© ADAGP, Paris 2011 © cliché RMN Gérard Blot
Still Life, ABC,
Oil on canvas
65 x 92 cm
Donated by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, 1973
Musée national Fernand Léger Inv. MNFL 97030
In the urban landscapes painted by Fernand Léger in the 1920s, letters, pictograms and shop signs present the synthetic language of modern communication tools – geared to the speed of transport means and the pace of life. The first three letters of the alphabet, ABC, can be interpreted as a condensed vision of this new language that must be brief and make an impact. They also allude to the name of a Parisian music-hall popular among artists at the time. Lastly, ABC can be construed as a dedication – A (To) Blaise Cendrars – a poet and Léger’s friend who wrote in the magazine l'ABC du cinéma and sang the praises of advertising: “advertising is the finest expression of its time, the greatest novelty of the day, an Art”. Léger shared this excitement and invented a specific typography for this work. The A is truncated in perspective, the B more static and the C closes in on itself in an overlapping of geometric shapes in the background. ABC heralds the renewal of the still life genre by introducing letters in isolation – often stripped of their meaning, symbolising the fragmented perception of modern life.
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