Fernand Léger. Contrast of Forms. 1913

Fernand Léger

Contrast of Forms


Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 32" (100.3 x 81.1 cm)
The Philip L. Goodwin Collection
Object number
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Fernand Léger has 65 works online.
There are 2,242 paintings online.

Toward the end of 1912, Léger made among the most defiantly abstract works yet seen. Over the next two years he worked intensely in this experimental idiom, producing the fifty or so canvases, and twice as many works on paper, that constitute his Contrastes de formes (Contrasts of forms) series. An inventory of repeated forms—geometric cones, cubes, cylinders—jostle and pile across the surfaces of these works. Here, Léger rejects illusion to focus on the mechanics of representation, drawing attention to them with roughly blocked forms, exposed supports, unmodulated color straight from the tube applied in painterly patches, and highlights detached from any light source. Chiaroscuro, the traditional technique of light and shadow used to create the illusion of three-dimensionality within the two-dimensional reality of the picture plane, becomes a language of absolute contrasts: strident black and white or colored striations clash with one another across the works.

Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Galerie Kahnweiler, Paris. [1913 - 1914. Possibly sequestered in 1914, until 1923]
[4th auction sale of Kahnweiler collection, Hotel Drouot, Paris, May 7-8, 1923]
Prytec Gallery
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York. By 1952
Mr. and Mrs. John L. Senior, Jr. Purchased from Janis, November 13, 1952 - 1957
Philip L. Goodwin (1885-1958), New York. Purchased from John L. Senior, Jr., April 5, 1957 - 1958
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Bequeathed by Philip L. Goodwin, May 1958

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information, or have spotted an error, please send feedback to collection@moma.org.