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The City

1919
Fernand Léger, French, 1881 - 1955
Fernand Léger served in the French army throughout the four years of World War I, and came away convinced that modern conflict had imposed a new mentality—unsentimental, dynamic, ever shifting. Modern painting, he believed, should reflect this new turn of mind. He would come to rank this enormous painting, the grand culmination of a sequence of works on the same subject painted after the war's end, as a major career accomplishment. Stenciled letters stand for advertising billboards, a balcony railing signifies the facade of a building, and bits of metal girder denote construction machinery, scaffolding, or electrical pylons. These glimpses of a cityscape are set within a taut framework of vivid hues and clashing shapes, producing visual intensity to rival the modern urban environment. The composition is mural-like in its sweep, flatness, and scale, enveloping the viewer like a theater backdrop or a movie screen. ...

Object Details
A. E. Gallatin, New York, purchased from the artist, with the assistance of George L. K. Morris, 1936 [1]; bequest to PMA, 1952.1. See letter of January 1937 in which Léger informs Gallatin that the painting has been shipped (Gallatin Papers, New York Historical Society, microfilm). Morris owned a half share of the painting (along with Picasso's "Three Musicians"), which he later sold to the Gallatin estate; see Gail Stavitsky, The Development, Institutionalization, and Impact of the A. E. Gallatin Collection of Modern Art [Ph.D. dissertation, New York University], 1990, v. 2, p. 356-357, and v. 7, p. 143.
PDF includes looking questions, history, style and introductory color theory information.

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