Man and Woman

Image Resources | Currently on View in William L. and Jane H. Fortune Gallery

Man and Woman

Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)


The man and woman locked in a complex network of shapes suggest Léger's belief in the monumental impact of modern machinery. Curving and wavy forms and the color orange define the hair and body of the woman, while columns and the color blue designate the male. Emotionally neutral, they may also illustrate the challenge to maintain individual identity in a depersonalized environment.

Léger was one of the leading painters associated with Cubism. He forged his own version of the style by aligning the harmonies of color and shape with the repetition of forms common to the modern industrial era.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

This canvas depicting a man and woman locked in an embrace cleverly conveys Fernand Léger's enthusiasm for modern machinery. Streamlined cylinders and bright colors shape two monumental figures: curving and wavy forms and the color orange define the woman, while columns and the color blue identify the man. The two figures merge with their surroundings, composed of flattened intersecting lines evoking an industrial matrix of bolts, beams, and girders. In this way, Léger links the universal theme of man and woman with a belief in our ability to live in unison with a new age defined by technology, high-rise buildings, and ever-expanding metropolises.

For Léger, the essence of painting was harmony of color, volume, and line. To this end, he discarded the multiple vantage points and fragmentation of Picasso and Braque's Cubist style, but retained their interest in reducing forms to simple geometric shapes, such as spheres, cones, and cylinders. Significant in Léger's life were his experiences on the front during World War I, which instilled in him a belief that his art must be relevant to the average person and reflect the mechanized world we inhabit. Throughout his life he identified strongly with the working classes. Firmly believing that art must be available and comprehensible to all, he worked in a wide range of mediums including graphic illustration, stage design, filmmaking, ceramics, and mural painting.

Every canvas, even if nonrepresentational, that depends on harmonious relationships of the three forces-color, volume, and line-is a work of art.
-Fernand Léger, 1950

Object Information

artist
Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)
creation date
1921
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
36-1/4 x 25-1/2 in.
44-1/2 x 33-3/4 x 2-3/4 in. (framed)
accession number
52.28
credit line
Martha Delzell Memorial Fund
copyright
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
collection
European Painting and Sculpture 1800-1945
colors