* 1881 Argentan
† 1955 Gif-sur-Yvette
The French painter Fernand Léger was born in Argentan (Normandy) on February 4, 1881. Léger does an apprenticeship as an architect in Caen from 1897 to 1899. He goes to Paris in 1900 where he works as an architecture drawer. He attends the École des Arts Décoratifs and the Académie Julian in 1903-04. In the following, he earns a living as a drawer and photo editor. Léger soon comes into contact with Parisian avant-garde artists. He is friends with Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz, Robert Delaunay, Henri Matisse, Guillaume Apollinaire and others. Works of Paul Cézanne that he sees in an exhibition in the Salon d'Automne in 1907, impress Fernand Léger very much. Also Cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Bracques have great influence on the artist, however, he develops his very own reduced style as of 1909.
Léger is drafted to serve in the military from 1914 to 1917. He finds his way to an ever more geometric use of forms in paintings made after the war. Léger is fascinated by modern technologies and the big city life that he is surrounded by. He decomposes people, objects and landscapes into cylindrical forms in his paintings. During the years around 1920, the "période mécanique", Fernand Léger attains a precise geometrically defined depiction of objects such as gear wheels, screws and tubes, into which humans are integrated as machine-like beings.
The artist meets Le Corbusier in 1920 and comes into close contact with the group "De Stijl". He does designs for stage and film from 1921 to 1925 and makes the experimental movie "Le ballet mécanique" in 1924.
He turns to a more naturalist style of painting as of the 1930s, his works also showing notions of Surrealism. He travels to the USA several times, where he also lives from 1940 to 1945, teaching at Yale University.
After the end of World War II, Fernand Léger returns to France. In 1948 he works with Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Hans Richter on the film "Dreams that Money Can Buy". He also makes further murals and stage decorations. In 1952 he makes a mural for the large hall of the UN building in New York.
Fernand Léger dies in Gif-sur-Yvette near Paris on August 17, 1955.