Skip to main content

The City

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

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.