With a career spanning over 50 years, Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955) worked with a multitude of media, such as paint, ceramic, print, large-scale murals, film, theater and dance sets, glass, and book arts. Early in his career, after viewing works by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), he abandoned his impressionistic style and began working in a style that eventually came to be known as Cubism. At the 1911 Salon des Independents, Léger exhibited paintings that solidified his role as a major Cubist painter. Within Cubism he concerned himself with color, shape, and volume, as in Contrast of Forms (1913), and Exit the Ballets Russes (1914). His artistic career was put on hold when he was recruited by the army in 1914. He returned with a head injury after being gassed at Verdun in 1916. This experience cemented Léger’s interest in social issues and justice, and imbued his paintings with more socially-conscious subject matter, as seen in Verdun, The Trench Diggers (1916).

Léger founded the Académie de l’Art Moderne at his studio in 1924 with fellow French Cubist painter Amédée Ozenfant (1886–1966). The Académie lasted until 1939, and during this time he developed Tubism—a style in which human body parts and architectural elements are rendered with three-dimensional shading to look like voluminous tubes and cylinders. Also in 1924, he completed his first film, Ballet Mécanique. Léger relocated to New York to escape World War II, and taught a lecture series at Yale which many artists attended, influencing New York School painters. Léger returned to France in 1946, where he became intensely-involved with the Communist Party. In the 1950s, the series paintings Builders, Campers, and The Big Parade illustrated a concern for the common man, inspired by Léger’s view of electrical workers atop poles. In his effort to have his works seen by the common man he temporarily installed several of the Builders paintings in the canteen at the Renault factory near Paris, where they met mixed reactions. He continued to travel and produce works in various media until his death in 1955.

Timeline

1881
Born in Argentan, France
1903
Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France
1905
Academie Julian, Paris, France
1909
Ranked as one of the three major Cubists
1911
Became a member of the Puteaux group, France
1955
Awarded Grand Prix from the Biennale de Sao Paulo, Brazil
Died in Gif-sur-Yvette, France
1960
Musee Fernand Leger inaugurated in Biot, France

Exhibitions

2013–2014
Leger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, Philadelpia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA (solo)
2013
Art As A Reflection Of Culture, Flushing Town Hall, Council on Culture and the Arts, New York, USA
Politics, Arcade Fine Arts, London, England
Artistic Relationships: Partners, Mentors, Lovers, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, USA
Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, USA
Von Kopf bis Fuß, Porträts und Menschenbilder in der Sammlung Würth, Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany
Between the Lines, All Visual Arts, London, England
2012
Riso / Laughter, Museu da Electricidade, Lisbon, Portugal
Xxx. Europe Exhibition, Galerie Pankow, Berlin, Germany
L'Art en Guerre, France 1938-1947, De Picasso a Dubuffet, Musée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
20th Century Masters, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Leger-laurens - Tête-à-tête, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
Fourteen Modern Masters, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
From Picasso to Koons: Artist’s Jewellery, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece
Le Monde Comme Volonte Et Comme Papier Peint, Le Consortium, Dijon, France
Hereinspaziert! Zirkus und Jahrmarkt von Macke bis Matisse, Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany
Modernism: the renewal of painting 1908-41, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark
Sammeln für die Zukunft - Kunst von 1952 bis 2012 / Orangerie - Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
French Drawings from the Aaronsohn Collection, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
Theatre Of The World, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Australia
Selected Works By Gallery Artists, MODERNISM, San Francisco, USA
2011
De Léger a Dubuffet. Signos y gestos del siglo XX, Oriol Galeria d'Art, Barcelona, Spain
Art et bicyclette - Espace de l’art concret, Mouans Sartoux, France
Looking Back / The 6th White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York, USA
Accrochage, Galerie Boisserée, Cologne, Germany
Irene Ludwig - Präsentation anlässlich ihres ersten Todestages, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Dance Your Life, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris, France
UN PERRO ANDALUZ. Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, Spain
Modern Antiquity: Picasso, de Chirico, Leger, and Picabia in the Presence of Antique, Getty Center, Los Angeles, USA
ZWISCHENTÖNE - DIE SAMMLUNG FORBERG - Albertina, Vienna, Austria
Autumn Show, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong,
100 Jahre Lehmbrucks Kniende - Paris 1911, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany
Construyendo UtopÍas, Galerìa Guillermo de Osma, Madrid, Spain
Small Medium Large, Donjon de Vez, Vez, Spain
Modern Masters - MODERNISM, San Francisco, USA
Malerei der Klassischen Moderne aus der Sammlung Viktor und Marianne Langen, Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany
Julian and Josie Robertson: Promised Gift, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
2010
Haut en Couleurs, céramiques de Fernand Léger, Musée Fernand Léger, Biot, France (solo)
Summer Collection, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland
75/65 Der Sammler, das Unternehmen und seine Kollektion, Museum Würth, Künzelsau, Germany
Son filetage mord dans la matière et sa tête tient l'assemblage. - SMP (Sol,Mur,Plafond), Marseille, France
Modern Times, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, England
2010
Bilder, Gouachen, Lithographien, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
2009
Fernand Leger, Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent / Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, Gent, Belgium
Dis-moi, Blaise..., Musée national Picasso, La Guerre et La Paix, Vallauris, France
Fernand Léger: relações e amizades brasileiras, Pinacoteca do Estado, São Paulo, Brazil
Fernand Léger, Malingue, Paris, France
Fernand Léger: El cubista afable, Museo de Cadiz, Cádiz, Spain
2008
Fernand Léger, El cubista afable, Fundacion Unicaja, Malaga, Spain (solo)
2004
Fernand Léger, peintures, Fondation Maeght, Saint Paul de Vence, France (solo)
Fernand Léger, choix de dessins de la collection du musée national Fernand Léger, Musée Cantini, Marseille, France (solo)
Fernand Léger, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, France (solo)
2003
Fernand Léger, Fondation Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain (solo)
2002
Bilder, Gouachen, Zeichnungen, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1998
Fernand Léger, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (solo)
Fernand Léger, 1905-1930. Collection du Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris, France (solo)
1997
Ojects of Desire: The Modern Still Life, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1990
Rétrospective, Musée d'art moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France (solo)
1981
La poésie de l'objet 1928-1934, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (solo)
1973
dessins et gouaches, GalerieZiegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1973
dessins et gouaches, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1966
Picasso, Léger, Laurens, Gris, Kermadec, Beaudin - Gouaches, Aquarelles et Dessins, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1962
Zeichnungen, Gouachen, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1959
23 LITHOGRAPHIES EN COULEUR, Galerie Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland
1956
Rerospective, Msée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France (solo)
1949
XXV Biennale de Venise, Venice, Italy
Retrospective, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France (solo)
1937
Exposition Universelle, Paris, France
1935
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA (solo)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (solo)
1928
Galerie Fleichteim, Berlin, Germany
1925
Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs, Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France
1912
Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris, France (solo)

Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Musée National Fernand Léger, Biot, France
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, Spain
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, France
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan
Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid, Spain
Tate Gallery, London, UK
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, Spain