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.
Andera, Margaret, Nonie Gadsden, Britt Salvesen, and Laurie Winters. Collection Guide: Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004, pp. 24, 69, cat. 32, color illus. p. 24. Milwaukee Art Museum, and Franz Schulze. Building a Masterpiece: Milwaukee Art Museum. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2001, p. 119, color illus. p. 118. Inheriting Cubism: The Impact of Cubism on American Art, 1909–1936. New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2001, b/w illus. no. 30. Léger, Fernand, Carolyn Lanchner, Jodi Hauptman, Matthew Affron, Beth Handler, and Kristen Erickson. Fernand Léger. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1998, b/w illus. p. 17. Delaunay, Robert, Mark Rosenthal, and Sonia Delaunay. Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay's Series. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1997, color repro. p. 32, fig. 28. Fauchereau, Serge, and Fernand Léger. Fernand Léger: A Painter in the City. New York: Rizzoli, 1994, pp. 10, 126; color illus., #9. Bauquier, Georges. Fernand Léger: vivre dans le vrai (To Live in Truth). Paris: A. Maeght, 1987, p. 39, color illus., credit p. 359. Goldstein, Rosalie, ed. Guide to the Permanent Collection. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1986, p. 134–135, color illus. p. 134. Diehl, Gaston. F. Léger. New York: Crown Publishers, 1985. Sheon, Aaron. Forgotten Cubist Exhibitions in America, Arts Magazine (March 1983): 93–107, illus. p. 100, discussed p. 103. (there are some minor errors in this article) Buckberrough, Sherry. Robert Delaunay: The Discovery of Simultaneity, Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982, illus., fig 27. Canady, John. Mainstreams of Modern Art (revised ed.), New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1981, Illus. p. 424. Léger, Fernand, and Dieter Ruckhaberle. Fernand Léger: 1881–1955; Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin, vom 24. Oktober 1980 bis 7. Januar 1981. Berlin: Staatl. Kunsthalle, 1980, p. 24, color illus. (not included in the exhibition, merely illustrated in the cat.) Apollinaire, Guillaume. The Cubist Painters: Aesthetic Meditations 1913. New York: Wittenborn, 1970. (exhibit "B" in Boggs & Buhl catalog, see file on Dumont painting) Exhibition of Cubist and Futurist Pictures. Milwaukee: Gimbels, 1913, exhibit B. 2nd Moderne Kunst Kring, Amsterdam, Stedelikj Museum, October 6–November 7, 1912, illus. no. 130. 2nd Jack of Diamonds exhibition, Moscow, January–February, 1912, no. 117. 9th Salon d'Automne, Paris, Grand Palais, October 1–November 8, 1911, no. 899.
Fernand Leger, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 15–May 12,1998. (These were the exhibition dates, but MAM did not lend the work). Visions of Paris: Robert Delaunay's Series, The Guggenheim Museum, 1997. Apollinaire, Guillaume, Peintres Cubistes, Paris, 1913, exhibition of 10 Cubist paintings (exhibit "B" in Boggs & Buhl catalog, see file on Dumont painting): Gimbels, Milwaukee, ca. May 11–late June, 1913; Wm. Taylor, Son & Co., Cleveland, June 30–July 8; Boggs & Buhl, Pittsburg, July 10–16; Gimbels, New York, ca. July 20–30; Gimbels, Philadelphia, ca. August 1–8. 2nd Moderne Kunst Kring, Stedelikj Museum, Amsterdam, October 6–November 7, 1912. 2nd Jack of Diamonds exhibition, Moscow, January–February 1912. 9th Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais, Paris, October 1–November 8, 1911.
This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.