Fernand Léger: Five Themes and Variations

Fernand Léger: Five Themes and Variations

Thomas M. Messer
Published in 1962
116 pages, fully illustrated

Fernand Léger's painting "The Great Parade" (La grande parade) (1954) is a tour de force. The work depicts circus characters engulfed by all of the paraphernalia of their vocation highlighted against autonomous swathes of vibrant primary color. The Great Parade is the fruit of extensive creative efforts and in its completion reveals many artistic preoccupations featured in his earlier work. This publication brings into focus thirty-six extant studies focusing on the leisure activity of the working class that bear direct reference to The Great Parade. The catalogue is separated into five sections; the introduction, written by Thomas M. Messer, deals with the five themes and variations at play in this key work. The four following sections adopt a thematic format, focusing on previous cycles that are quoted in The Great Parade. They are divided as follows: "County Outing," "The Constructors," "The Cyclist," and "The Divers." This publication highlights the various stages of evolution and depth of consideration, which culminated in this decisive work. A biography and bibliography are also included.


In constructing picture space, in creating depth, Léger employs means of the utmost sophistication. Born in a generation of artists that had already inherited a non-perspective convention, he sets out to create volumes that live in the shallow space of cubism. In his late work, however, depth is rendered through a variety of devices which achieve the desired results without divulging the means . . . . As a result of this carefully balanced form-color play, his works live on borrowed depth, and the painting surface remains intact as such.

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