Fernand Léger was born on February 4th, 1881 in Argentan (Orne). His father, a cattle dealer, dies in 1884. An only son, he is raised by his mother, Marie-Adèle Daunou, a self-effacing and pious woman. 

He attends alongside Andre Mare and Henri Viel his first drawing lessons at M. Corbin’s, a local decorator. In 1900, he goes to Paris to join his former Argentan classmates before doing his military service in the 2nd Engineer Regiment in Versailles until 1903.

Receptive to the Mediterranean light, he paints landscapes, five of which are presented in October of 1907 at the Salon d’automne, where he discovers the work of Paul Cézanne. His influence is decisive and he follows in his footsteps by working on volumes. Little is known about his impressionist period, because Léger destroyed all his artworks in 1909. All that is left are the gifts he gave to friends.

In 1909, he rents a studio in La Ruche and frequents Alexandre Archipenko, Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz, Chaïm Soutine, Robert Delaunay, Chagall, and the writers Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Maurice Raynal and Blaise Cendrars. He also meets the painter Henri Rousseau. Fernand Léger diligently visits modern art galleries. One in particular piques his interest: Daniel Henri Kahnweiler’s gallery, which exhibits Braque and Picasso. Inspired by the landscapes of Braque, Léger thus joins the cubist movement.

In 1911, at the age of thirty, after many months of work, he exhibits his first major work, Nus dans la forêt, at the Salon des indépendants, where Louis Vauxcelles harshly calls him a “tubist”. In the paintings from this period (1911/1912), style and content blend into one another and objects are hardly recognizable: Léger continues his formal research, but with increasingly abstract compositions.

In October, he signs an exclusive agreement with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, then takes over the studio of the painter Henri Le Fauconnier, at 86 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Paris, where he will stay until his deathhis death. Fernand Léger seeks with his contrasts of shapes and colors to establish formal oppositions between lines, surfaces, and colors. He creates for the viewer a dynamic effect, as close as possible to the feelings that modern life elicits in him.

Fernand Léger is mobilized on August 2nd, 1914 and joins the 2nd Engineer Regiment in Versailles. Due to the circumstances, he can only express his art by drawing on ammunition boxes, military maps, or stationery. Throughout the war, he paints two masterpieces, Le soldat à la pipe (1916) and La partie de cartes (1917) during furloughs. While wartime experience leads to a new social consciousness for the artist, it also elicits a major revelation in him: machines, symbols of modern human knowledge, become aesthetic objects as any other work of art.

After his recovery and subsequent return, he lives with Jeanne Lohy in Vernon (Normandy). They marry in 1919. He meets Picasso and Cendrars at the banquet held in honor of Braque, at Marie Vassiliev’s. He then takes part in the first “Montjoie!” festival, organized to celebrate the return of artists from the war.

In 1918, he signs a new agreement with Léonce Rosenberg, owner of the Galerie de l’Effort Moderne.

In February of 1919, Fernand Léger has his first solo exhibition at the Galerie de l’Effort Moderne, where Blaise Cendrars and Erik Satie perform a poetic and musical matinee. He does a series of paintings inspired by barges and tugboats seen from the Seine in Vernon. He actively participates in a group of artists from the Section d’or and prepares the exhibition that will take place in March of 1920. Fondation of the “Académie Moderne” with Emile Othon Friesz.

After his mother’s death on April 6th, 1922, he inherits the family farm in Lisores (Calvados) where Jeanne and him will spend their summers. Fernand Léger, who was in between contracts from 1922 to 1924, later renews his agreement with Léonce Rosenberg. He becomes the main artist of the Galerie de l’Effort Moderne.

In 1924, Amédée Ozenfant joined Fernand Léger at the “Académie moderne” at 86 Notre-Dame-Des-Champs in the Montparnasse district, thus marking it its true start. Marie-Laurencin, also part of the Section d’or, has been there from the start.

In 1925, Le Corbusier invites Braque, Picasso, Gris, Ozenfant and Léger to decorate his Pavillon de l’Esprit nouveau with paintings. His notoriety becomes increasingly international. In November of 1925, his first solo exhibition at the Anderson Galleries in New York is a success. It is also an opportunity for him to meet new collectors. In 1938, he paints abstract wall decorations in N. Rockefeller’s apartment. During that time, Léger regularly visits his Lisores farm, in Normandy, to relax. Léger, wishing to see humankind reconnecting with nature, creates large compositions that are a utopian vision of a return to harmony between nature and man. Léger sees in this the possibility of realizing his humanistic dream, where man, freed from his enslavement to machines, would find lost paradise and nature, and become complete again.

War is coming. Panic-stricken, as he is considered a degenerate artist, he shaves his mustache to be less recognizable and takes his paintings to Lisores to protect them. After a stay in Bordeaux, he waits in Marseille for two months before embarking on the S.S. Exeter, in October, for New York, “The most formidable spectacle in the world

In 1945, he spends one last summer in Rouses Point. Before leaving New York, he tells Jean-Richard Bloch that he joined the French Communist Party. In December, he goes back to France with, in his luggage, 57 paintings and 125 works on paper that he produced in America, the essence of which will be exhibited in the spring of 1946 at the Galerie Louis Carré under the title “Fernand Léger, American works 1940-1945.”

Léger has had a powerful influence on American art. Renowned representatives of the American pop art generation like Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), Ellsworth Kelly (1923-), Robert Rauschenberg (1925-), Andy Warhol (1928-1987), and Jasper Johns (1930-) referred directly to Léger or elaborated concepts with European bases that had been largely established by the French artist. His post-war work is characterized by a certain “joie de vivre.”

