Fernand Léger, The Divers, 1943, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Josep Lluís Sert, Photo: Imaging Department, Courtesy of President and Fellows of Harvard College, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

Fernand Léger
Painting in Space

April 9 – Ju­ly 3, 2016

Open­ing: Fri­day, April 8, 7:30 p.m.


In this spe­cial an­niver­sary year for the mu­se­um build­ing, the ex­hi­bi­tion Paint­ing in Space casts a new light on one of the most di­verse and in­flu­en­tial artists of mod­er­nism. Fer­nand Léger (1881–1955), a con­tem­po­rary of Pab­lo Pi­cas­so and Ge­orges braque, sought to syn­th­e­size the arts in his work.

He made films, cre­at­ed mu­rals for pri­vate homes as well as public build­ings such as the Unit­ed Na­tions Head­quar­ters in New york, and de­signed cos­tumes, the­ater sets, and church win­dows. Paint­ing in Space is the first ret­ro­spec­tive that fo­cus­es on Fer­nand Léger’s mu­rals. For Léger, an ar­chi­tec­tu­ral drafts­man by train­ing, en­gag­ing with built spaces via paint­ing was a ma­jor con­cern. He de­vel­oped close ties to key fig­ures of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture around the world.
Paint­ing in Space ex­plores the fruits of this dia­log and traces his de­vel­op­ment from the ear­ly 1920s to his death in 1955. It fea­tures fas­ci­nat­ing and of­ten un­ex­pect­ed­ly ex­per­i­men­tal pro­jects that re­flect dif­fer­ent types of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The pre­sen­ta­tion ex­amines Léger’s tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent pain­ter­ly in­ter­ven­tions in public and pri­vate spaces (hous­es, 26 apart­ments, church­es, ships, world’s fairs, etc.) as well as un­re­al­ized pro­jects with a se­lec­tion of mu­rals, re­lat­ed works, de­signs, sketch­es, and con­tem­po­rary doc­u­ments that con- tex­tu­al­ize the works.
The point of de­par­ture for the ex­hi­bi­tion is the mu­ral Les Plongeurs (The Divers, 1942) for the home of the New York ar­chi­tect Wal­lace K. Har­ri­son, which Peter and Irene Lud­wig ac­quired es­pe­cial­ly for the mu­se­um build­ing thir­ty years ago. The fo­cus on mu­rals, in­clud­ing works that have nev­er be­fore left their orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion, is sup­ple­ment­ed with paint­ings, sculp­tures, pro­ject sketch­es, and archi­val ma­te­rials. Works in ex­per­i­men­tal film, graph­ic de­sign, tex­tile de­sign (tapestries and car­pets), as well as cos­tume and the­ater set de­signs il­lu­mi­nate the mu­rals in the con­text of the artist’s en­tire oeu­vre.

For the first time, the ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­gether some 170 works as well as ex­ten­sive source ma­te­rials, with im­por­tant loans from ma­jor Eu­ro­pean and Amer­i­can col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the Mu­se­um of Mod­ern Art and the Solo­mon R. Gug­gen­heim Mu­se­um in New York, the Art In­sti­tute of Chica­go, the Me­nil Col­lec­tion in Hous­ton, the Kun­st­mu­se­um Basel, the Cen­tre Pompi­dou and the Cen­tre na­tio­n­al des arts plas­tiques in Paris, the Musée Na­tio­n­al Fer­nand Léger in Biot, the Dans­museet Stock­holm, the Cen­tre Ca­na­di­en d’Ar­chi­tec­ture in Mon­tre­al, the Char­lotte Per­riand Archives, and the Fon­da­tion Le Cor­busi­er in Paris.

Cura­tor: Ka­tia Baudin

Sup­port­ed by:
Co­op­er­a­tion part­n­ers
Mo­bil­i­ty part­n­er: