January 3, 2012

Illustrations by Fernand Léger

        Here's something interesting.  Fernand Léger (1881-1955) is a French artist known for his own version of Cubism, Futurism, Purism, and all that was modern and populist during his lifetime.  His work is usually characterized by bright blocks of color, machine-like people doing modern jobs, and lots of primary colors -- but his taste for bold geometric designs translates well to block prints.  He made black and white wood blocks to illustrate a book by André Malraux in 1921.
        Malraux's book, Lunes en Papier, (Paper Moons) was published in an edition of only 112 and includes three Absurdist stories illustrated with seven block prints by Léger.  The publisher, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, also ran a gallery in Paris and was Léger's first champion when he first began to show his paintings and was feeling unappreciated by art critics.
        Léger's black and white images are abstract arrangements of unshaded shapes, some of which I find quite pleasing.  I think my favorite is the first one above.  It has a nice balance, symmetrical without being static, monumental without being dull.

        Thanks to the National Library of the Netherlands, where I found these images.

[Pictures:  wood block prints by Fernand Léger, from Lunes en Papier by André Malraux, 1921:
from page 21, p 32, cover.]

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