Hello Cinema! Fernand Léger, painting and cinema: a love triangle…

Fernand Léger’s encounter with the cinema took place in 1916 when he discovered Charlie Chaplin on the big screen. We refer you here to the article “Fernand Léger makes his cinema”.

The cinema by its novelty and the work on the image that it implies becomes an inexhaustible source of questioning and experimentation. This new art indeed reshuffles the cards of mimesis (term taken from Poetic ofAristotle which defines the work of art as an imitation of the world), and obliges us to “set the painting in motion”. Cubism and Futurism, movements in which Fernand Léger participates, through their desire to represent objects of the modern world in a fragmented, even kaleidoscopic way, seek to fulfill this new aesthetic contract!

The exhibition retraces from room to room the indeed romantic relationship that the painter has woven with the cinema.

Fernand Léger’s cinematographic career is punctuated by films that have become iconic. Behind the scenes or behind the camera, even in front, he participates in one way or another. Creator of posters, costumes, theoretician, director, producer, or even actor, he searches film sets for the tools necessary for his own pictorial creations, all guided by the representation of movement.

The eye of the painter and the camera of the director merge to develop a true cinematographic thought and give life to an abundant, eclectic and innovative work. His friendship with John Epstein illustrates this reciprocal emulation between the two artists: Hello Cinema of Epstein was influenced by the illustrated books of Leger and Cendrarsand vice versa, the whirling scene of the funfair in faithful heart has inspired Mechanical balletLéger’s masterpiece.

  • As early as 1922, in Wheel by Abel Gance in 1922, he retains the plastic effects of the close-up.
  • In The inhuman by Marcel L’herbierhe is the one who imagines the moving sets to give life to the modern machine of the laboratory in which the plot takes place.
  • His film Mechanical ballet produced in collaboration with Dudley Murphy and George Antheil refuses any narration to be interested only in the objects that it fragments; the cinema under his camera takes on a Dadaist look! Léger upsets our perception of reality to invent “a new realism”. Everything is said in one sentence: “No script – rhythmic image reactions, that’s all. (Fernand Leger)
  • In the 1930s, he created futuristic costumes “à la Fritz Lang” – in the spirit of Metropolis – for science fiction film Things to come by Alexander Korda ; a project that will not see the light of day but whose sketches and models by Fernand Léger trace the genesis.
  • During his exile in the United States, he participated in the collective adventure of a film with a surreal aesthetic composed of several dreamlike film sequences: Dreams that money can buy. With Hans Richter, he shoots a short film, corresponding to the narration of the second dream, The girl with the Prefabricated heart. It uses animation in stop-motion to give life to the limbs of the mannequins of a shop window. He slips in an intertextual nod to his own painting, Julie the beautiful cyclist, whose bicycle we find on screen, proof that the painter is never very far from the filmmaker!

The retrospective shows how each of his confrontations with the cinema inspires Fernand Léger with a new impetus to better return to painting.

Painting and cinema are therefore in constant dialogue in the career of Fernand Léger; the porosity between the two arts is the subject of this beautiful, unprecedented exhibition, which traces the artistic odyssey of a prolific artist, always ahead of his time…

The exhibition Leger and the cinema is organized by the national museums of the XXe century of the Alpes-Maritimes and La Réunion national museums – Grand Palais.

The Biot and Belfort exhibitions share a common scientific catalogpublished by the Editions of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais.

Hello Cinema! Fernand Léger, painting and cinema: a love triangle…