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
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Fernand Léger has 66 works online.
There are 2,314 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

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

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