Tate Liverpool is celebrating the work of French painter, sculptor and film maker Fernand Léger with the first major UK exhibition of his work in three decades.
Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures – being staged at the Royal Albert Dock gallery until March - brings together more than 50 works from across Europe, including many never seen in the UK before.
They include abstract and figurative paintings, drawings, graphic design, films, books, textiles and the recreation of a large-scale mural.
Léger was born in Normandy in 1881 to a farming family. He trained as an architect before moving to Paris, later enrolling at the School of Decorative Arts.
Although he was initially inspired by the Impressionists, he soon began referencing drawing and geometry in his work, and in 1911 was identified as Cubist alongside artists like Delaunay and Metzinger.
As his bold unique style developed it became more abstract and then ‘mechanical’, while in the 1920s it was heavily informed by street advertising and also cinema.
Fernand Léger: Homage to Louis David. Top: Soldiers Playing Cards
Léger, who served in the First World War and was gassed at Verdun, believed art should be for everyone, and his work often took as its subject matter the world of labour – along with workers at play.
His style changed throughout his career, and from the 1930s onwards became more figurative.
Among the works on show at Tate Liverpool is the reconstruction of a large-scale photomural, Essential Happiness: New Pleasures, made in collaboration with architect Charlotte Perriand for the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology held in Paris in 1937, and which is being displayed in the UK for the first time.
A section of the reconstructed photomural
Co-curator Darren Pih said: “Léger was the epitome of a modern artist. He was creating work synchronised with the mechanisation of life. He arrived in Paris in 1900 at the peak of the second machine age.
“Then in the early 1920s his works take on a feel of Pop Art graphic quality – Purism.
“Then later he shifts to very clearly more figurative works. It’s almost as though society becomes a new subject matter, and people, their rights and their recreation, becomes a major theme.”
The exhibition is running concurrently with the first museum exhibition in the UK of South Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho, which includes a new commission for the gallery, Anomaly Strolls 2018, and their acclaimed video work El Fin del Mundo (The End of the World) from 2012.
Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho
Both films are part of the pair’s News From Nowhere series which takes its name from William Morris’ 1890 satirical novel which is set in a utopian 21st century London. Anomaly Strolls was filmed in Liverpool as a sister artwork to El Fin del Mundo.
Meanwhile 19 landscapes by acclaimed American artist Alex Katz are on show in a free exhibition in the ground floor Wolfson Gallery.
All the exhibitions are at Tate Liverpool until March 17.