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Leisure on a red background

1949
Leisure on a red background
1949    
Oil on canvas
113 X 146 cm
Donated by Nadia Léger and Georges Bauquier
Musée national Fernand Léger, Biot
MNFL 96010

This composition with six figures illustrates Fernand Léger’s effective style and social sensitivity on his return to France from his exile in America. The forms are centred on a plain red background thanks to a black outline that isolates and accentuates the contrast of forms and colours. Enjoying the simple pleasures of a family outing in the fresh air (cycling, bathing, picking flowers), the two couples with their children form a modern allegory that forges a link with the history of Art. Indeed, in the final version on display at the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris, the pose of the reclining woman in the foreground harks directly back to The Death of Marat by the painter Louis David. This composition also attests to the heated debates that had been held in the art world since the 1930s on the place of art in society. Belonging to the postwar series of large pictorial compositions, this work reflects the artist’s artistic and political commitment to seeking an Avant-Garde style of art that could be understood by everyone.
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