In February of 1952, he marries Nadia Khodossievitch and moves to Gros-Tilleul, in Gif-sur-Yvette (Essonne). He designs decorations for the General Assembly Hall of the Headquarters of the United Nations, in New York.

In 1955, he receives the Grand Prix at the São Paulo Biennial. In July, he buys a property in Biot, named Mas Saint-André. He dies on August 17th at Gif-sur-Yvette, where he is buried on August 20th.

Nadia, true to Fernand’s wishes, will build in 1960 the museum we know today on the site of the Mas Saint-André. On the occasion of the donation to the French state – Nadia having always kept her Russian citizenship – the museum is inaugurated by André Malraux on February 4th, 1969.

In 1970, Nadia transforms the Lisores farm into a museum.

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Bernard Buffet

Bernard Buffet was born July 10, 1928 in Paris, died on October 4, 1999 in Tourtour (Var - France).

He was raised in the 17th arrondissement of Paris at no 29 rue des Batignolles where he began to paint and draw from the age of ten. Very young, he rubbed shoulders with the artist Marie-Thérèse Auffray who taught him painting and became his mentor. Dismissed from Carnot high school in 1939, in 1942 he attended evening classes in the city of Paris Place des Vosges

In December 1943, he entered the « Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts » where he studied for two years. After this he worked alone.

In 1946, he had his first painting shown, a self-portrait, at the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans at the Galerie Beaux-Arts.

In 1947, he exhibited « L'homme accoude » at the Salon des Independants and in December of the same year he had his first solo exhibition , at the Art Impressions book shop in Paris, organised by Guy Weelen and Michel Brient. Raymond Cogniat bought, for the Paris National Museum of Modem Art, a painting entitled « Nature morte au poulet ».

In April 1948, the painting « Le Buveur » was exhibited at the « Jeune Peinture exhibition » organised at the Galerie Drouant-David. His painting was bought by Doctor Girardin, who, at his death, left it to the Paris Museum of Modern Art.
At this time Emmanuel David asked him to sign an exclusive contract with his gallery. This contract was then, to be shared by Maurice Garnier.
In June of the same year, he was awarded the Critic's Prize at the Galerie Saint-Placide in Paris, in conjunction with Bernard Lorjou. In July there was an exhibition of his works at this same gallery. In November he exhibited: « La ramandeuse de filet » in the Salon d'Automne. This painting was also bought by Doctor Girardin and was also left to the Paris Museum of Modern Art upon Doctor Girardin's death.

In 1949, Pierre Descargues published Bernard Buffet at the « Presses Litteraires de France ».

ln 1951, his friend Jean Giono let him a small house in Manosque where he lived for a short while before renting an ancient « bergerie » in Nanse, near Reillanne, 17 kilometres from Manosque. He worked there until 1954.

In 1953, Louis Aragon wrote, in les Lettres Francaises, an article entitled Le Paysage Francais a quatre siecles et Bernard Buffet 24 ans (Four Centuries of French Landscape Painting and the 24 Years Old Bernard Buffet).

In 1955, he was awarded the first prize by the magazine Connaissance des arts, which named the 10 best post-war artists. He met Georges Simenon who became his close friend. He bought property in Domont, near Paris, that he left the following year to live at the « Chateau l'Arc » near Aix-en-Provence, which was to be his main residence until 1964.

In 1958, at the age of 30, the first retrospective of his work was held at Galerie Charpentier.

The same year Pierre Berge published Bernard Buffet at Editions Pierre Cailler, and Georges Hourdin published l'Enfer et le Ciel de Bernard Buffet at Cerf.

December 12,1958 Bernard Buffet married Annabel Schwob at Ramatuelle.

In 1961 he painted a series of paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ, intended to decorate the Chapelle de Chateau l'Arc. Ten years later, at the request of Monseigneur Pasquale Macci (secretary to Pope Paul VI) he offered these paintings to the Vatican Museum where they remain on permanent exhibition.

His daughter Virginie was born in 1962, and his daughter Danielle in 1963.

In 1964 Maurice Druon published Bernard Buffet at Editions Hachette. Bernard Buffet bought « la Vallee » in Saint-Cast in Britanny where he worked until 1970.

From 1965 to 1971 he lived both in Britanny and Paris.

In May, 1971 he was named « Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur ». In May ,1971 his son Nicolas was born.

November 23, 1973 the Bernard Buffet Museum was inaugurated ; it was founded by Kiichiro Okano, in Surugadaira, Japan.

March 13, 1974 he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts In 1978, at the request of the Postal Administration, he designed a stamp depicting l'Institut et le Pont des Arts.

In 1980 he got a Manor in Normandy, which he left in 1986 to live at the Domaine de la Baume, near Tourtour in the Haut-Var.

In 1986, Annabel published D'amour et d'eau fraiche at Sylvie Messinger, and Georges Durand, la Divine Comedie de Bernard Buffet at Desclee de Brouwer.

In 1986, « Bernard Buffet » by Yann le Pichon edited by Maurice Garnier, obtained the Elie Faure Award.

December 9, 1988 a large extension to the Bernard Buffet Museum was inaugurated in Japan.

In 1989, Alin Alexis Avila published « Bernard Buffet », edited by Nouvelles Editions Francaises aux Editions Casterman.

In 1993, he was promoted to the rank of officer of the Legion of Honor.

In 1997, the first symptoms of Parkinson's disease appeared.

On October 4, 1999, unable to paint due to his illness, Bernard Buffet ended his life in Tourtour (Var).

In November 2007, the third and final volume of Yann Le Pichon's monograph, Bernard Buffet, appeared, covering the period from 1982 to 1999.

The Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris is organizing a Bernard Buffet retrospective from October 14, 2016 to March 5, 2017 as well as the Montmartre Museum from October 18, 2016 to March 12, 2017


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