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Untitled, composition

Circa 1924


Pencil on paper
25 x 23.1 cm
Fernand Léger National Museum, Biot
MNFL 97088

In this delicately drawn composition, mechanical components with ruler-straight edges and rounded shadowing seem to be endowed with a life of their own. Complemented in 1926 by a watercolour variation now conserved in London’s Tate Gallery, this study is emblematic of the search for a realism of design that Léger embarked upon in the 1920s. Produced during the same period as his film “Le Ballet Mécanique”, the drawing makes use of the “close-up” principle, employed to metamorphose the appearance of everyday objects. “A collar stud, spotlighted and enlarged a hundred times, becomes a radiant planet”, he wrote. A starting-handle is clearly recognisable in the midst of this enigmatic assembly. The traditional still-life genre is reinterpreted and modernised by the artist, his aim being to condense the haphazard frenzy of the real into a stable and serene composition worthy of the classical masters. By doing so, the work reflects something of a return to the order that established itself in the interwar years, and which is also apparent in Ozenfant’s Purists and in Le Corbusier, in whose circles Léger mingled.
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