Artists That Inspire

Joseph Fernand Henri Léger

Joseph Fernand Leger was a French paintersculptor, and filmmaker born in 1881. In his early works he created a personal form of cubism (known as “tubism“) which he gradually modified into a more figurativepopulist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has caused him to be regarded as a forerunner of pop art.

Fernand Léger initially trained as an architect from 1897 to 1899, before moving in 1900 to Paris, where he supported himself as an architectural draftsman. After military service in Versailles, Yvelines, in 1902–1903, he enrolled at the School of Decorative Arts after his application to the École des Beaux-Arts was rejected. He nevertheless attended the Beaux-Arts as a non-enrolled student, spending what he described as “three empty and useless years” studying with Gérôme and others, while also studying at the Académie Julian. He began to work seriously as a painter only at the age of 25. A new emphasis on drawing and geometry appeared in Léger’s work after he saw the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907.

In 1909 he moved to Montparnasse and met Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz, Marc Chagall, Joseph Csaky and Robert Delaunay. In 1910 he exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in the same room (salle VIII) as Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. In his major painting of this period, Nudes in the Forest, Léger displays a personal form of Cubism that his critics termed “Tubism” for its emphasis on cylindrical forms.