L'homme au chandail
Gouache and brush and India ink over pencil on textured brownish paper 32.5 x 40.7 cm Framed under glass. Monogrammed and dated 'F.L. 40' in pen and ink lower right. A paper label from Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, verso on sheet upper left. Therein handwritten artist's name, work title, year, ph. no. "30247", "319" and stamped no. "08778". - Very vibrant colours. The paper browned with traces of a former mounting in the margins and a professional restored tear towards the lower margin.
It was still the summer of 1940 when Fernand Léger observed the divers in Marseille - the “plongeurs” who would make their thoroughly iconic entry into his work in the years that followed and who were among the artists' most powerful figural compositions. Much like the divers and acrobats, the man in the pullover also shows how precisely Léger was able to return back to the fundamental investigations of the avant-garde during these years when, as a painter equally occupied with form and humanity, he sought to answer the urgent questions of modernity. Contrast was a central pictorial device for Léger, who thematises it and achieves its artistic synthesis in primary colours set coolly alongside one another as well as in the combination of a monumental central figure with climbing flora.
From November of 1940 until the end of the war in 1945, Léger lived and worked in the United States. Having already set out on numerous journeys overseas in previous years, his stay there developed into an involuntary exile in response to the Second World War. In New York the Frenchman had long been a familiar figure; for example, as early as 1925 Katherine Dreier had already enabled him to have his first retrospective across the Atlantic; exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Art Institute of Chicago followed ten years later. During the years that followed, with his painterly abstraction, he would play an essential role in the development of American post-war art.
Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (label verso); Waddington Galleries, London, (frame label and inscription "WG A 3180"); Private collection (1969); Christie's London, 19 Jun. 2013, Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper, lot 133; Private collection, England