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La femme en rouge et vert

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Fernand Leger (1881-1955)\nLa femme en rouge et vert\nsigned, dated and titled 'FEMME EN ROUGE ET VERT F. LEGER 14' (on the reverse)\noil on canvas\n39½ x 31¾ in. (100.8 x 80.4 cm.)\nPainted in 1914


The years 1910-1914, those immediately preceding the outbreak of the First World War, marked the ascendancy of cubism as the unrivaled impetus in progressive modern painting. The culmination of collective artistic activity came with the second Section d'Or exhibition in a gallery on the rue de la Boétie in October 1912, assembled by the Puteaux group which centered around the brothers Marcel Duchamp and Jacques Villon. Including more than 200 works by 30 artists -- the Duchamp brothers, Fernand Léger, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Francis Picabia, Juan Gris, Francis Picabia, Frantisek Kupka and Alexander Archipenko -- the exhibition, in its diversity, was intended to demonstrate the strength, maturity and potential of the Cubist movement. In fact, it became clear that the young artists who took up the cubist banner had less in common than at first met the eye, so that one might wonder if it were a coherent movement at all.

However it was important to present at least the impression of solidarity to the public and especially to the popular press, which continued to mock and deride the efforts of these young artists. In December 1912 Gleizes and Metzinger published their Du Cubisme, the first tract to explain the goals of the movement. The poet Guillaume Apollinaire's Les peintres cubistes: Méditations ésthetiques, largely cobbled together from his recent reviews, followed in March 1913. In it he outlined four major tendencies among the Cubist painters, and if his categories seem from our point of view today to be vague and generally unsatisfactory, his attempt demonstrated the difficulty of tracking this volatile movement in which new ideas flew fast and furious. The Puteaux group was already splintering into various factions, and even more signficantly, its founding members were now declaring their independence altogether, as they pursued newer and more experimental goals.

In the inaugural February 1912 issue of the review Soirées de Paris, published months before the Section d'Or exhibition, the acutely observant Apollinaire drew attention to a new set of issues that were preoccupying a handful of painters: the significance of the subject and the development of pure painting. Cubism had opened the gates to alternative visual realities, and pure painting was now the new frontier. Apollinaire wrote:

Verisimilitude no longer has any importance, for the artist sacrifices everything to the composition of his picture. The subject no longer counts, or if it counts, counts for very little. An entirely new art is thus being evolved, an art that will be to painting, as painting has hitherto been envisaged, what music is to literature. It will be pure painting, just as music is pure literature ("On the Subject in Modern Painting", reprinted in L.C. Breunig, Apollinaire on Art, Boston, 2001, p. 197).

Gleizes and Metzinger, whose agenda was somewhat less radical, wrote in Du Cubisme:

The painting should imitate nothing and should nakedly present its raison d'être... Nevertheless, let us admit that reminiscences of natural forms cannot be absolutely banished; as yet, at all events. An art cannot be raised all at once to the level of pure effusion (quoted in R.L. Herbert, ed., Modern Artists on Art, Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, 1964, p. 7).

Apollinaire had witnessed the subject dissolve and become nearly indecipherable amid the subdivided planar structures that characterized the Cubist compositions of his friends Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, during what is now referred to as their "high analytical" phase of 1911-1912. Apollinaire championed their work above all others, and was quick to remind his readers that they were the true founders of the Cubist movement, a fact that was not apparent to most, because Picasso and Braque did not show in the Salons and their work could only be seen in D.-H. Kahnweiler's gallery. Apollinaire also closely followed the work of Robert Delaunay, who in the summer of 1912 was about to undertake pure painting in his Fenêtres series. Delaunay did not show that fall with the Section d'Or, whose weekly meetings he had regularly attended, and chose instead to exhibit these radical works at the Galerie Sturm in Berlin early the following year. Apollinaire wrote the introduction to the catalogue exhibition and attended the show. The paintings of Kupka, who tried to establish himself as the elder statesman of the Puteaux group, were filled with a cosmic imagery that evokes a music of the spheres, in forms that he said "lie between the visible and that which can be heard" (quoted in D. Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, p. 114). In Munich, Wassily Kandinsky was also pursuing a visual music, intentionally disguising his imagery, reducing them to mere traces, and giving little idea of their source. In 1912 he wrote "the abstract life of objective forms that have been reduced to a minimum - hence the noticeable predominance of abstract elements - reveals in the surest way the inner sound of the picture." ("On the Question of Form", K.C. Lindsay and P. Vergo, ed., Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, New York, 1994, p. 244). The Dutchman Piet Mondrian, working mainly in Paris during this time, painted his progressively abstract series of trees in 1912-1913 (Apollinaire complimented one shown in the 1913 Salon des Indépendents), his abstract Compositions in 1913-1914, ocean series and church façades in 1914-1915.

