February 4, 1881 – August 17, 1955
was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works he created a personal form of cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has caused him to be regarded as a forerunner of pop art.
Léger wrote in 1945 that “the object in modern painting must become the main character and overthrow the subject. If, in turn, the human form becomes an object, it can considerably liberate possibilities for the modern artist.” He elaborated on this idea in his 1949 essay, “How I Conceive the Human Figure”, where he wrote that “abstract art came as a complete revelation, and then we were able to consider the human figure as a plastic value, not as a sentimental value. That is why the human figure has remained willfully inexpressive throughout the evolution of my work”. As the first painter to take as his idiom the imagery of the machine age, and to make the objects of consumer society the subjects of his paintings, Léger has been called a progenitor of Pop art.
He was active as a teacher for many years. Among his pupils were Nadir Afonso, Robert Colescott, Paul Georges, Charlotte Gilbertson, Hananiah Harari, Asger Jorn, Michael Loew, Beverly Pepper, Victor Reinganum, Marcel Mouly, George L. K. Morris, René Margotton, Erik Olson, Saloua Raouda Choucair and Charlotte Wankel.
In 1952, a pair of Léger murals was installed in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York.
In 1960, the Musée Fernand Léger was opened in Biot, Alpes-Maritimes, France.
In May 2008, his painting, Étude pour la femme en bleu (1912–13) sold for $39,241,000 (hammer price with buyer’s premium) United States dollars.
In August 2008, one of Léger’s paintings owned by Wellesley College’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Mother and Child, was reported missing. It is believed to have disappeared some time between April 9, 2007 and November 19, 2007. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the safe return of the painting.
Léger’s work was featured in the exhibition “Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis” from October 14, 2013, through January 5, 2014, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.