interart, Geneva.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 30 October 2007.
R. Deroudille, Léger, Paris, 1968, p. 42 (illustrated in color).
G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1925-1928, Paris, 1993, vol. III, p. 208, no. 514 (illustrated in color, p. 209).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, L'École de Paris 1900-1950, January-March 1951, no. 107.
Kunsthalle Bern, Fernand Léger, April-May 1952, no. 38.
Saint-Etienne, Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Natures mortes: de Géricault à nos jour, April-May 1955, p. 21, no. 58.
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Collection André Lefèvre, March-April 1964, p. 29, no. 158.
Special notice

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of 20th Century Evening Sale, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art

Lot Essay

This carefully constructed, multipartite composition, Nature morte à l’encrier, of 1927, dates from the height of Fernand Léger’s Purist phase. More than any other painter who embraced the Neo-Classical aesthetic that dominated the arts following the end of the First World War, Léger forged his style in unequivocally modernist terms. He achieved a pictorial balance and harmony among a diverse number of compositional elements, while creating strikingly dramatic contrasts through the carefully calculated juxtaposition of everyday objects.
Léger was drawn to the beauty of the manufactured object, from the most technically advanced airplane engine to the simplest everyday household fitting. As seen in the present painting, an inkwell and a bottle serve as the protagonists of this domestic still life scene, employed for the visual contrast they enact with each other and with the surrounding space. To underscore the autonomous existence of the objects in his paintings, Léger has endowed these quotidian objects with magnificent monumentality.
In the early 1920s, Léger responded by stages to the rappel à l'ordre, the “call to order” that had been embraced by the Paris avant-garde during the post-war period. Léger turned away from the dynamic mechanical manner of his earlier work, and began to imbue his paintings with a calmer, more balanced, and deliberately calibrated classical demeanor—as exemplified by the present work. He remained steadfast to his basic principle of seeking out and exploiting contrasts in forms, but he now pursued these ideas toward a different end, in which the creation of an overriding harmony and order supplanted the willful and passing effects of dissonance. In a 1924 article he published in his dealer of the time, Léonce Rosenberg’s periodical, the Bulletin de l’Effort Moderne, Léger advocated “A society without frenzy, calm, ordered, knowing how to live naturally within the Beautiful without exclamation or romanticism. That is where we are going, very simply. It is a religion like any other. I think it is useful and beautiful” (quoted in E.F. Fry, ed., Fernand Léger: Functions of Painting, New York, 1973, p. 47).
These ideas were shared at this time particularly by the Purist leaders, Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant. Léger had been attracted to their theories on Purism, in particular the ideal of order that they held as central to all artistic creation. To this end he looked toward the classical, humanistic ideals that informed the art of the past. He was keen on making his own momentous statement, in which he would unite the timeless order of Classicism with subjects taken from everyday modern life, presented in the conventional and respected genres of still-life, landscape and figure painting.
Nature morte à l’encrier and other still-lifes of the mid-1920s represent the culminating stage in Léger’s Classicism, a phase that would yield within a few years to new kinds of objects generating new contrasts, no longer derived from commercial products exclusively but from organic motifs as well, reflecting the growing influence of Surrealism on Léger’s pictorial forms. As Christopher Green has summed up the artist’s impressive achievement of this period: “[The still-life paintings] bring together all the qualities of his earlier mechanical works; the careful planning, the perfect precision of technique, the clear, standardized pictorial forms, the interest in both variations and repetition, the sense of balance between opposing forces; but they do so with an uncluttered simplicity and a controlled mastery of spatial paradox beyond the range of his earlier work... It was now that the common object acquired true monumentality” (Léger and Purist Paris, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, 1970, pp. 77, 79 and 80).
Nature morte à l’encrier has a particularly compelling provenance. After passing through the gallery of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the Galerie Simon, it was acquired by the successful businessman and collector, André Lefèvre. Having retired aged forty-four, Lefèvre devoted himself to the pursuit of modern art, particularly Cubism. Advised by André Level, he collected works by Pablo Picasso, George Braque and Juan Gris, along with that of Léger. The present work was included in one of the four sales of his collection that took place in Paris following his death in 1963. In 1966, this painting was bought by Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, a French-born aristocrat and sportsman, who later made his name as a racing driver and the husband, briefly, of famed American heiress, Barbara Hutton.

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