The builders of Fernand Léger

The builders of Fernand Léger
The builders of Fernand Léger

Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955) was a painter of the early European avant-garde, who although he began as an artist following theCubism was evolving towards a very personal art, creating a new figurative language. A very individual proposal, as we say, and yet it has a rather mechanical appearance, and whose most defining features are its hard contours and the accentuation through the drawing of the volumes. Something that can be understood as an evolution of his particular cubism, which ended up becoming an aesthetic that scholars have sometimes called "tubism". And a good example of that is this work byThe Buildersthat he did in 1950.


The Léger Constructors

However, it should not be thought that Léger's art moves only on an aesthetic plane. Not at all, he was convinced that art should be linked to the social reality of his time. And in his case it is an industrial and urban society, in which he attaches enormous importance to the machine.

In fact, we see that at times the workers in this scene are presented to us as very static and expressionless. That is to say, with very mechanical and machine-like attitudes. But they are men who are building the rigid gears of a metallic architecture that they have to master.

Blue is visible as backgroundintense sky, dotted with some clouds, but without tonal variation in that blue. That blue is cut out by the straight lines of the beams, stairs and structures that are being built, which combine the colors white, ochre, black or yellow. Up to this point, everything has been flat-colored masses, but when it comes to the workers, certain chiaroscuros appear. And the curious thing is that this chiaroscuro does not respond to any obvious source of light.

In them plasticity and volume are achieved with those variations of gray and brown, but also with Léger's characteristic drawing.

All this is contemplated and painted from a totally frontal point of view, something that gives a clear effect of roundness and monumentality to the scene. That is to say, this work acquires a symbol tone. Something that is even more understandable when we know that for several years of his life, the painter dedicated different works to this type of "builder" scenes. And even he wrote down different passages in verse in which he praised those workers with admiration, that he thought that sooner or later they would make the machines work for them and not the other way around.

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