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Composition (Composition à L' escalier)
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About the item

Fernand Léger, Composition (Composition à L' escalier)\nSigned F. Léger and dated 25 (lower right); signed F. Léger, titled Composition and dated 25 on the reverse\nOil on canvas\n25 1/2 by 36 1/8 in.\n65 by 92 cm\nPainted in 1925.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Composition (Composition à l'escalier) was painted in 1925, the year of the celebrated Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs.  Works by Léger featured prominently in two locations. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret's Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau gave a prominent place to one of Léger's most fully realized paintings of monumental objects, Le Balustre, 1925 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). For Robert Mallet-Steven's Entrance hall of the Ideal French Embassy, he contributed a strictly architectural painting over one of the entrances. Architecture and the relationship between painting and architecture were major concerns to Léger in the middle of the decade.

The present work is of the purest expressions of his understanding of pictorial and architectural space. Bisected by a vertical sequence of fenestration seen in perspective, the composition falls into two distinct halves: abstract and planar on the left and architecturally specific on the right. Referring to the painting that hung in the Pavillon de l'Esprit Nouveau, Christopher Green has written that "Le Balustre was not even nearly a mural, and the bright flat scarlet of its vase on the left would not have toned quietly in with the brown of the wall opposite; it was one of the brand new, post Ballet mécanique object-paintings, and entirely the product of 1925. Yet, significantly, the central object-motif, the baluster, is architectural, and the theme seems to have developed as sequel to a pictorial idea developed during the first three or four months of 1925 with architecture as its sole concern, the theme of the Composition à l'escalier. Composition à l'escalier is put together from standardized architectural parts, the building from the right of the Paysage animé on the right (see fig. 1), the staircase from a little canvas completed also early in 1925 in the centre (see fig. 2), and on the left architectural motifs in flat strips, taken, according to Blaise Cendrars, from the court of the modern apartment block where he lived on the rue Nordmann" (Green, op. cit., p. 305)

Interestingly this unpopulated depiction of architectural space was not a direction that Léger chose to pursue to any great extent. In the years immediately following its execution, he painted a number of large abstract paintings he called 'Mural Paintings', which are like enlarged and simplified versions of the left-hand side of the present work. These works contrast with the much greater specificity of the numerous object-paintings in which commonplace objects, such siphons, accordions, and umbrellas, are presented as the most characteristic products of modern life.

Fig. 1, Fernand Léger, Paysage animé, 1924, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art Fig. 2, Fernand Léger, L'escalier, 1925, oil on canvas, Private Collection

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Fernand Léger

exhibited

Paris, Galerie Louis Carré, F. Léger, Peintures antérieures à 1940, 1945

dimensions

25 1/2 by 36 1/8 in. 65 by 92 cm

literature

Waldemar George, "Fernand Léger," The Arts, New York, May 1929, illustrated p. 303

"Fernand Léger au Kunsthaus de Zürich," Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1933, illustrated p. 35 (titled Paysage animé)

Pierre Descargues, Fernand Léger, Paris, 1955, illustrated p. 69

Hervé Gindertael, "Léger," Cimaise, January- February 1955, illustrated p. 7

Jérôme Mellquist, "I paesaggi di Léger," Comunità, February 1955, illustrated p. 69

Fernand Léger  1881-1955 (exhibition catalogue), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1956, no. 53, illustrated p. 177

Fernand Léger, Blaise Cendrars and Louis Carré, Entretien de Fernand Léger avec Blaise Cendrars et Louis Carré sur le Paysage dans l'Oeuvre de Léger, Paris, circa 1960, illustrated p. 30

Maurice Jardot, L'espace pictural de Léger  et l'espace cubiste, Stuttgart, 1965, illustrated p. 120 and pl. 7

Guido Le Noci, Fernand Léger, sa vie, son oeuvre, son rêve, Milan, 1971, illustrated p. 79

Christopher Green, Léger and the Avant-Garde, New Haven, 1976, no. 206, illustrated p. 306

Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1929-1931,  Paris, 1995, no. 404, illustrated p. 21

provenance

Léonce Rosenberg, Paris (acquired from the artist)

Louis Carré, Paris

Estate of Olga Carré (née Burel) (sold: Piasa, Artcurial, December 9, 2002, lot 24)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner





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