Catalogue entry

T03118 THE ACROBAT AND HIS PARTNER 1948

Inscribed ‘48/F. LEGER’ bottom right and ‘L’ACROBATE ET/SA PARTENAIRE' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 × 64 7/8 (130.2 × 162.7)
Purchased from the Galerie Maeght (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: with Galerie Maeght, Paris (purchased from the artist's estate 1955 or 1956)
Exh: Salon de Mai, Paris, June–July 1949 (134, repr.); Segunda Exposicione de Plastica Francese Contemporanea, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, 1952 (69, repr.); Fernand Léger, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, 1955 (66); Fernand Léger 1881–1955, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, June–October 1956 (125, repr.); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, October–November 1956 (125, repr.); Léger: Wegbereider, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, December 1956–January 1957 (64); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, February–March 1957 (64); Fernand Leger 1881–1955, Haus der Kunst, Munich, March–May 1957 (109, repr.); Fernand Léger: Five Themes and Variations, Guggenheim Museum, New York, February–April 1962 (103, repr.): Bilanz Internationale Malerei seit 1950, Kunsthalle, Basle, June–August 1964 (15); Fernand Léger 1881–1955, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, October–November 1964 (79b); Fernand Léger, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, April–June 1968 (51, repr.); Fernand Léger, Städtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, December 1969–February 1970 (88, repr.in colour); A la Rencontrè de Pierre Reverdy et ses Amis, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, March–May 1970 (347); Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, June–July 1970 (347); Fernand Léger, Grand Palais, Paris, October 1971–January 1972 (223, repr.); Fernand Léger: Das figürliche Werk, Kunsthalle, Cologne, April–June 1978 (36, repr.); Fernand Léger, Culturel Centrum, Stad Mechelen, October–December 1979 (79, repr.); Paris-Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, May–November 1981 (392, repr.in colour)
Lit: Roger Garaudy, Pour un Réalisme du XXe Siècle: Dialogue posthume avec Fernand Léger, Paris 1968, p.212; Werner Schmalenbach, Fernand Léger, New York 1976, p.154, repr.p.155 in colour
Repr: The Tate Gallery: Illustrated Biennial Report 1980–82, 1983, p.45 in colour

When this picture, one of Léger's major works on the theme of the circus, was first exhibited at the Salon de Mai in June 1949, the artist provided the following note for the catalogue:

'I work less by reflection than by instinct.

'I pass through periods when my paintings are static. During other periods, I only paint curves; these are my dynamic periods. But in certain of my paintings one can find both the dynamic and the static. In “The acrobat and his partner”, the acrobat and the disc around him represent movement. The flower which he holds in his hand and which is entirely composed of curves reinforces the impression of movement as does the form of the cat on the chair. The straight lines of the chair and those on the same side, near the edge of the canvas, together with the ladder and the acrobat's partner, constitute the static part of the painting which is in violent contrast with the dynamic part. The more contrasts there are in a painting, the stronger the work is. The fewer there are, the more melodious it is: I am anti-melodious.’

The Léger exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1971–2 included a smaller and sketchier oil version of this same theme, also dated 1948, which was probably done as a preliminary study (222 repr., measuring 29 × 35 3/8in.).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984