FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
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FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)

Nature morte tricolore

FERNAND LÉGER (1881-1955)
Nature morte tricolore
signed and dated 'F.LÉGER 38' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'NATURE-MORTE TRICOLORE F.LEGER.38' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
19 5⁄8 x 25 1⁄2 in. (50 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted in 1938
Perls Galleries, New York, by 1952.
Anonymous sale, Espace Cardin, Paris, 28 April 1981, lot 118.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 31 March 1982, lot 114.
Galleria Annunciata, Milan.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 1985, lot 363.
Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo.
Landau Fine Art, Montreal.
Heather James, Palm Beach.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 15 January 2014.
G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné 1938-1943, l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1998, no. 1022, p. 80 (illustrated p. 81).
New York, Perls Galleries, The Perls Galleries Collection of Modern French Paintings, March - May 1952, no. 79.
New York, Perls Galleries, Fernand Léger, October - November 1952, no. 17.
Museum of Modern Art, New York (on loan).
New York, Perls Galleries, Fernand Léger, October - November 1955, no. 16.
London, Gimpel Fils Gallery Ltd., Fernand Léger, Paintings 1918-1938, June - August 1965, no. 23 (illustrated).
New York, Perls Galleries, Fernand Léger, Oil Paintings, November - December 1968, no. 19 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Nature morte tricolore beckons its viewers’ attention at first glance. The work is a true tour de force of colour, energy and lively harmony, a perfect example of the creativity and boldness intrinsic to Léger’s work.  In this picture, colour is applied in broad, flat sections of vibrant primary colours, a technique favoured by the artist. Two large geometric shapes, painted with unmodulated blue and red pigments, are depicted underneath overlapping green and white circular shapes. These forms are delineated with thin yet noticeable black outlines that unite the composition and enhance its graphic and clear-cut character. The resulting image is one of sharp and ostensible rhythm – almost as if these forms were dancing with one another in perfect harmony against an endless warm and inviting background.

The artist’s choice of employing blues, whites and reds is particularly significant: to any Frenchman like Léger, this palette instantly calls to mind the national French flag, the ‘Tricolore’ of the work’s title. The placement of these colours within the composition is clearly evocative of the national flag - there is no doubt that, when painting this picture, the artist must have felt a profound sense of identification with his homeland. Léger’s interpretation of the flag fully reflects his artistic vision: his ‘Tricolore’ is unquestionably a profoundly dynamic, vibrant, and joyful one.

The energy and joyfulness that characterised Léger’s life between 1937 and 1938 are palpable in this work. These were incredibly successful and prolific years for the artist: in 1938, he received a particularly important commission, having been asked to decorate the apartment of Nelson Rockefeller in New York. During this time, he took several trips to the United States, spending his days among stimulating friends such as architect Wallace K. Harrison and writer John Dos Passos, frequent sources of inspiration for his work.

In 1937, the year prior to the completion of the present picture, the artist was asked how he would have prepared Paris for the upcoming Exposition Internationale if he had been in charge of its organisation: he replied that he dreamed of a ‘luminous, translucid atmosphere: Greece on the rivers of the Seine’ with ‘luminous lines running after one another in the streets’. He would have conceived ‘the exhibition itself as polychrome: a yellow square, a red, blue boulevard‘. He also would have changed the colours of tramways and buses and even of the Tour Eiffel (F. Léger, ‘Réponse à une Enquete: Que feriez-vous, si vous aviez à organiser l’Exposition de 1937?’, in Vu, Paris, no. 387, August 1935, p. 1102). It is within this animated and bustling phase of the artist’s biography that the present work needs to be interpreted.

During this period, Léger’s artistic production showed a distinct move towards abstraction, incorporating and developing the lessons learned during his cubist years and during the 1920s’ ‘return to order’. Having largely experimented with these styles, Léger had managed to establish his own artistic voice, stemming in part from these past influences. By 1938, when this work was executed, Léger had developed a profound interest in the depiction of abstract and geometric forms often shown in conjunction with softer, almost biomorphic shapes. Seven years before the completion of the present picture, the artist seemed aware of both the inherent and commercial value of abstract art, writing that: ‘Abstract art is the most important, the most interesting of the different plastic trends that have developed during the last twenty-five years. It is definitely not an experimental curiosity; it is an art that has an intrinsic value. It is an art that has come into being and that responds to a demand, for a certain number of collectors are enthusiastic about it, proving that this tendency exists in life.’ (F. Léger, ‘De I'Art Abstrait’ in Cahiers d'Art, vol. 6, no. 3, 1931, pp. 151-152.)

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