In declaring the advent of pure painting Apollinaire also had in mind the works of another artist whom he deeply admired, Léger, whom he described as "one of the gifted artists of his generation. He is a painter, a simple painter, and I rejoice in his simplicity and in the solidity of his judgement" (in "Les Peintres Cubistes", H.C. Chipp, ed., Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, 1968, p. 243). Apollinaire did not delve into the difficult and complex questions that Léger faced in his art during this time, for in light of these Léger could hardly be called a "simple" painter -- Apollinaire was probably referring to the bold and logical solutions this artist brought to pictorial problems. Indeed, the work of Léger during 1912-1914 provides an illuminating and perhaps the most revealing case history in the push towards pure or non-representational painting in France during this deliriously innovative and intellectual period, and the subsequent return to the subject in the months preceding the mobilization for war.

It is most helpful that Léger authored two lectures on these topics, which were delivered at the Académie Marie Wassilief, an art school in Paris whose students were mostly Russian. The first was given in May 1913 and published the following month in the review Montjoie!. Léger presented the second lecture in June 1914; it was printed soon after in Les soirées de Paris. Together they provide fascinating insights into the ideas of a profoundly thoughtful, ground-breaking painter, as he tried to give verbal expression to the visual problems that he faced in the studio. They are reprinted in E.F. Fry, ed., Functions of Painting by Fernand Léger, New York, 1973, the edition cited in this essay.

Léger sought to counter the increasing impact of Italian Futurism, whose attraction stemmed from its use of modern, cosmopolitan subjects, treated in motion, and similar tendencies among fellow Section d'Or artists, as seen in Marcel Duchamp's Nu descendant un escalier, no. 2, which was painted in early 1912 and included the Section d'Or show in October. Léger wished to replace their illusory dynamism with a true pictorial dynamism. At the same time he also wished to move beyond the influence of Cézanne, whose work had made an overwhelming impression on him when he saw the master's memorial retrospective at the 1907 Salon d'Automne (fig. 1). Léger shared with Cézanne an interest in static subjects and a constructive means of composition, but now felt that the accelerating pulse of modern living required a newer, more radical approach in order to embody these new sensations.

Léger's La femme en bleu (fig. 2), painted in mid-1912 and shown at the Salon d'Automne that year (Bauquier, no. 39; coll. Kunstmuseum, Basel), was his answer to these issues. He took a stable subject -- as in a Cézanne portrait, but unlike that which a Futurist would treat -- and invested it with extreme formal contrasts: flatly colored planes opposing modeled tubular, conical and cylindrical forms. He not only visualized his subject as the "cylinder, the cone, the sphere," as Cézanne had once advised in a letter to Emile Bernard (J. Rewald, ed., Paul Cézanne Letters, New York, 1995, p. 301), he painted it as such. "[Cezanne's] grip was so strong," Léger recalled in 1954, "that to get free of it I had to go as far as abstraction" (quoted in C. Green, op. cit., p. 52). The result was a composition that did not render the illusion of motion in the Futurist manner, but was expressive and dynamic through its own invented pictorial forms.

At this stage Léger was on the verge of pure painting -- only vestiges of the subject remained -- and in early 1913 he took the plunge with his Contrastes de formes (fig. 3), the series that occupied him for the remainder of the year and into 1914. He delivered his first Académie Wassilief lecture at this critical juncture. He stated that pictorial realism -- by which he meant the absolute integrity of the picture as object in and of itself, and not as the representation of something else -- was the "simultaneous ordering of three plastic components: Lines, Forms and Colors" (cited in Functions of Painting, p. 4). He went on to declare, "From now on, everything can converge toward an intense realism obtained by purely dynamic means. Pictorial contrasts used in their purest sense (complementary colors, lines, and forms) are hence the structural basis of modern pictures" (ibid., p. 7).

In his Contrastes de formes Léger utilized simple geometric volumes composed of cylinders and planar elements which he rendered into multiple forms by means of line and color. He fabricated a shifting, tumbling surface in which these forms combine to suggest volume; shapes simultaneously appear to jut out of the picture plane or recede into it. All of the component lines, forms and colors are actively and equally engaged as they play off each other to create a jostling, rhythmic composition. At first glance these surfaces display a helter-skelter appearance; however, there is a visual logic based on the simple aspect of his chosen component forms. In the second Académie Wassilief lecture, prepared as Léger was bringing this series of paintings to a close, he wrote, "Composition takes precedence over all else; to obtain their maximum expressiveness lines, forms, and colors must be employed with the utmost logic. It is the logical spirit that will achieve the greatest result" (ibid., pp. 14-15).

The contrasts in these compositions are on one level "retinal", that is, we view juxtapositions and oppositions in the lines, shapes and colors. On another level the contrasts are conceptual as well, and confront the viewer as contradictory ideas. Léger underscores the traditional opposition of line and color -- each is kept separate from the other -- they simultaneously oppose and interact to create form. The forms in their startling profusion appear to suggest volume and depth, with one form placed in front of another, yet, in the absence of conventional modeling, the surface looks flat, especially when one examines local sections. While the artist may contradict flatness, he will neither completely affirm nor deny it. Léger delights in setting up a series of dialectical visual arguments, in which he disallows any possibility of resolution. Léger's aim is to create "contrast = dissonance, and hence a maximum expressive effect" (ibid., p. 16). This dissonance, like strident harmonies or outright discord in a musical composition, keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is certainly Léger's intention. One wonders if he had heard the pounding rhythms and clashing sonorities of Igor Stravinsky's ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, whose Paris premiere on 29 May 1913 (three weeks after Léger's first lecture) caused a riot. The event became a rallying point for the Paris avant-garde.

This is pure painting seen in its most exciting form, bursting with visual and intellectual ideas. These pictures are more dynamic than Delaunay's contemporary Formes circulaires and Première disque, which aimed for harmony and equilibrium. Léger's Contrastes are more outwardly logical and physically assertive than the non-objective paintings of Kandinsky and Kupka, which instead evoke an internal, spiritual center. Picasso and Braque did not care to theorize and argue in the way that Léger did in his lectures, and of course, in their paintings, they never let the subject slip so dangerously from view.

In Léger's Contrastes the subject has virtually disappeared, in keeping with Apollinaire's prediction. The prevailing use of vertical figure formats and the tendency of the largest cylindrical forms to congregate around a central vertical armature may seem to imply a figure subject, as seen in the earlier La femme en bleu (fig. 2). However, the painting that led into this series was Paysage of 1913 (Bauquier 41; ex-coll. Douglas Cooper). As Christopher Green has pointed out, Léger took landscape elements and reworked them in a way that is related to figural treatment, especially in his

use of the limb- or torso- like cylinder, to arrive at the basic, rounded forms he required. "In the last analysis it becomes clear that the Contrastes de formes as a body were indeed the result of the progressive metamorphosis of landscape ideas, a process which led ultimately to pictorial results so far from their origins and so free of any representational limitation, that they achieved purity" (op. cit., pp. 67-68).

In his 18 March 1913 review of the Salon des Indépendants, Apollinaire proudly touted the work of the Orphist painters, the name he bestowed on Léger, Delaunay, Duchamp and Picabia. Derived from the ancient Greek cult commemorating the poet-musician Orpheus, this appellation -- very characteristically the invention of a poet -- was intended to underscore the fact that theirs "is the art of painting new structures out of elements which have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but have been created entirely by the artist himself, and been endowed by him with fullness of reality" (from "Les Peintres Cubistes", in H.C. Chipp, ed., op. cit., p. 228). However, pure painting was only partly in evidence at the Salon d'Indépendants that spring. Delaunay's contribution was his L'équippe de Cardiff, 3e représentation (Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), which contained easily recognizable subject matter -- football players, the Eiffel Tower, a ferris wheel and flying machine. He painted it in early 1913 following the pure, chromatic lyricism of the Fenêtres series. He turned again to pure painting in his Formes circulaires and Disque later that year, but representational elements reappeared in his Hommage à Blériot and related works in 1914.

