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The Railway Crossing (Sketch)

Colorful bars and other shapes form a dense and chaotic network. At left of center is a black rectangle bordered in purple and yellow with a red arrow inside it. At far left is a partially visible yellow bullseye with white, blue, and red bands.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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  • Colorful bars and other shapes form a dense and chaotic network. At left of center is a black rectangle bordered in purple and yellow with a red arrow inside it. At far left is a partially visible yellow bullseye with white, blue, and red bands.

Date:

1919

Artist:

Fernand Léger
French, 1881–1955

About this artwork

Fernand Léger first saw the work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso at the Paris gallery of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. Around 1909 Léger began to paint in a Cubist style, although his compositions in this mode are more colorful and curvilinear than works by Braque and Picasso of the same period, with their angular forms and subdued tones. An artist with far-ranging interests and talents, Léger later became a designer for theater, opera, and ballet, as well as a book illustrator, filmmaker, muralist, ceramist, and teacher.

Typically, Léger would develop a major composition by preparing studies in a variety of media. The Railway Crossing is an oil study for The Level Crossing (1919; private collection, Basel, Switzerland). When he took up this subject in 1919, he made a number of drawings and oil sketches, including the present work. Like many of his contemporaries, Léger was fascinated by the machine age. He maintained that machines and industrial objects were as important to his art as figures. References to such elements pervade The Railway Crossing. In the midst of a complex scaffolding of cylinders and beams, an arrow appears on a brightly outlined signboard. A network of solid volumes and flat forms seems to circulate within the shallow space, just as pistons move within a motor. The precise definition of his forms and the brilliance of his palette express Léger’s belief that the machine, along with the age it created, was one of the triumphs of modern civilization.

— Entry, Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago, 2013, p. 118.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Modern Art

Artist

Fernand Léger

Title

The Railway Crossing (Sketch)

Origin

France

Date

1919

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed, l.r.: "F. LEGER" Signed, dated, and inscribed on verso. u.l.: "LE PASSAGE A NIVEAU/ESQUISSE/F LEGER—/19"

Dimensions

21 5/16 × 25 7/8 in. (54.1 × 65.7 cm)

Credit Line

Joseph Winterbotham Collection; gift of Mrs. Patrick Hill in memory of Rue Winterbotham Carpenter

Reference Number

1953.341

Copyright

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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