Fernand Léger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Monday, February 8, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Collection of Nadia Léger
    Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
    Solomon and Co Fine Art, New York

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Louis Carre, Le Paysage dans l'oeuvre de Léger, 1954
    Lyon, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Fernand Léger, 1955, then travelled to Leverkusen, Stadtisches Museum (1954)
    Moscow, Pushkin Museum, Fernand Léger, 1963
    Paris, Grand Palais, Fernand Léger, 1971-72
    Argentan, Hotel de Ville, Festival Fernand Léger, 1981
    Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, F. Léger, 55 oeuvres 1913-1953, 1985

  • Literature

    P. Descargues, Fernand Léger, Prague, 1960
    A. Verdet, Fernand Léger, Florence: Sadea Sansoni, 1969, p. 38 and pp. 73 (illustrated)
    Fernand Léger 1881-1955, exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1980, p 558 (illustrated)
    G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger: catalogue raisonne de l'oeuvre peint 1952-1953, Paris: Irus et Vincent Hansma, 2013, p. 20-21, no. 1461 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    In La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert, the viewer is plunged into the dynamic, colourful world of Fernand Léger. Various modern forms are presented in contrasting manners, with the organic trees and billowing grey clouds given a sense of sculptural body through their juxtaposition with the more rigid, man-made constructions that dominate the rest of the composition. Buildings, electricity cables and swathes of bold colour criss-cross the painting, lending it an incredible sense of verve. Meanwhile, a grid of brick-like rectangles dominates the lower left-hand corner, seemingly introducing the yellow house of the title.

    By the time that Léger painted La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert in 1953, he was one of the best-known artists alive with a strong international reputation. This is reflected in the picture's exhibition history: as well as being featured in a survey of his landscapes the year after it was painted, it has featured in a number of other prominent shows, having remained for some time in the collection of his widow, Nadia.

    Léger's success had begun early in the 20th Century, before he had even become associated with the Cubism pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. During the second decade of the century, Léger had created a number of works that explored volumes and dynamism alike, be it the smoke from chimneys contrasting with the rooftops or the pared-back, geometrical figures of people walking down the stairs. He had entitled some of these works Contraste de formes, and a similar contrast can be seen to underpin La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert.

    Looking at La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert, the viewer becomes aware that there is a great freedom, and even humour, to the composition. The electricity wires, for instance, are used in a wittily formal manner, echoing the works of abstract artists, for instance the sculptor Naum Gabo. At the same time, they playfully double as a formal device to bring a sense of movement to the picture.

    Léger in fact appears to have been looking back at his own career in this painting, bringing together a number of influences and hallmarks from his work. La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert is effectively a mini-retrospective in its own right. Over the course of the decades, Léger had been involved with or influenced by a number of artistic movements, as was the case with a number of the champions of the avant garde active in France at the time. This included the Purism that is evoked by the rigid geometry that underpins so much of this composition, while there is a bold hint of Surrealism in the organic forms of trees and clouds that snake and puff their way across the canvas.

    While La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert may contain traces of the past and of Léger's own career, the painting nonetheless has a bold smack of modernity to it. The bold colours of the background have an abstract quality that echoes artistic developments on both sides of the Atlantic at the time, while the distillation of forms to the barest lines and colours that dominates so much of the composition echo the language of the print industry-- and therefore serve as a fitting precursor to the Pop Art whose aesthetic Léger would posthumously come to influence.

Property from an Esteemed Private Collector


La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert

oil on canvas
72 x 93 cm (28 3/8 x 36 5/8 in.)
Signed and dated 'F. Leger 52' on the lower right. Further signed, titled and dated 'F. Leger "La Maison Jaune et L'Arbre Vert" 52' on the reverse.

£350,000 - 500,000 

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London

+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm