In 1950 Fernand Léger painted a series of beach scenes at Deauville which were exhibited at Galerie Louis Carré in Paris in an exhibition entitled ‘Deauville vu par Fernand Léger’.
Fernand Léger (1881-1955) was born in Argentan, Normandy and was apprenticed to an architect in Caen between 1897 and 1899. He then worked as a draughtsman in an architect’s office in Paris between 1900 and 1902, and in a photographic studio, retouching photos in 1903-1904. In 1903, he failed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and studied instead at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and the Académie Julian. From 1909 he was associated with the Cubists and became a member of the informal Puteaux Group two years later.
In 1913, he signed a contract with Daniel-H. Kahnweiler who had already discovered Picasso and Braque. During his Cubist period his tubular and curvilinear abstractions contrasted with the rectilinear forms produced by these painters and he became the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction. After having been gassed during the First World War, he was discharged in 1917 and became a close friend of Le Corbusier and Ozenfant. He collaborated with Ozenfant in the Atelier Libre and in 1925 he exhibited at Le Corbusier’s Pavilion de I’Esprit Nouveau. During his collaboration with the leaders of the Purist movement his works exemplified the “machine aesthetic” which Purism exemplified. His paintings were static, with the precise and polished appearance of machinery, and he had a strong inclination for including representations of mechanical parts.
During the late 1920s and 1930s he also painted single objects isolated in space and sometimes amplified to gigantic size. He also produced theatrical decors, especially for the Swedish Ballets, and worked in film. His Ballet Mechanic (1934) was the first film without a script. During the Second World War Léger lived in the U.S and taught at Yale University and at Mills College, California. His painting at this time consisted of compositions featuring mainly acrobats and cyclists. After his return to France in 1945 his works reflected more prominently his political interest in the working classes. But their static, monumental style remained, with flat and pure colours, heavy black contours and a continuing concern with the contrast between cylindrical and rectilinear forms. A Léger Museum was founded in his honour at Biot with large ceramic panels that he designed. Memorial retrospective exhibitions took place at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 1956 and at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, in 1957.
Galerie Louis Carré, Paris
Svensk Franska Konstgalleriet, Stockholm
Gallery Bengtsson, Stockholm
Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, Deauville vu par Fernand Léger, 8 November - December 1950
Stockholm, Galerie Blanche, Franskkonst, January 1951, cat no. 31
Stockholm, Svensk Franska Kontsgalleriet, 11-29 March 1961, cat no. 21
Léger, dessins et gouaches, Jean Cassou, Jean Leymarie & Guy Loudmer, Paris, Editions du Chêne, 1972, no. 11-1032, illustrated www.legerdessinsetgouaches.com