Search for over 80 million sold items in our price database

Les Hommes dans la ville
Sold

About the item

Les Hommes dans la ville is a gleaming symbol of technological progress in an age of rapid industrialization. Léger's approach to these pictures incorporated the stylistic legacy of Synthetic Cubism and his Contrastes de formes series, but his philosophy behind them was a sharp departure from his pre-war compositions. With the fabric of society having been torn asunder during the war, Léger's painting in 1920 was now concerned with glorification of social utility. Construction, rather than Cubist deconstruction, was the defining theme of these images, which are essentially painted assemblages of factory-produced "mechanical elements" such as pipes, valves and metal cogs. War-torn Europe was focused on the rebuilding of nations, and Léger felt a moral obligation to participate in this effort through his own art. He wrote to Léonce Rosenberg, "As soon as I was freed, I started to profit from those difficult years: I've reached a decision, and I'm modeling in pure local color and on a large scale without making any concessions" (quoted in Fernand Léger, 1911-1924, The Rhythm of Modern Life, New York, 1994, p. 68).\n\nThe present painting celebrates urban life, as it is transformed by the fragmentation of objects and space. Léger's concentration on a spectrum of primary colors avoids the transitions of light and shadows that indicate volume and spatial relationships, emphasizing the layered, two-dimensional character of the composition. Léger's new conception of his painted surface involved the ability to depict the fragmented immediacy of objects; the frenetic simultaneity of modern life.\n\nLéger's composition here consists of many decontextualized machine elements, vertical, horizontal and diagonal bands of color, spheres and less clearly definable shapes that coexist with glimpses of modern urban architecture. The resulting aesthetic is a bold statement that has come to encapsulate the style of post-war Paris. The work of this period has been memorably described by John Golding: “Now, at the height of his powers, he rendered architectural the compositional effects of synthetic Cubism to give definitive form to all that had been most positive, from a visual point of view, in the Futurist programme ... From synthetic Cubism, Léger adapted a form of composition that relied for its effects on a surface organization in terms of predominantly upright, vertical areas, often tendered now in unmodulated colour. Mechanical, tubular forms, like great shafts of metal, appear with frequency, but these are now tied into, and indeed made subsidiary to a flatter treatment of the picture surface; the colored shapes tip and tilt, fanning out towards the edges of the canvas, only to meet opposing forces which tie them back again tightly into the overall, jazz-like rhythms of the composition. The bright raw colours call to each other across the surface of the canvas, pulling it taut like a drum. The vitality of the forms is such that at times they appear to advance towards us, so that we seem to share, palpably, in the painting’s beat. Some areas become cells in space, in which we glimpse the life of the city’s inhabitants; others are broken by letters, like fragments of giant billboards, while their harsh, dry imagery is thrown into relief by the contrasting, swirling, circular bands of colour. Never has the poetry of the first machine age been so grandly and proudly exalted” (J. Golding, “Léger and the Heroism of Modern Life,” in Léger and Purist Paris (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1970-71, p. 12). This canvas is closely related to a larger version currently in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.  It was not uncommon for Léger to do variations on a single theme, and for some of his most important pictures he took the time to complete nearly identical versions in different sizes.\nSigned F. Léger and dated 19 (lower right); titled Les Hommes dans la ville, signed F.Léger and dated 19 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Fernand Léger

dimensions

25 1/2 by 21 1/4 in.

exhibition

New York, Sidney Janis, Fernand Léger, no. 6 Milan, Palazzo Reale, Architectonic Composition, 1997 Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, 2002-03, no. 75, illustrated in color in the catalogue Denmark, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Fernand Léger, Man in the New Age, 2006, no. 13, illustrated in color in the catalogue Nice, Musée Chagall; Biot, Musée National Fernand Léger & Vallauris, Musée Picasso, Dis-Moi, Blaise, Léger, Chagall, Picasso et Blaise Cendrars, 2009, illustrated in color in the catalogue

literature

Douglas Cooper, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1949, no. 81, illustrated in color Georges Bauquier, Férnand Léger, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, 1903-1919, Paris, 1990, no. 164, illustrated in color p. 293

provenance

Carstairs Gallery, New York Sidney Janis, New York Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf Private Collection, Munich (acquired from the above) Acquired by descent from the above in 1983

signedDate

Signed F. Léger and dated 19 (lower right); titled Les Hommes dans la ville, signed F.Léger and dated 19 on the reverse

time_period

Painted in 1919.

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Distinguished Private European Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1881 - 1955


*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.


Advert
Advert

Sold items

L'HOMME QUI MARCHE I
Sold

L'HOMME QUI MARCHE I

Realized Price
104,327,006 USD

Femme assise dans un fauteuil
Sold

Femme assise dans un fauteuil

Realized Price
30,487,500 USD

Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil
Sold

Femme au chignon dans un fauteuil

Realized Price
29,930,000 USD

Femme assise dans un fauteuil
Sold

Femme assise dans un fauteuil

Realized Price
29,202,500 USD

Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil
Sold

Femme au costume turc dans un fauteuil

Realized Price
27,737,948 USD

L'homme est en mer
Sold

L'homme est en mer

Realized Price
27,737,948 USD

Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar)
Sold

Femme dans un fauteuil (Dora Maar)

Realized Price
25,708,420 USD

Femme dans la nuit
Sold

Femme dans la nuit

Realized Price
22,590,000 USD

Homme à l’épée
Sold

Homme à l’épée

Realized Price
22,565,000 USD

Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier
Sold

Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier

Realized Price
21,761,084 USD