Léger showed his Modèle nu dans l'atelier, painted in 1912-1913 (Bauquier 40; The Solomon R. Guggeheim Museum). Léger's name was for some reason omitted from the catalogue, and in his Montjoie! review Apollinaire mistakenly commented that Léger withheld this work, "because he thought he had not attained the goals he was pursuing" (quoted in L.C. Breunig, op. cit., p. 291). Perhaps he was thinking of Léger's Contrastes, then in their earliest stages. In any case, Léger did not exhibit any of his most advanced examples of pure painting in the Salons before the war. In October 1913, while in the midst of working on the Contrastes, Léger signed an exclusive three-year contract with Kahnweiler, who would buy up his new paintings when they were ready, and exhibit and re-sell them as he thought best. Kahnweiler did not put on one-man shows and never allowed a picture to be seen in the Paris salons, preferring to send the paintings for inclusion in group exhibitions outside of the country. He had similar arrangements with Picasso, Braque, Derain and Gris. Delaunay favored showing his recent work in Germany, where it was widely acclaimed by Franz Marc, August Macke and other progressive artists. In fact, pure painting was in greater evidence in Berlin than it was in Paris; Apollinaire called the the Herbstsalon at Galerie Sturm in September 1913 the first "Orphic Salon". The only show in Paris that year dedicated to pure painting was of works by the Americans Morgan Russell and Stanton MacDonald Wright, who closely allied themselves to developments in Delaunay's work, at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. Despite Apollinaire's exhortations, a Parisian had remarkably little opportunity to see pure painting in the capital of the art world.

The contract with Kahnweiler provided Léger welcome financial security; his mother, who saw to it that the document was properly notarized, exclaimed "Fernand is going to earn his living!" (quoted in P. Assouline, An Artful Life: A Biography of D.H. Kahnweiler, New York, 1990, p. 101). The agreement also served as a shield protecting the artist from the taunts and vitriol of the press. By avoiding exposure in the salons Léger need not be concerned with the general public and press response to his most radical works. If cubism was still a hard nut for them to crack, it is unlikely that they would have approved of paintings without a subject or any trace of recognizable imagery. Picasso and Braque had used this strategy to their advantage; it enabled them to experiment as they saw fit, and their reputations grew and spread by word of mouth among Kahnweiler's carefully cultivated clientele, whose opinions and patronage were those that really mattered.

While the Contrastes were under way, Léger had to wonder where it would take him and what the next step would be. The rarified air of pure painting was hard to breathe for very long. Painting that fed off its own plastic means only, without new external input, would perforce become repetitive and formulaic. Kandinsky, Kupka and later Mondrian in their painting sought an inner spiritual world apart from the material world, and their idealistic agendas sustained the development of non-representational painting as a permanent approach. Léger, however, Apollinaire had noted, was "not a mystic". And in the spring of 1913 Apollinaire had noticed something new in the air. He had seen Delaunay's aforementioned L'équippe de Cardiff. "By the Indépendants of 1913 a definite return to modern poetic imagery was obervable in Parisian avant-garde painting. Albert Gleizes' Joueurs de football [Varichon 404; The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.] was another pointer to this trend, and it led Apollinaire to declare in Montjoie! the return of the subject in painting. Almost before pure painting had begun, the reaction against it set in, allied to a Futuristically simultaneous emphasis on the 'new beauty' -- the modern world" (C. Green, op, cit., p. 80). There was also an increasing emphasis on memory, dream and mental processes, as in the work of Duchamp and Picabia, and among representational artists such as Marc Chagall and Giorgio de Chirico. Purely plastic concepts were now of less concern.

At some point during the sequence of the Contrastes Léger also felt the need to reassert the subject, but without compromising the visual elements that he had developed. In his second Académie Wassilieff lecture, delivered in June 1914, he set out by stating: "Contemporary achievements in painting are the result of the modern mentality and are closely bound up with the visual aspect of external things that are creative and necessary for a painter" (in Functions of Painting, p. 11). He began to work on a group of landscape and still-life paintings, and then adapted the conical forms from the cylinders of his Contrastes to fabricate clearly identifiable figures descending a stairway in his L'escalier series (fig. 4). By using these universalized, nearly interchangeable forms for any subject that he chooses, Léger was in effect suppressing the individual significance of his subject. What he paints is largely irrelevant; it is a means to an end. He stated in the 1914 lecture, "I purposely did not take a so-called modern subject because I do not know what is an ancient or a modern subject; all I know is what is a new interpretation. All that is method; the only interesting thing is how it is used" (in Functions of Painting, pp. 16-17).

