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Le Mécanicien (The Mechanic)

On view

Le Mécanicien (The Mechanic)

Artist: Fernand Leger (French, 1881 - 1955)

Date: 1918
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 18 1/4 x 24 3/4in. (46.4 x 62.9cm)
Signed: Verso, upper left: 'Le Mecanicien / 11-18. F. Leger'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 54.4
Label Text
In 1918, at the end of World War I, the first industrialized war, Léger began a series of paintings depicting mechanics, factory workers, cattle merchants, and barge captains suggesting narratives of national reconstruction, the demobilization of women from factories, and the reinstatement of a masculine work force. The Mechanic is an example of Léger's emerging "machine aesthetic" inspired by the glint of sunlight on a 75-millimeter field cannon and of the working class identification resulting from the camaraderie he forged with the laborers and road workers at the front lines.

The Mechanic is at the far right of the painting, his barrel-shaped torso a cross between medieval armor and a modern cannon, and his legs resembling the dowel-shaped limbs of an artist's wooden mannequin. At the lower right, a comrade wearing a worker's cap enters the factory space. These two figures are not the focus of the image but a frame for a central panel dominated by a highly animated mass of greenish-gray cylinders, bars, wheels, small balls, and undulating sheet metal. These metallic forms are in turn punctuated by contrasting industrial elements such as brick patterned segments and ladder-like fragments, as well as planes of orange, pink, blue and red and stenciled letters and numbers that look like machine markings. Léger depicts the mechanic's experience as one of the visual dynamism, speed, fragmentation and cacophony of modern life that alludes as much to urban spaces as to the memory of the battlefield.

M.G. Shanahan

Presumed copyright: the artist or the artist's representative/heir(s) / Licensed by ARS, New York, NY.