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The Circus

1950
The Circus
1950    
42.2 x 35.5 x 4 cm
Album, cover, frontispiece and lithographs by Fernand Léger
Publisher: Tériade, éditions Verve, Paris
Donated by Alice Tériade
Musée national Fernand Léger, Biot
MNFL 96099

At the request of the great art publisher Tériade, Fernand Léger produced all 113 pages of an artist’s book on the circus from start to finish. Made up of vignettes, the artist’s written text was interspersed with 63 colour and black and white illustrations. It was an invitation to travel “in the land of circles in action” where round shapes mark out the scenes of modern life unveiled page after page. Readers thus become cyclists, pedalling their way through the postwar farming countryside criss-crossed by its actors: animals, peasants and machines. Their ride continues into the big top where readers now become spectators, plunged into the thick of the performance. The great parade with its musical din, clowns, trapeze artists, dancers and savvy animals swirl all around them like a travelling platform with cuts of scenic bursts – generating a kaleidoscope effect. This testament-book paints a picture of Fernand Léger’s plastic and philosophical thoughts: the modern artist must translate the intensity of life today by immersing himself in the ever-changing day-to-day and by using such new processes as film-making. Léger sees the circus as a metaphor of modern existence as he condenses into a single performance the constant stimulation of the senses and ambiguous thrill of risk-taking.
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