1881 - 1955 FRANCE
Fernand Henri Léger was one of the leading artistic influences in the 20th century.
After apprenticing with an architect in Caen for two years, he settled in Paris in 1900 and supported himself as an architectural draftsman. He was refused entrance to the École des Beaux-Arts but nevertheless attended classes there beginning in 1903; he also studied at the Académie Julian. The experience of seeing the Paul Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907 and his contact with the early Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had an extremely significant impact on the development of his personal style. From 1911 to 1914 Léger’s work became increasingly abstract, and he started to limit his color to the primaries and black and white. In 1912 he was given his first solo show at Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris.
Léger served in the military from 1914 to 1917. His “mechanical” period, in which figures and objects are characterized by tubular, machinelike forms, began in 1917. During the early 1920s he collaborated on films and designed sets and costumes for performances by Ballets Suédois; in 1924 he completed his first film, Ballet Mecanique. Léger opened an atelier and presented his first murals at Le Corbusier’s Pavillon at the Exposition Internationale des arts Decoratifs. In 1935 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago presented an exhibition of his work. In the decade before his death, Léger’s wide-ranging projects included book illustrations, monumental figure paintings and murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs. In 1955 he won the Grand Prize at the São Paulo Biennale. The Musée Fernand Léger was inaugurated in 1960 in Biot, France.