Art Saturday; Fernand Leger
(Picture courtesy of Basque government at Wikipedia creative commons.)
The works of Fernand Leger are distinguished by the use of solid, geometric and often tubular forms that have common elements with cubism. He has been called a progenitor of Pop Art.
Léger wrote in 1945 that “the object in modern painting must become themain character and overthrow the subject. If, in turn, the human form becomes an object, it can considerably liberate possibilities for the modern artist.” He elaborated on this idea in his 1949 essay, “How I Conceive the Human Figure”, where he wrote that “abstract art came as a complete revelation, and then we were able to consider the human figure as a plastic value, not as a sentimental value. That is why the human figure has remained willfully inexpressive throughout the evolution of my work”.[19
In the past week, Madonna has announced that she will be selling a work from the 1920’s by Leger to benefit women’s education. The price it brings at auction will be used by her philanthropic organization to advance education in countries where it is hard for women to attend schools because of backwards attitudes.
The pop star said in a statement that she will “donate all the proceeds [from the Léger sale] to support girls’ educational projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries where female education is rare or nonexistent.”
She said: “I want to trade something valuable for something invaluable — Educating Girls!”
In the period of this painting, Leger had developed the pseudo cubism of later work.
The “mechanical” works Léger painted in the 1920s, in their formal clarity as well as in their subject matter—the mother and child, the female nude, figures in an ordered landscape—are typical of the postwar “return to order” in the arts, and link him to the tradition of French figurative painting represented by Poussin and Corot. In his paysages animés(animated landscapes) of 1921, figures and animals exist harmoniously in landscapes made up of streamlined forms.
Use of Leger’s painting of idealized form to enrich the lives of its subject suggests a value given to the use of money for good that is encouraging to see.