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.
- Currently Off View
- Modern Art
- Fernand Léger
- The Railway Crossing (Sketch)
- Oil on canvas
- Signed, l.r.: "F. LEGER" Signed, dated, and inscribed on verso. u.l.: "LE PASSAGE A NIVEAU/ESQUISSE/F LEGER—/19"
- 21 5/16 × 25 7/8 in. (54.1 × 65.7 cm)
- Joseph Winterbotham Collection; gift of Mrs. Patrick Hill in memory of Rue Winterbotham Carpenter
- © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris