Fernand Léger Contrast of Forms 1913

  • Not on view

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.
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 32" (100.3 x 81.1 cm)
The Philip L. Goodwin Collection
Object number
© 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

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

Provenance research is a work in progress, and is frequently updated with new information. If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please email [email protected] or write to:

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


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].