Fernand Léger (1881 Argentan - 1955 Gif-sur-Yvette)
Pen and brown ink on paper ; monogrammed "FL" ; 32.5 x 23.5 cm
Douglas Cooper collection ; Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 23rd May 2011 ; Paris, Le Polyptyque collection ; Paris, private collection.
Douglas Cooper and the Masters of Cubism (Basel, Kunstmuseum, 1987-1988 and London, Tate Gallery, 1988) ; Picasso, Braque, Léger, Gris : Douglas Cooper collecting Cubism (Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1990) ; Fernand Léger, gouaches, aquarelles et dessins (Paris, galerie Berggruen, 1996).
This 1911 drawing demonstrates what Cubism owes to Cézanne on the one hand, and to "primitive" sculpture and "Negro" art on the other.
This work is particularly related to Cézanne's 1898-1899 Femme nue debout (Standing Nude Woman - private collection) and some of Picasso's preparatory drawings for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907 (New York, Museum of Modern Art). It is not a coincidence that it belonged, for a long time, to Douglas Cooper (1911-1984), a great collector and historian of Cubism, close to Léger and Picasso.
Fernand Léger came to modern painting after visiting the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne in 1907. Establishing his studio at La Ruche, in the Montparnasse area, he befriended Delaunay and met Braque and Picasso tanks to their common gallery owner, Daniel Kahnweiler, who offered him his first solo exhibition in 1912.
But while Braque and Picasso quickly moved towards "analytical" cubism, Delaunay became the champion of color, and Léger the one of volumes. This is evident here, where the discontinuous but perfectly articulated line, the one that Cézanne drew around his bathers, finally evokes a sculpture, a primitive idol. More than a simple drawing, this is a representation of brute force. Some of these features – the outline of the figures, the articulation of the forms, the idealization of strength – will obviously be found in his mature works.