Fernand Léger: The Last Decades

12 Apr 2019 – 8 Sep 2019

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

New York
New York, United States


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This exhibition will present a renewed examination of this French artist’s late career, when his observations of city dwellers and the human form in action inspired a significant body of work organized by theme.


Léger was among the few French artists of his generation to visit the United States. He first traveled to New York and Chicago in 1931, returned to attend his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1935, and, in 1938, spent several months here when he was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller to decorate his apartment and several homes designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison. With the advent of WWII, Léger chose to wait out his exile in the United States. He taught and lectured across the country, exploring the diversity of its people and achievements. These observations yielded an entirely new approach to his painting, beginning in 1940, which marked his obsession with volume and monumentality and greater transparency of color. During his time in America, his subject matter encompassed a rich series of motifs in such works as Divers, Cyclists, Acrobats and Musicians and Country Outings. Returning to France in late 1945, Léger continued to record contemporary life in his Builders series and in chronicling the leisure activities of the working class, culminating in his masterpiece, the mural-sized Great Parade (1954), which was painted the year before the artist’s death and is a hallmark of the Guggenheim’s collection. Motivated in part by his political engagement with social issues and an unwavering humanist support of the travails of the common man, Léger stands as a defining force in modern art.

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Susan Davidson


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