Fernand Léger, ‘Étude pour la Grande Parade’, 1952, Heritage Auctions
Fernand Léger, ‘Étude pour la Grande Parade’, 1952, Heritage Auctions
Fernand Léger, ‘Étude pour la Grande Parade’, 1952, Heritage Auctions
Fernand Léger, ‘Étude pour la Grande Parade’, 1952, Heritage Auctions

This lot is accompanied by photo-certificate of authenticity signed by Madame Irus Hansma, dated November 16, 2015, as well as a slide of the work. This work will be included in the Répertoire des oeuvres sur papier de Fernand Léger, which is being prepared by Madame Irus Hansma.

In the 1940s, Fernand Léger returned to one of his favorite subjects since childhood, the circus, a theme that could reach an audience outside the limited circle of connoisseurs familiar with fine art. The circus was an open arena in which all viewers could delight in the animal acts, clowns, and trapeze artists, regardless of age, background, or beliefs. As Peter de Francia notes: "The subject of acrobats, circuses, of the grouping together of those themes of leisure which Leger had always envisaged as the tangible symbols of man's freedom are to be found in the very beginning of his work and throughout his paintings" (Peter de Francia, Fernand Leger, New Haven & London, 1983, p. 248). The present work, Étude pour la Grande Parade, is one of many preliminary studies for a mural-sized painting executed in 1954, one year before Leger's death. In this work, we witness Leger's creative process: minute technical details are executed in pencil then erased or redrawn in ink. The study is a visual record of his thought process translated onto paper. While Léger reduces the human form and its surrounding objects to their most basic elements, emphasis is placed on the interaction among the figures in the parade. Reflecting his use of geometry, his bold, black lines articulate a juxtaposition of mechanical elements with natural forms, thus displaying the artist's important "law of contrasts." As Robert Herbert notes, "Léger's geometry is so fundamental to his conception of art and society that, like his theory of contrasts, it permeates all aspects of his painting. 'A picture organized, orchestrated, like a musical score, has geometric necessities exactly the same as those of every objective human creation.'" (Robert L. Herbert, From Millet to Léger, New Haven, 2002, p. 135).

Signature: Initialed and dated lower right: FL. 52

Image rights: Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

The artist; Private collection, acquired from the above.

About Fernand Léger

Working in Paris during the height of Cubism, Fernand Léger’s iconic style, with its emphasis on primary colors and rounded, massive forms, has become informally regarded as “Tubism.” Even at their most abstract, Léger’s subjects are easier to recognize than the rigorous Cubist dissections of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the accessibility and contemporary subject matter of his works have led many to describe Léger as both populist and a forerunner of Pop Art. Interested in modern innovation, Léger joined the Puteaux Cubists, engaging with Robert Delaunay, Francis Picabia, and Jean Metzinger, among others. His interest in industry and machines was further encouraged by the Italian Futurist painters, and by his military service for France during World War I. While Léger would later revisit more traditional subjects—including the female nude, landscape and still life—these works retained his characteristically bold style.

French, 1881-1955, Argentan, France, based in Paris, France

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