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Posts tagged ‘Fernand Léger’

Art on the Riviera: Musée Fernand Léger

I would be the first to admit that I largely overlooked the work of French artist, Fernand Léger. Although I was aware of his uniquely colourful works characterised by simplified figures painted with shaded tones and outlined in black, I had never really seen enough of them to heed Léger much significance. That grave error was to come to an abrupt end on my honeymoon when I attended the Musée Nacional Fernand Léger in the little town of Biot on the French Riviera. Seeing this artist’s magnificent work en masse, grouped together in a chronological retrospective of his life’s work, left me feeling uplifted and awashed by colour, and deeply, deeply satisfied by the sleek finish and positive subject matter depicted in his work.

Enjoying the Biot museum

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Born in 1881 in Normandy, Léger’s early work was characterised by a personal form of cubism, and human forms were reduced and simplified; curling curvaceous hair became what looked like undulating metal sheets, and his paintings drew clear influence from the Futurist movement. Gradually losing people from his works, Léger’s paintings became even more abstractive before an about turn saw the reintroduction of the figure alongside often floating disorientated objects such as keys and blobs of sky and clouds.

Early cubist work leading back into figurative depictions

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From this point onwards, Léger adopted a gradually more figurative, populist style as he sought to use art as a means of attracting not just the cultured set, but the whole of society into galleries, attracted by paintings depicting every day life in bright, happy colours, as well as working life, for example in his masterfully conceived works featuring labourers on scaffolding.

Later works

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Beyond the galleries, the Biot museum offers an immersive grand-scale opportunity to discover some of the artist’s incredible sculptural, ceramic and mosaic works as demonstrated by the immense mosaics which envelop the building, constructed shortly after the artist’s death by his wife and business partner. In a garden laden with pine trees, Léger’s candy coloured sculptures are dazzling in the Riviera sunshine, while the mosaics explode in the landscape with all of the force deserved by this brilliant 20th century artist.

The museum’s exterior and its gardens

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With his boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter, Léger is rightfully regarded as a forerunner of pop art, and for me an absolute inspiration. I will never underestimate the work of Fernand Léger again.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Art on the Riviera: Breakfast at La Colombe d’Or

I wish I could claim to enjoy the kind of artistic notoriety and talent of those celebrated artists exhibited in the stunning collection of La Colombe d’Or and the Fondation Maeght, the latter being the feature of my last Art on the Riviera post. In the second feature of this series, allow me to indulge myself a little by featuring not the work of an artist great, but a painting created by myself.

Except that is not perhaps strictly true… for in sharing with you another of my honeymoon artworks, completed while we stayed at the blissful Colombe d’Or hotel, I am also sharing something of the work of much more famous artist, Fernand Léger. This is because in painting a work devoted to our experience of eating breakfast in the garden of La Colombe d’Or, I could not do so without featuring the stunning 1950s ceramic mural by Léger which is famously installed in the garden.

Breakfast at La Colombe d'Or (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Breakfast at La Colombe d’Or (2015 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Breakfast at La Colombe d’Or captures the random cosiness of the beautiful restaurant terrace as it was set up for breakfast on those sunny Riviera mornings. Still recovering from a heaving night of fine dining, and before preparation of the terrace for lunch, the restaurant at breakfast had much more of a relaxed feel, like a star of the stage before her makeup was applied. The old rusty tables around which Picasso once sat were scattered haphazardly without a tablecloth – this was only placed on the table when a guest chose from amongst them and sat down to eat petit dejeuner in a dappled spot. Likewise the little vintage metal chairs were randomly placed, their normal cushions not yet affixed.

Amongst this friendly scene, the ceramic mural by Léger continued to glimmer in the morning sunshine filtered through the large leaves of the garden’s fig trees, and on the table, an exquisite breakfast of rich coffee, pastries and fruit was served in La Colombe’s iconic branded porcelaine. Breakfast bliss.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Saloua Raouda Choucair – Geometric East meets Abstract Expressionist West

I hadn’t heard of Beirut-born artist Saloua Raouda Choucair before I dropped in, unplanned, to a small retrospective of her work at Tate Modern yesterday. In fact, as the literature accompanying the show rather depressingly tells us, “despite ceaselessly producing work for the best part of five decades, Choucair remains relatively little known internationally [and]… has not yet reached her deserved position in art history”. This is undoubtedly the reason then why our paths have not crossed each other before (and, I suppose in part has something to do with the fact that her name does not exactly spring to mind all that easily). Yet the moment I walked into the four room exhibition at Tate, encouraged to do so by the vivid bright colours of her almost fauvist abstract portrait which graces the posters of the show, I was in love.

Choucair poster

I was in love first and foremost with her paintings, largely gouache abstract compositions, with geometric forms criss crossing over each other in a multi layered colour explosion, to her Les Peintres Celebres collection, a wonderful set of group portraits, where the form of the nude has been flattened and abstracted, and the poses reduced to softened linear forms.

Les Peintes Celebres (1948-9) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Les Peintes Celebres (1948-9) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Untitled (1948-9) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Untitled (1948-9) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Paris-Beirut (1948) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Paris-Beirut (1948) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Choucair’s paintings very clearly demonstrate the influential hand of cubist figurative painter Fernand Léger, under whose influence she came in 1940s Paris, and yet as she moves from figure paintings to her abstract composition, you can see equally clear evidence of the extent to which she was inspired by the geometric forms of Islamic art, which had entranced her when she became acquainted with them in Cairo. These “Fractional Modules” as she calls them, were almost certainly my favourite paintings in the show. Simple shapes interwoven and multi-layered resulted in a wonderfully satisfying overall abstract form, an image so complex in its pictorial language (despite the repeated use of a single shape or form) that it reminds me of the same level of aesthetic satisfaction that can be gleaned from those stunning patterned tiles and plaster work in the great Islamic palaces of Southern Spain.

Composition in Blue Module (1947-51) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Composition in Blue Module (1947-51) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Fractional Module (1947-51) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Fractional Module (1947-51) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Rhythmical Composition in Yellow (1952-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Rhythmical Composition in Yellow (1952-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Composition with Arcs (1962-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Composition with Arcs (1962-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

However in addition to the paintings, I also loved Choucair’s sculptures, which became her main preoccupation from the 1950s onwards, and into whose multi-dimensional forms the language of abstract expressionism has translated. Her works often reminded me of British greats Moore and Hepworth, particularly her use of strings strung across her metal sculptures to form rounded ephemeral planes. But I loved in particular her “poem” works – like a pile of bricks but each somehow melting under the tender hands of their mother-sculptor, curving into one another in an organic embrace.

Poem (1963-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Poem (1963-5) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Dual (1978-80) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Dual (1978-80) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

The screw (1975-7) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

The screw (1975-7) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

But perhaps the most powerful piece in the exhibition is  Two=One (1947-51), one of Choucair’s painted compositions which had been hanging in her Beirut flat when a bombing raid rained down on the city during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, resulting in glass from one of her cabinets smashing and piercing the surface of this abstract painting. Thus the painting bears witness not only to that history, but, as Tate puts it, to the “circumstances through which Choucair not only survived, but continued to work with energy and enthusiasm”. Hopefully, with this superb exhibition  hosted at the very heart of the Britain’s art capital, Choucair’s enthusiasm will finally bear fruit as she becomes recognised as an internationally important abstract artist, under whose skilful guise Eastern islamic geometry met with western Expressionism with stunning results.

Two=One (1947-51) (complete with hole at its centre)  © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Two=One (1947-51) (complete with hole at its centre) © Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Soloua Raouda Choucair is on at Tate Modern until 20th October 2013.