In late 1913 Léger executed a gouache and charcoal study (fig. 5), showing a woman outdoors with an urban landscape behind her, the concept of which was the genesis for La femme en rouge et vert, the present painting. The study is also related to the figures in L'escalier (fig. 4), especially in the appearance of the ovoid head, although the cylindrical limbs and torso have not yet been modified into their final conical shape seen in that painting. The reappearance of a female subject here, and in a series of paintings done on the theme Femme assise dans un fauteuil (Bauquier 60-63), is possibly related to the beginning of Léger's relationship with Jeanne Lohy, whom he met in May or June 1913 (fig. 6), when she was eighteen and he was thirty-two. Jeanne stayed in Léger's studio while the artist was serving at the front during the First World War, and looked after his affairs. They were married in December 1919. If the artist intended a reference to his girlfriend in these pictures, it is a rare instance of an autobiographical moment in the otherwise anonymous character of Léger's pre-war subject matter. La femme en rouge et vert is also related to another painting done around the same time, Deux personnages (fig. 7), which shows a man wearing a black beret promenading with a young lady in a yellow hat, holding a handbag, as she appears in the present painting. This is perhaps a double-portrait, showing the artist and Jeanne, celebrating their relationship around the time of the first anniversary of their meeting.

The evolution of the female subject from the initial study to the present painting involved the characterization of the face, moving from a non-descriptive dual-tone ovoid shape to the visage seen here, which suggests a good-looking woman with rather fine, firm features. The other major change is visible in the background, which is distant in the study, but is here telescoped so that it surrounds and envelops the figure in a shallower space. The use of the steps -- probably derived from the L'escalier paintings -- serves as an effective bridge leading from the lower part of the figure and around her side, to the architectural forms along the left side. The forms spiral around and through the figure in a rhythmical wave-like motion, creating a subtle and fully integrated synthesis of foreground, figure and background.

The figure itself is composed of cylinders and larger drum- or wheel-like forms, which are contrasted against the planar elements of her handbag and the surrounding architectural elements. These appear as a more refined modification of the primitive, elemental forms seen in the Contrastes, and demonstrates how adaptable and versatile these shapes proved to be for the artist's changing needs. Each curved form is painted a single color, with a white band at the middle, like the gleaming highlight on a polished curved metal surface. Indeed, the overall effect here is more sleekly machine-like than in previous paintings, "Léger's women have here become a new kind of machine whose action is rotary" (C. Green, op. cit., p. 84). This writer recently had the opportunity to view a restored example of a French 1912 Deperdussin monoplane racer, built less than ten years after the Wright brothers' kite-like flying machines. Powered by the then new rotary engine, it was able to fly at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The engine was enclosed a streamlined cylindrical metal cowling that resembles Léger's forms in a femme en rouge et vert. Léger probably had similar machine-like forms in mind. He wrote in 1924:

One year [1912], showing at the Salon d'Automne, I had the advantage of being next to the Aviation Show, which was about to open. Never, in spite of my familiarity with such spectacles, had I been so impressed. Never had such a stark contrast assailed my eyes. I left vast surfaces, dismal and gray, pretentious in their frames [at the Salon], for beautiful metallic objects, hard, permanent, and useful, in pure local colors; infinite varieties of steel surfaces at play next to vermilion and blues. The power of geometric forms dominated all (from "The Machine Aesthetic I" in Functions of Painting, p. 60).

La femme en rouge et vert, painted only a few months before Léger was called up for military service in September 1914 and sent to the front, represents the final flowering of the ideas and techniques that characterize the Contrastes de formes series. Compared with the rough and tumble forms of the earlier Contrastes, the present painting possesses a mature, balanced and almost classical beauty, with little sacrifice in dynamism or softening of the fundamental contrasts of line, form or color. The presence of a subject, one for whom Léger had a special connection, lends a human and emotional dimension not present in the earlier Contrastes, yet without becoming sentimental. The great, late portraits of Cézanne come to mind as a comparison (fig. 1). Cézanne declared that he was seeking to redo the classicism of Poussin from nature; Léger might have claimed a similar intention to re-interpret the modernism of Cézanne from the point of view of our age of machines. Here Léger has come full circle, from Cézanne back to Cézanne, from subject to pure painting and back to the subject once again. During this same period, Picasso and Braque were reclaiming the subject in their pictures through the use of papiers collés, leading into the "Synthetic" period of Cubism. Delaunay also returned to the subject after his Forms circulaires and Disque. There was something in the temperament of French artists at that time -- a love of the world and the objects in it, a fondness for the reality and vitality of modern living -- that did not find non-representational painting congenial for very long.

