Composition, c. 1925-26
Private Collection, France.
Galerie Drouart, Paris.
Private Collection, UK, acquired from the above in April 2000.
The composition of this unattributed painting shares several qualities with Fernand Léger’s Vase-and-Mechanical-elements and Vase-and-Musical-Instrument paintings of 1925-26, yet its sombre palette and rigid compact composition set it apart. The fact that it is an unsigned canvas from the mid-1920s – a period when Léger was signing and usually dating all his works – is another indication that points us towards his circle of students at the Académie Moderne.
Also called Académie Léger-Ozenfant, the Académie Moderne was an art academy started at the initiative of a wealthy American and headed by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant. It was created to provide better facilities to teach the new French art to foreign students and was situated at 86, rue Notre-Dame-des Champs in Montparnasse, where Léger also had his studio.
In 1925, Léger participated in the great post-Cubist exhibition L’Art d’Aujourd’hui in Paris, along with several of his Scandinavian students. Jan Torsten Ahlstrand observes that Léger appreciated his Scandinavian students for their precision of brushwork, and gradually came to entrust Otto G. Carlsund, Franciska Clausen and Erik Olson with ‘the task of enlarging his sketches to finished paintings that he retouched and signed’ (J.T. Ahlstrand, Electromagnetic: Modern Art in Northern Europe, 1918 – 1931). His pupils’ pictures usually deviated more from his own work than in the case of this unattributed canvas. However, we know that Clausen was given a similar composition by Léger, now in her archive (inv. no. 2052).
Gladys C. Fabre observes: ‘Given the number of representative artists and the coherence of style which is attached to the tableaux mecaniques and to the peintures murals by Léger and to a lesser degree to Ozenfant’s Purism, one can consider this production of foreign artists in Paris as the most consequent alternative with French avant-garde to the international non-objective art’ (quoted in Léger et l’Esprit Moderne, Paris, 1982, pp. 35-38). This unattributed picture is a testament to the close relationship and inspiration that was transmitted from Léger to his pupils.