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

Composition avec vase (Nature morte avec vase)

Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Composition avec vase (Nature morte avec vase)
signed and dated 'F.LÉGER 38' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'F.LEGER.38 NATURE-MORTE' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
19 5/8 x 25 ½ in. (50 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1938
Galerie Paul Pétridès, Paris.
Perls Galleries, New York (1973).
Phil Warren; sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 4 November 1982, lot 57.
The Fran and Ray Stark Foundation, Los Angeles (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 May 2004, lot 137.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Follain, ''Fernand Léger," Cahiers d'Art, nos. 1-2, 1940, p. 24 (illustrated).
C. Zervos, Fernand Léger, Oeuvres de 1905 à 1952, Paris, 1952, p. 68 (illustrated).
G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné, 1938-1943, Paris, 1998, vol. VI, p. 56, no. 1007 (illustrated in color).
Miami Metropolitan Museum and Art Centers, 1978 (on loan).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

During the late 1930s, Léger primarily focused on international interior design projects, and his paintings from this period often incorporate the crisp imagery that he devised for these endeavors. In 1937, he designed stage sets for the Paris Opéra and in 1938 he traveled to New York to complete a commission from Nelson A. Rockefeller to decorate his Fifth Avenue apartment. Complementing the grand scale of his major projects of 1937-1939, the artist worked through ideas in his easel-size still-life canvases to consider their application on a larger scale. He cut loose his chosen objects from the formal strictures of conventional spatial arrangement, and allowed them to float freely but inter-connectedly in space.
A typical still life arrangement juxtaposed with a large abstract, blue form, Composition avec vase defies a sense of gravity and transcends the earthbound nature of a traditional landscape or still life. Silhouetted against a white background, pieces of fruit with sprouting branches sit next to a large jug on top of a small table, which is comprised of a series of intersecting planes, which in reality could not support these objects. A long branch from one of the pieces of fruit extends and bends to the left, into the space of the large blue form. Any sense of perspective is eliminated, the flat planes floating in space and layered so that no shape is permitted to be the primary focus of the composition.
The boldness of form, line and color found in Composition avec vase have much in common with the sculptural techniques of Alexander Calder. Leger had met the American sculptor in 1930, and the two cemented a strong friendship. Leger wrote the introduction to the catalogue of an exhibition at Galerie Percier in Paris of Calder’s wire and metal sculptures the following year. The exuberant lyricism and sense of freedom in the present work can be seen as a translation of Calder’s sculptural concepts onto canvas.

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