Fernand LégerMechanical Elements 1926

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Fernand Léger (1881‑1955)
Mechanical Elements
Eléments mécaniques
Date 1926
MediumWatercolour, graphite and ink on paper
Dimensionssupport: 242 x 303 mm frame: 435 x 490 x 20 mm
Acquisition Presented by Gustav and Elly Kahnweiler 1974, accessioned 1994
Not on display


This work is a still life in which mechanical elements take the place of the everyday objects traditionally depicted within this genre. In a letter of 1919 to his art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Léger wrote, ‘I have used mechanical elements a lot in my pictures these last two years; my present method is adapting itself to this, and I find in it an element of variety and intensity. The modern way of life is full of such elements for us; we must know how to use them.’ (Quoted in Cassou and Leymarie 1973, p.45.)

Léger’s interest in the mechanical was wide-ranging. He did not limit himself to expounding his ideas through his art. In 1923-4, for example, he made the film Ballet mécanique, which employed what he described as ‘figures, fragments of figures, mechanical fragments, metallic (fragments), manufactured objects, enlargement with the minimum of perspective’. (Quoted in Green, 1976, p.282.) The film has been described by art historian Christopher Green as ‘an experiment in the controlled creation of movement ... using the photographic image, mobile or static, as the basic unit in a series of measured rhythmic sequences.’ (Green 1976, p.282… (read more)

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