© ADAGP, Paris 2011 © cliché RMN Gérard Blot
The Polychrome divers, 1942-1946
Oil on canvas
250 x 186 cm
Donated by Nadia Léger and Georges Bauquier
Musée national Fernand Léger Inv. 98004
“In 1940, I worked on my divers in Marseilles, with five or six people diving. I go to the United States and head to a swimming pool one day. There were no longer just five or six divers, but two hundred at once. Impossible to know who was who! Whose head is that? Whose leg? Whose arm is that? I had no idea. So I painted scattered limbs in my picture. By doing so, I think I was a lot more realistic than Michelangelo when he studied the detail of each limb’s muscles (regarding the Sistine Chapel)… I assure you that when the boys in Marseilles hurled themselves into the water, I didn’t have time to notice the details, and my divers, they fall.” Léger painted a series of drawings and canvases on this theme – often large-size while hoping to be commissioned to decorate a large wall with divers “in space”. The architect W.K. Harrison granted him this wish for the wall of his dining room in Huntington, Long Island. This painting, brought back from the United States, was kept by the artist in his studio as a reference to his “time in America”, powerfully expressing the movement of forms and human bodies freed from the bounds of gravity.
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