Fernand Leger

In the world of Fernand Léger, machines are the essential subject matter. After his country childhood he found the noise and grinding struggle of city life exciting but oppressive, so much so that at times the machine age seems to become an obsession in his work. In the 1914-18 war he fought at the front - until he was gassed - and was overwhelmed by another kind of mechanical oppression, the tank and the howitzer, the cannon and the airplane, all of which appear fragmented in his work. He painted objects in space without perspective or support: 'the real subject is the object.' Later in life he began to free himself from his fear of the machine, and he painted, in brilliant colors, humans and animals attempting to struggle clear of the geometry of the mechanized world.

At first machinists and mechanics, angular and cubic figures people his paintings, but later came his great series of works on the circus, with all its pageantry and humanity. Art had conquered the machine. As a personal declaration combining the writings as well as the visual work of the painter, this film is a work of art in itself, leading the viewer to understand Léger's search for artistic liberation.


Director: Jacques Berthier
Narration: Fernand Léger: Jacques Berthier
Original music: Marian Kouzay

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Catalog number #520

14 minutes Color

Age Range: 12 to Adult

Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript

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