Fernand Léger was a French artist of the first half of the 20th century. He was born on February 4, 1881, and died, in his native country, on August 17, 1955, at the age of 74. About his education, we find that between 1897 and 1899 he studied architecture and at the same time attended art classes at the Académie Julian in Paris; his frequent visits to the Louvre Museum were also very useful in his apprenticeship as an artist.

Léger’s first artworks are influenced by impressionism, but later he became interested in the work of Cézanne, Picasso and Braque, together with these last two, he exhibited in 1910. Léger was also inclined towards styles such as Ozenfant and Le Corbusier, as well as by Delaunay, Kandinsky, the De Stijl movement, and surrealism, under whose stylistic influences he made several works; however, Léger developed a very personal style inspired by cubism.

1. Fernand Léger. The city.
In his cubist beginnings, Léger’s painting tended towards abstraction, a stage that went from 1910 to 1920, a period in which he experimented and combined ingredients of cubism with some of the aforementioned stylistic influences. The characteristics of these almost abstract compositions consist of geometric volumes, cylindrical and cubic, together with flat elements. On this same theme, Léger in his paintings alternates between full and empty, highlighted by lights and shadows. But, not very convinced with the discourse close to abstraction, he later takes up figuration a little more defined.
Although from the beginning Léger oriented his visual discourse towards the theme of the machine and man’s relationship with it, it is said that his interest in this topic became more accentuated and constant after the experience he lived in the First World War ─which coincides with his return to figuration─ where the visual possibilities of machines as icons of modernity are revealed to him; From then on he becomes more reflective from his profession as an artist around the mechanized and urban world; that is to say, he is even more interested in the development of industry and technology, of the city and the industrialized society, because he was aware that there was a new industrial and technical order, which had transformed the sensitivity and mentality of people, thus emerging a new society; reason why artistic expression had to change in response to this new reality, represent the rhythm, everyday life and beauty of modern life. “If pictorial expression has changed, it is because modern life made this change necessary,” said the artist.
2. Fernand Léger. The builders with aloe.
Léger was deeply influenced by urban advertising, billboards, subway entrances and neon signs. He represented the dynamics of the industrialized metropolis. He made paintings that embody the world of work, construction workers and people enjoying their leisure activities. In his work, the human figure appears depersonalized and mechanized, conditioned by the environment in which they have developed.
Léger was an artist aware of the problems of his time and was very socially and politically committed, since he was totally convinced of the social function of art, of the social responsibility of the artist, who had to respond to his historical, social, and political context.
3. Fernand Léger. The big parade
Léger not only made paintings on canvas, but he also made numerous wall paintings, stained glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, book illustrations and theatrical sets. His style, of a very personalized cubism, conditioned by his training as an architect and his taste for sculpture, induced him to grant his works a sense of monumentality; that is, a sculptural and architectural aspect to his figures, although on occasions he controlled that tendency to highlight the two-dimensionality of the pictorial plane. Similarly, in a part of his visual production there are works in which the line predominates, in which the human figures and the rest of the elements are drawn in a simple way, with very thick black lines independent of color.
Alexander Martínez. Día gris


Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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