creative reaction

For Rod McLaren and his How We Work series.

Fernand Léger, painter (1881-1955) by Siegfried Giedion

Léger rebuilt his country place in the Chevreuse Valley without an architect. He thought it would serve him for a long time.

Here he invited his friends. A table was pushed into the studio and spread in the midst of the paintings. One ate here with delight, with all the necessary reverence a good meal deserves, for Léger was a first-class cook. He was also, in contrast to many great men, a most excellent companion. Some female creature was always around the place, but he never paraded this before the world. For him the problems of his work rested on a completely different level.

On his period in New York, 1942-1945:

His studio in New York was near Fifth Avenue on 40th Street. Skyscrapers overshadowed it. Fernand Léger was working then on his great series of ‘Divers’ which posed the problem of depicting with a simple black outline hovering, falling, interlocking and transparent figures in weightless space. As he often did, Léger superimposed wide bands of clear colours. I stood in the studio with Moholy-Nagy and asked, “Why have red and blue patches been laid over the lineal structure of the bathers?” I knew that this was related to the play of contrasts that Léger always emphasized, but Moholy-Nagy gave the anser: “Don’t you see that Léger must get even with those things out there?” – and he pointed to the skyscrapers. Defense by creative reaction.

All taken from a wonderful book that I found on the bottom shelf of the architecture section in my local second-hand bookshop* – Architecture, You and Me: The diary of a development by Siegfried Giedion. Expect more quotes over the next few weeks.

* I’m not going to tell you exactly which bookshop because I have tried to hide another book by Lewis Mumford so that it’s there when I next return with more money in my pocket.

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