Fernand Léger: Retrospective

February 23 – May 28, 2005

Léger’s exile to America in 1940 led to his fascination with the “American Scene.” The wonders of New York’s “overloaded spectacle” made him “mad with joy.” In 1938, Henry McBride reported “Fernand Léger is really expressing the soul of America.” I believe he was, and, because of that fascination with the United States, I wanted to bring his works back to New York for one of the most exhaustive exhibition ever organized in a private gallery.

Léger stands out among the artists of his generation for the importance he gave to the concept of modern society, what he called “the life of tomorrow when prejudice will be destroyed.” Unlike some of his contemporaries, he believed that the new era of abstract art did not mean a complete abandonment of the social reality of the day, of his roots or his social values. This strong feature of Léger’s character shows up in his work at various times throughout his life.
This retrospective features works from 1917 to 1953. The highlight of the show is undoubtedly La Pipe, painted in 1918 and considered to be the masterpiece of the mechanical period. Composition à l’escalier (1925) demonstrates a revolutionary way of using space: the “staircase” taken as an object is freed of terrestrial and gravitational constraints. Les quatre personnages, painted in 1944 during Léger’s American period, presents the artist’s observations of the working class at leisure, using vivid primary colors only.

I am very happy to offer to the public such a rare opportunity to see so many masterpieces gathered together. I am convinced it will be an uplifting and enriching experience.

—Helly Nahmad