Many of the great issues that characterized 20th century modernism intersected in Paris during the years 1910-1914. Painters continued to argue for many years afterward the nature of the subject, whether it should be representational or abstract, or if there should be a subject at all; they debated the integrity of the picture plane as a flat surface vs. the conventions of illusionistic space, and the response of the artist to society and modern life. When the American Abstract Expressionists emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War three decades later, the debate was revived with new passion and intensity. It was then necessary to confront and question the great heritage of European culture, and more specifically the legacy of cubism, which was still the dominant aesthetic ethos of the day. The time, place, and context had changed, but the aesthetic issues remained the same, and called for new solutions, which would be explored over the course of the second half of the century.

* * *

While the merits of Léger's La femme en rouge et vert as an exemplar of early 20th century modernism are of primary interest, an utterly fascinating tale unfolds in tracing its history of ownership. The saga begins at the doorstep of the famed Parisian art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who in 1914 and under contractual terms, acquired La femme en rouge et vert from the artist. Following the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, and despite the fact he was reputed to be staunchly pro-French, Kahnweiler was forced to leave the country because of his German nationality. He immediately sought refuge in Switzerland to avoid being drafted into the German army, which would have raised the terrible possibility he would find himself fighting against his own artists in the trenches. Upon his departure, the French authorities sequestered Kahnweiler's belongings, including numerous paintings by Picasso, Braque, Léger and Gris.

Kahnweiler returned to Paris in February 1920 to find his collection was to be auctioned at Hôtel Drouot in Paris with the proceeds given to benefit victims of the war. Léonce Rosenberg, an art dealer who during the war became the leading exponent of Cubist painting in Paris, was appointed expert-in-charge. Léonce, with his keen eye, had certainly noted the importance of La femme en rouge et vert and purchased the painting during the second session, held on 18 November 1921. In 1935 the painting was lent to the Galerie des Beaux-Arts exposition Les créateurs du cubism, and until recently, this was where the trail of ownership prior to its being looted during World War II by the ERR -- the ironically named Einsatzsab Reichleiters Rosenberg under the direction of the German Occupational Army -- grew cold.

Proof of the painting's whereabouts next appears in a 1941-1942 photograph (published in 1961; R. Valland, op. cit.) where it is seen hanging in the Salle des Martyrs at the Jeu de Paume which had been converted into a storage facility for seized art (fig. 8). The Nazis made a well-known practice of trading groups of modern paintings they considered degenerate for those by Old Masters that were more pleasing to their conservative tastes. At the close of the war, and following the interrogation of the collaborationist art dealer Gustav Rochlitz by the U.S. Army in July-August 1945, the contracts between him and Hermann Goering, who directed the confiscation program, were discovered. One of these revealed that Léger's La femme en rouge et vert, now renamed Chevalier en armure, was traded for Adoration of the Magi by The School of the Master of Frankfurt. On 8 January 1946 the Allied Forces recovered the painting from one of Rochlitz's hidden Munich troves. Without any reclamation request having been filed, on 8 June 1948 La femme en rouge et vert was returned to France and entrusted for exhibition to the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris.

In 1999, the Office of Documention at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou discovered in German archives the extraordinary document which ultimately led to the restitution of La femme en rouge et vert to the heirs of the Rosenberg family. This was the ERR Inventory detailing the 110 works of art seized from the private apartments and gallery of Paul Rosenberg. This inventory, dated 17 October 1941 and recording the Rosenberg name and his rue de la Boétie address, bears the HG stamp alongside the details of Femme en rouge et vert and an oil by Braque, Nature morte aux fruits, indicating these pictures were to be traded for the benefit of Hermann Goering.

With the process of restitution now complete, Christie's is honored to represent the families of Léonce and Paul Rosenberg on this remarkable occasion of the sale of Fernand Léger's La femme en rouge et vert.

We extend our sincerest gratitude to the office of Documentation des Collections of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou for their generous assistance in the historical research of this painting.

(fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, La dame en bleu, circa 1904. Exhibited in the Cézanne memorial retrospective at the 1907 Salon d'Automne. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

(fig. 2) Fernand Léger, La femme en bleu, 1912.

