Along with Picasso and Braque, Leger was credited with being a master of the Cubist movement, and became obsessed after his First World War experience, to make art accessible to everyone, not just the upper classes. Leger became associated with Le Corbusier’s Purist movement, creating static and glossy paintings of machinery. He also taught in America and at his own school, Academie de l’Art Contemporain. Leger was widely influenced by the social conditions of the ever-changing times in which he lived, yet remained true to his style and received much praise for doing so.
Leger is rightly ranked with Braque and Picasso as one of the three major Cubists, though his painting is not technically or expressively Cubist in the same sense as theirs. He accepted the fracture of the object, but not its fragmentation.
More than any other Cubist artist, Leger wanted to do more than manipulate forms for exclusively artistic purposes. He wanted to create an art that would be accessible to the whole class structure of Modern society. The conception of such an art came to him during World War I, when he exchanged the isolation of his studio in Paris for the human relationships of the trenches.
The point of view which was to characterize his work for the rest of his life was revealed in a statement he made after the war: “During those four years I was abruptly thrust into a reality which was both blinding and new. When I left Paris my style was thoroughly abstract: a period of pictorial liberation. Suddenly, and without any break, I found myself on a level with the whole of the French people … A complete revelation to me, both as a man and as a painter, was the exuberance, the variety, the humor, the perfection of certain types of men with whom I found myself. More than that, I found them poets, inventors of everyday poetic images I am thinking of their colorful and adaptable use of slang. Once my head was filled with that sort of reality, I never let go of objects again.”
Although he was always the creative artist, never succumbing to his own inventions, Leger took from the mechanical world a principle which he made artistically his own, that of interchangeable parts. His completed compositions were often built from elements which had occurred before in other works, and could be combined in new ways.
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