Fernand Léger, The Builder

"The first draft of the creation, with me, is instinctive. I never work directly on the canvas. My work, I assemble it, study by study, piece by piece, as one assembles an engine or a house." Fernand Léger

Fernand Léger looking at his wire portrait made by Alexander Calder.

At first glance, nothing brought Fernand Léger and Aimé Maeght together. Of course, they crossed paths in the exhibitions organized by the Communist Party at the Alhambra against Hitler. Of course, they saw each other during a lunch or two at the Colombe d'Or, in Saint-Paul... In 1940, in Marseille, Léger was waiting for a boat to America, but did not settle on the French Riviera. He will have just enough time to conceive his famous Diver series. In the 1930s, he had already spent time in the United States, where he decorated Nelson Rockefeller's apartment. During his American stay, he taught at Yale University, then in 1952-53, he decorated a large room in the United Nations Palace in New York. It was not until May 1949, with the exhibition "Abstract Art" organized at the Maeght Gallery by Andry-Farcy, curator of the Museum of Grenoble, and Michel Seuphor, that began his collaboration with Maeght. The inventors of abstraction and the new generation (Braque, Duchamp, Gleizes, Larionov, Picabia, Picasso, Villon, Kandinsky, Arp, Delaunay, Kupka ...).

Fernand Léger, To Florence, December 31, 1956, gouache on paper, 48 x39 cm. Offered to Florence Maeght by Nadia Léger "for her arrival in the world so that the colors of Fernand Léger bring her joy and happiness for all her life.

"I went to the United States to ask Leger to make the poster and lithos for the catalog," confided Aimé one day. The exhibition was the first inventory of abstraction, divided into two parts, six months apart. At that time, abstract art was still considered "suspect". Several great names of the abstraction will return to the figure. Fernand Léger, him, returns there and anchors himself in reality as can testify his Builders. What the artist justifies: "One criticized much the Art for the Art (i.e. without subject), and the abstract Art (i.e. without object), but it seems well that their time is going to finish. We are witnessing a return to the great subject, which is understandable to the people." On this occasion, Léger executed two original lithographs for the issue of Derrière Le Miroir (No. 20-21). In November 1955, as a tribute to the late artist, the Gallery hung 22 paintings from 1920 to 1930. His wife Nadia will remain linked to Marguerite and Aimé, they will meet again on the French Riviera where Nadia will build the Fernand Léger Museum in Biot.
View of the Fernand Léger exhibition at the Maeght Foundation, 1988.

"Fernand Léger - one of those men who knew how to stand up to their time and all that follows, to the rhythm of the swells of time, the violence of the wind and the great tides that pass over the dikes at the equinoxes." Pierre Reverdy, Derrière Le Miroir, 1955.

Fernand Léger, Aimé Maeght, Nadia Léger, and Georges Bauquier at Gréolières-Les-Neiges, 1953.

Fernand Léger, Ceramic of the chapel of the Maeght Foundation, 1953, ceramic, 100x195 cm.

Fernand Léger, La Partie de campagne, 1954, oil on canvas, 240x360 cm.
Aimé Maeght in front of the model of the Fernand Léger National Museum in Biot, 1958. The museum was inaugurated in 1960.

Nadia Léger and Marguerite Maeght at Maeght Foundation, 1974.