Leger, Fernand

Fernand Legér was born of peasant stock in Argentan, Normandy in 1881, but left the land at sixteen to become an architect’s apprentice in Caen. After completing his military service, abandoned architecture for painting and studied briefly at the Beaux-Arts. Between 1905 and 1910, he met Henri Rousseau, discovered Cézanne, and became associated with the sculptors Lipchitz and Laurens as well as with artists like Delaunay, Chagall, and Soutine. In 1910 he met Braque and Picasso, and in 1911 he participated in the first Cubist exhibition as a purely Cubist painter. He did not develop his own mechanistic and highly personal style until 1917.

His first works were primarily of objects and machinery with human figures serving merely as incidental additions to an industrial landscape. By 1921, however, the human figures, larger than life-size and majestically ordinary, became important parts of these scenes. Between 1924 and 1926, he returned to the painting of still lives and also began to paint large, rigorously abstract and decorative murals. Léger believed that the painter should not try to paint beautiful objects, but rather that he should create beautiful pictures in which the human figure has no more importance than the bicycle wheel. He thus created a distinct form of modern art that is both timeless and universal in its force and dignity. Its observations of daily life are presented in stylistic lines and forms, large planes of flat surface colors that create rhythm and space.  He died in 1955.