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Mechanical component on a red background

1924
Oil on canvas
92.8 x 65.5 cm
Donated by Nadia Léger and Georges Bauquier
Musée national Fernand Léger, Biot
MNFL 97031

“In search of brightness and intensity, I have used the machine in the way that others use the nude or still life (…). The manufactured object is there, absolute, polychrome, clear and precise and beautiful in itself (…). I invent images of machines in the way that others conjure up imaginary landscapes”. Only the shape and colours of the objects he paints are of interest to Fernand Léger, rather than their function. In this sketch for the final piece on display at the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, the painter recreated a fictional machine from details garnered from its manufactured and urban environment. The dynamic recomposition of the fragments reveals the influence of Cubism, as well as that of photography and cinema. The artist multiplies the effects of contrasting shapes and colours – the dissonance of which endeavours to translate the beauty and intensity of the industrial object by plastic means. The red, flat background illustrates the plastic strength of machinery exhibited on the stands of the Foire de Paris – showcased as valuables on red velvet. It is symbolic of the artist’s mechanical period upon his return from the war, which marked a deep shift in his perception of reality. Just like machines, art must put some order back into a daily life that is in constant rearrangement, thereby bringing both balance and movement.
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