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The City

Artist: Fernand Leger
Created: 1919
Dimensions (cm): 298.4 x 231.1
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.

The City

When French artist, Fernand Léger stated, “Man needs color to live; it’s just as necessary an element as fire and water”, he may well have had ‘The City’ in mind. Created in 1919, this boldly colorful artwork is undeniably one of Léger’s most popular pieces.

The painting is an abstract vision of a modern environment; the vividness of Fernand Léger’s color scheme, together with the acute, various shapes, suitably characterizes a typically busy urban setting. Viewers are able to identify with the familiar chaos and tumult of big cities.

Using an array of distinct brushstrokes, Léger masterfully demonstrates the disparity between tall buildings, scaffoldings, stairs, bridges, including a small section of street placed in the center of the scene which amplifies the “city” feel. What could be a large telephone pole dominates the foreground. Additionally, he paints a relevant contrast of curvy, plump balloons of dark smoke (or smog) that hover at the back of the canvas. Small figures represent store window mannequins, while letters, images, and frames signal the vast billboards often seen throughout a city landscape. The artist’s initials F.L. are part of the lettering.

About the Artist

Being a painter, sculptor, and filmmaker as well, it is not surprising that Fernand Léger became a master in the modern art movement. Beginning his career with a personalized form of Cubism, he gradually shifted his technique to a more popular, modern style of art. Léger went through a “mechanical” period that lasted from approximately 1918 to 1923, which reflected his obsession with modernization. Using bold, geometric shapes, along with vibrant colors, his abstract paintings cleverly adapted to the new era of urban architecture, modern transportation, and time-saving technology that was fast-changing the lives of civilization. His use of unconventionally simplistic forms creates a complexity of visions and emotions within his paintings.

‘The City’ by Fernand Léger is currently located at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.


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