Léger, Two Women on a Blue Background

Fernand LÉGER (1881-1955), Two Women on a Blue Background, 1952, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Fernand LÉGER (1881-1955)
Two Women on a Blue Background
1952
oil on canvas
54 x 65 cm
© MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
HD image
Fernand Léger (1881–1955) is one of the major figures in early 20th-century art. Deeply influenced by Cézanne, he joined the Cubism adventure and formulated very early on an artistic theory from which he never wavered throughout his career. Like the Futurists, he was fascinated by the modern world, the city and movement, and wanted to create a commensurate artistic expression. The circus was one of his favourite themes, conveyed through simplified figures with neutral expressions, one of his major features.

In 1952, Léger worked on a composition entitled Two Women on a Blue Background that exists in two forms. The first, a finished sketch, was acquired several months after its completion by the Le Havre museum, in a city undergoing post-war reconstruction with the new building still in the planning stage. The final state of this composition, a slightly larger oil on canvas, is currently unlocated.

The composition of the sketch is very simple. Two figures, with thick, black outlines that stand out against a luminous, deep blue background, form a cross. A woman with an athletic build, shown from behind, carries another woman whose contorted posture evokes the suppleness of a dancer or acrobat. The hands, larger than the heads, structure the composition. Their imposing presence ties this artwork to The Builders, a cycle of the same period in which the hands, as the men's work tools, are a key element of the paintings. The robust bodies resemble flawless machines and the mask-like faces have the unfazed features of acrobats. For Léger, the show and the circus are a "plastic" and colourful expression of the world, a permanent and deeply popular invention, created for joy and wonder. Demonstrating remarkable continuity, this late composition is similar to the 1937 drawing Acrobats, part of the Maurice Jardot donation at the modern art museum in Belfort.

Artworks in context : 20th century (5)

Nicolas de STAËL (1914-1955), Landscape, Antibes, 1955, oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / Charles Maslard — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Jean DUBUFFET (1901-1985), Ontogenesis, 1975, vinyl on panel, 251 x 316 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / Florian Kleinefenn — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Fernand LÉGER (1881-1955), Two Women on a Blue Background, 1952, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
André LHOTE (1885-1962), Trees at Avignon, ca. 1909-1910, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 54.3 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / Florian Kleinefenn — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Bernard BOUTET DE MONVEL (1881-1949), New York, oil on canvas, 42.1 x 42.5 cm. © MuMa Le Havre / David Fogel — © ADAGP, Paris, 2013