Léger, Fernand

Initially close to cubism, Fernand Léger's art quickly moved away from it, developing a style that emphasized dynamic forms and expressed the social climate of the time. Read the biography

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Born in Argentan in 1881, Fernand Léger studied architecture in Caen before moving to Paris in 1900 and gradually turning to painting. He attended various academies, in particular the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1907, like many artists, he was deeply affected by the retrospective devoted to Paul Cézanne. He became close to two Parisian artists' groups: on the one hand, La Ruche, where he frequented Marc ChagallChaïm Soutine and Blaise Cendrars, on the other, the Bateau-Lavoir, where Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque work on cubist aesthetics. With the latter, Léger opposed Impressionism, seen as an uninnovative trend. However, he soon moved away from cubism to develop his own personal style, emphasizing dynamic forms and expressing the social climate of the time. This political interest led him down a pedagogical path: he wrote numerous articles, opened an academy in his studio and founded The New Spirit with Le Corbusier and Amédée Ozenfant. In the '40s, Léger took refuge in the United States, where he rubbed shoulders with André Breton, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall and Piet Mondrian. He took an active part in local artistic life, inspired by the mechanization of American society at the time. On his return to France, he joined the Communist Party and began experimenting with new techniques, including commissions for stained glass windows in the churches of Assy and Audicourt. Léger also took part in monumental projects, notably when he created a fresco for the façade of the Gaz de France building in Alfortville, winning the grand prize at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1955. He died the same year in Gif-sur-Yvette. He is best known today for such imposing works as Composition with two parrotsfor his interest in cinema (Cubist Charlot) and for his illustrations (especially for the poem Freedom by Paul Éluard).