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Fernand Léger

(1881, Argentan – 1955, Gif-sur-Yvette)

Considered to be one of the great contributors to modern art, Fernand Léger was a French painter whose rich and coherent work spanned the entire first half of the 20th century.

1881-1917

From birth to wartime. Cubism in full bloom.


Nothing predestined Fernand Léger, the son of a Norman cattle farmer, to become a major figure of the Parisian Avant-Garde. He was not the most hard-working of students, but he could draw and as such went to work as an apprentice for an architect in Caen.
When he was 19 he moved to Paris and sat in on the painter Gérôme’s classes at the School of Fine Arts as a non-enrolled student. In 1907, which would become a decisive year for him, Léger set himself up at the thriving artists’ residence La Ruche in Montparnasse, where he made friends with Robert Delaunay, Marc Chagall, Blaise Cendrars and many others…
Introduced to Cubism through Cézanne, he soon forged his own style, drawing inspiration from the research by Braque and Picasso. To illustrate the dynamics of his time, he fostered a painting technique based on contrasting shapes and colours – the cornerstone of his imagery that no subsequent development would shift.
He exhibited at the Salons d’Automne et des Indépendants and took part in the La Section d’Or group. In 1913, the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler offered him an exclusive contract.
His enlisting in the war in August 1914 brought a sudden end to this period of his career. At the front, Léger drew on makeshift canvases before being hospitalised and discharged on health grounds in 1917.