Sketch for the mosaic of Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce Church on Assy plateau, 1947
Gouache and ink on paper
89.7 x 145 cm
Donated by Nadia Léger and Georges Bauquier
Inv. MNFL 97071
The Dominican friars, Father Régamay and Father Couturier, gave Léger his first major mural commission to decorate the façade of the new church on Assy plateau, a sanatorium located at the foot of Mont-Blanc. The plan by the architect Maurice Novarina, accepted in 1937, was rolled back out after the war and the Dominican friars pinned their hopes on the genius of the great modern artists (the best-known being Lipchitz, Chagall, Richier, Rouault, Bazaine, Lurçat, Matisse, Braque and Bonnard), who shared the commissions for the interior decoration. The iconographic programme devoted to the litanies of the Virgin Mary was put up on the canopy outside for Léger’s contribution. Its layout resembled a mediaeval tympanum, with Léger placing the Virgin’s face at the top, framed by motifs symbolising the litanies. In reference to Léger’s sketch, the mosaic artist Gaudin laid smalts in vitreous paste and stones on the church’s 152 m² façade, consecrated on 4th August 1950. The church’s immense wall met its match in Léger’s art in his field, which magnified the architecture and acted as a counterpoint to bring out the stones and pillars of the main entrance by overcoming all of the effects of flattening by carefully calculated contrasts. This admirable achievement in mural art triggered a whole host of commissions for Léger, who was tasked with decorations for civilian buildings in New York (UN Assembly Hall), in Alforville for Gaz de France and the churches in Audincourt ( Doubs) and Courfaivre ( Swiss Jura).