Study for Three Portraits (Essai Pour Trois Portraits)
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Study for Three Portraits (Essai Pour Trois Portraits), 1910–11
Oil on canvas
76 3/4 × 45 7/8 in. (194.95 × 116.52 cm)
Anonymous Gift MX.5
Photo credit John R. Glembin
© 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Dating from 1910–11, just a year or two after Picasso and Braque pioneered Cubism, Fernand Léger’s Study for Three Portraits is one of his most important early paintings and illustrates the development both of his art and of Cubism itself. Embedded within a space densely filled with vaguely mechanical fragmented forms are three figures and a few domestic accouterments. Their lack of engagement with us and with one another, along with the monochromatic palette, emphasize the artist’s concentration on formalist—not psychological—concerns. The strong sense of movement as well as the faceting of planes shows the influence of Italian Futurism in addition to Cubism’s more static analytic dissection of form. Associations between man and machine would become increasingly important to Léger in his later work.
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