Kunstmuseum, Basel.

© 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris.

(fig. 3) Fernand Léger, Contrastes de formes, 1913. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

© 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris.

(fig. 4) Fernand Léger, L'escalier, 1914. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

© 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris.

(fig. 5) Fernand Léger, Etude pour "La femme en rouge et vert", 1913. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Femme en rouge et vert is seen hanging on the wall at right.

(fig. 6) Photograph of Jeanne Lohy in front of a painting in the L'escalier series, circa 1915.

(fig. 7) Fernand Léger, Deux personnages, 1914. Private collection.

©2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris.

(fig. 8) Salle des Martyrs, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1941-1942.

Femme en rouge et vert is seen hanging on the wall at right.


La femme en rouge et vert


Oil on canvas


Signed, dated and titled 'FEMME EN ROUGE ET VERT F. LEGER 14' (on the reverse)


Fernand Leger


Prague, Umelecke Beseda, April 1931.

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Tentoonstelling van Fransche Schilderkunst uit de twintigste eeuw, April-May 1932, no. 136 (lent by Léonce Rosenberg).

Paris, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Les créateurs du cubisme, March-April 1935, no. 93 (lent by Léonce Rosenberg).

London, Tate Gallery, Fernand Léger, An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, Lithographs and Book Illustrations, February-March 1950, no. 10.

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Honderd Meesterwerken uit het National Museum voor Moderne Kunst te Parijs, April-July 1952, no. 47 (illustrated).

São Paulo, Museo de Arte Moderna, 2 Bienel, December 1953-February 1954, no. 35 (illustrated).

Rio de Janeiro, Museo de Arte Moderna, Exposiçao do cubismo, March-May 1954, no. 35 (illustrated).

Besançon, Palais Gravelle; Valenciennes (no. 27); Dijon (no. 27); Strasbourg (no. 27); Reims (no. 27), Cent vingt chefs-d'oeuvre du Musée National d'Art Moderne, September 1956-January 1957, no. 67.

Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, Pictures from the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, March-April 1957, no. 35.

London, R.B.A. Galleries, An Exhibition of Paintings from the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, April-May 1957, no. 81 (illustrated, pl. XII).

Tours, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Artistes du XXème siècle, July-September 1957, no. 26.

Liège, Musée d'Art Wallon, Léger-Matisse, July-September 1958, p. 17, no. 1.

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Les sources du XXème siècle: Les arts en Europe de 1884 à 1914, November 1960-January 1961, no. 373.

Tokyo, National Museum and Kyoto, Municipal Museum, Exposition of French Art in Japan, November 1961-January 1962, no. 373 (illustrated).

Grenoble, Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture, Albert Gleizes et tempête dans les salons, 1910-1914, June-August 1963, no. 35.

Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna; Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; Montevideo, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes; and Santiago, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Pintura Francesa Contemporánea, June-December 1965, no. 18.

Vienna, Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts, Fernand Léger, April-June 1968, no. 4.

London, Institute of Contemporary Arts; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery; and Bristol, City Art Gallery, Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-1918: A Celebration, November 1968-January 1969, no. 277.

Paris, Grand Palais, Salon des Indépendants, Les Indépendants de 1911-1914, March-April 1970, no. 45.

Paris, Grand Palais, Fernand Léger, October 1971-January 1972, p. 6, no. 20 (illustrated, p. 42).

Tokyo, Galeries Seibu; Nagoya, Galerie Meitetsu; and Fukuoka, Cultural Center, Fernand Léger, March-May 1972, no. 4 (illustrated).

Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Musée d'Art Moderne, "Les Contrastes de formes de Léger dans les collections publiques françaises", June-September 1987.

Villeneuve-d'Ascq, Mushe d'Art Moderne, Fernand Léger, March-June 1990, p. 148, no. 62 (illustrated in color).

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Présentation des oeuvres récupérées après la Seconde Guerre Mondiale confiées à la garde du Musée National d'Art Moderne, April 1997, p. 49, no. 20 (illustrated in color).

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Fernand Léger, May-September 1997, p. 49 (illustrated in color; illustrated again, p. 336).

Madrid, Museo Nacional, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Fernand Léger, October 1997-January 1998, p. 76 (illustrated in color).

Biot, Musée National Fernand Léger, Fernand Léger, les années 1910-1930: Collections du Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne et du Musée Fernand Léger, Biot, June-September 1998 (illustrated in color).

