Fernand Léger

Leaves and Shell


Fernand Léger 1881–1955
Original title
Feuilles et coquillage
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1295 × 972 mm
frame: 1350 × 1019 × 60 mm
Purchased 1949

Display caption

Léger’s paintings often celebrate machine-made objects and modern city life. But in the late 1920s he began to include natural forms in his work. The curving line down the left-hand side of the painting softens the underlying geometric structure of horizontal and vertical lines. It also acts as a link to the organic shapes of leaves and a shell. These naturalistic elements, with their streamlined shapes, are closely connected to the abstract parts of the image.

Gallery label, August 2019

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Catalogue entry

Fernand Léger 1881-1955

N05907 Feuilles et Coquillage (Leaves and Shell) 1927

Inscribed 'F. LÉGER. 27' b.r. and 'feuilles et coquillage | F. LÉGER 27' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 51 x 38 1/4 (129.5 x 97)
Purchased from the artist (Benson Fund) 1949
Exh: Calder, Léger, Bodmer, Leuppi, Kunsthalle, Bern, May 1947 (56); Alexander Calder + Fernand Léger, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, July-August 1947 (60); Fernand Léger: Exposition Rétrospective 1905-49, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, October-November 1949 (52); Fernand Léger, Tate Gallery, February-March 1950 (28, repr.)
Repr: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1966), p.258

This seems to be the final and largest version of this theme. There are two other versions in oils of which the first was probably one 92 x 73cm (Léonce Rosenberg photo no.1092) which has a dedication to Léonce Rosenberg, 'amicalement à Léonce Rosenberg', just above the signature. It is very similar in general appearance and proportions, but lacks the undulating colour band down the left-hand side and has various other minor differences. A smaller still life which passed through the Galerie Simon (No.10261) and which is reproduced in Der Querschnitt, VIII, 1928, facing p.40, seems to represent an intermediate stage. It measures 65 x 54cm and is rather squarer in format than the other two, but it includes the curved-edged band of colour down the left-hand side and is generally closer in detail to the Tate's picture. (For instance, the forms of the two upper leaves are more or less the same, the leaf immediately below touches the dark vertical line instead of not quite meeting it, and so on). Both these other versions have three coloured discs in the dark striped area and a dark coloured disc in the bottom right-hand corner. The final picture also had a coloured disc in the bottom corner at some stage, but it was afterwards painted out and the green triangle and the smaller disc more to the left were added instead. Both the other versions are also dated 1927.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.418-9, reproduced p.418


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