Presenting the VIRTUAL GALLERY’s first Feature artist for 2016 at the Kurilpa Poetry Cup
Ferdinand Leger (1881-1955) was a French painter sculptor and film-maker whose personal take on Cubism was strongly infused with a sense of Classical monumentality and balance.
Leger came from a farming family in Normandy and originally trained as an architectural drafstman. He subsequently studied fine art and on moving to Montmartre in 1909 was soon heavily influenced by the work of leading Cubist artists that he saw there.
Drafted into the army in 1914 Leger spent two years at the front before becoming the victim of a German mustard gas attack at Verdun.
.During a period of convalescence in Villepinte he painted The Card Players (1917), a canvas whose robot-like, monstrous figures reflect the ambivalence of his experience of war. As he explained:
...I was stunned by the sight of the breech of a 75 millimeter
in the sunlight.
It was the magic of light on the white metal. That’s all it took for me to forget the abstract art of 1912–1913. The crudeness, variety, humor, and down-right perfection of certain men around me, their precise sense of utilitarian reality and its application in the midst of the life-and-death drama we were in …made me want to paint in slang with all its color and mobility.
This work marked the beginning of his “mechanical period”, during which the figures and objects he painted were characterized by sleekly rendered tubular and machine-like forms.
Starting in 1918, he also produced the first paintings in the Disk series, in which disks suggestive of traffic lights figure prominently. In December 1919 he married Jeanne-Augustine Lohy, and in 1920 he met Le Corbusier, who would remain a lifelong friend.
Like many modernists of the era Leger was a strong believer in the positive aspects of mechanisation and his works reflects this. His war-time experiences in the trenches also madehim a fervent believer in the concept of working class solidarity which culminated in his joining the French Communist Party in 1945.
During this period his work became less abstract, and he produced many monumental figure compositions depicting scenes of popular life featuring acrobats, builders, divers, and countryoutings. Art historian Charlotta Kotik has written that Léger’s
“determination to depict the common man, as well as to create for him, was a result of socialist theories widespread among the avant-garde both before and after World War II. However, Léger’s social conscience was not that of a fierce Marxist, but of a passionate humanist”
His varied projects included book illustrations, murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs.
See more of Ferdinand Leger’s work at
the Kurilpa Poetry Cup,
Sunday 28th February, 2pm