Villeneuve d'Ascq, Musée d'Art Moderne de Lille Métropole, Fernand Léger, les années cubistes: Collections du Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne et du Musée d'Art Moderne de Lille Métropole, March-July 1998, p. 88 (illustrated in color).


39½ x 31¾ in. (100.8 x 80.4 cm.)


M. Raynal, "Créateurs du Cubisme", Gazette des Beaux-Arts, March 1935, no. 93 (illustrated, p. 184).

D. Cooper, Fernand Léger et le nouval espace, Geneva, 1949, p. 56 (illustrated).

J. Cassou "Développement de l'art de Fernand Léger", Revue des Arts, no. 1, March 1953, p. 40 (illustrated).

J. Cassou, B. Dorival and G. Homolle, Catalogue guide du Musée National d'Art Moderne, 1954, p. 92 (illustrated).

P. Descargues, Le cubisme, Paris, 1956, pp. 30-31 (illustrated in color, pl. 8).

A. Schmeller, Kubismus, Vienna, 1956, pp. 30-31 (illlustrated in color, pl. 8).

R. Valland, Le front de l'art: Défense des collections françaises, Paris, 1961, p. 10 (illustrated, fig. 62).

B. Dorival, L'Ecole de Paris au Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1961, p. 281 (illustrated).

R. Delevoye, Léger, Geneva, 1962, pp. 47 and 49 (illustrated in color on the frontispiece; illustrated again in color, p. 47).

E. Tadini, Fernand Léger, Milan, 1964, pl. 5 (illustrated).

B.J. Nickels, F. Léger, Paintings and Drawings 1905 to 1930, Ph.D dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1966, p. 150 (illustrated).

A. Martini, Picasso e il cubismo, Milan, 1967, p. 66 (illustrated in color).

M. Richet, La revue du Louvre et des musées de France, no. 4-5, 1971, pp. 311-313 (illustrated in color).

J. Cassou and J. Leymarie, Fernand Léger, dessins et gouaches, Paris, 1972, p. 30 (illustrated, fig. T2).

S. Segui, Braque-Léger, Tokyo, 1972, p. 106 (illustrated).

C. Green, Léger and the Avant-garde, New Haven, 1976, pp. 68, 84-85, and 117.

W. Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, New York, 1976, p. 16 (illustrated).

Y. Kondo and H. Miyajima, Braque-Léger, Tokyo, 1978, no. 39 (illustrated in color).

Fernand Léger, 1881-1955, exh. cat., Staatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin, 1980, p. 72 (illustrated).

C. Laugier and M. Richet, Léger: Oeuvres (Collections du Musée National d'Art Moderne), Paris, 1981, pp. 30-33, no. 4 (illustrated in color, p. 31).

J.M. Salvador, Fernand Léger, la estética de la era industrial, exh. cat., Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Caracas, 1982, p. 12 illustrated).

P. de Francia, Fernand Léger, London, 1983, p. 25 (illustrated, p. 23, fig. I.12).

G. Diehl, Fernand Léger, Paris, 1985, p. 20 (illustrated in color, p. 17).

La collection du Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1986, pp. 355 and 358 (illustrated).

G. Bauquier, Fernand Léger, catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1990, vol. I, p. 170, no. 91 (illustrated in color, p. 171).

C. Derouet, ed., Correspondances Fernand Léger-Léonce Rosenberg 1917-1937, Paris, 1996, p. 95.

"Fernand Léger", Beaux-Arts, no. 140, 1997, p. 11, no. 8 (illustrated in color, p. 12).

Fernand Léger, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 1998, p. 336 (illustrated).

A. Hollander, Fabric of Vision, Dress and Drapery in Painting, London, 2002, p. 192 (illustrated in color).


Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris (acquired directly from the artist, 1914).

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Second Sale of Sequestered Art; Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 17-18 November 1921, lot 155.

Léonce Rosenberg, Paris (acquired at the above sale).

German Occupation Army, Paris (looted from the gallery/residence of Paul Rosenberg, 21 rue de la Boétie, Paris, 17 October 1941).

Récuperations artistiques françaises (taken into custody, 8 June 1948).

Entrusted to the Musée National d'Art Moderne [as of 1974, Centre Georges Pompidou], Paris (on exhibition; inv. R. 2 P.).

Restituted to the Rosenberg family heirs, September 2003.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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