Fernand Léger, "Contrast of Forms"
(music) - [Anna Temkin] 1913 was a banner year for Leger. It was the year in which he figured out how to become a Leger instead of a follower of Picasso or Braque. He did a large series of paintings entitled Contrast of Form. Each of these examined the ways in which these basic primary and secondary colors could be put together with black and white in order to make a canvas like, that music, could be appreciated without having to read it as a certain kind of scene or a narrative. Contrast of Forms, what does that tell you, not a whole lot, so what he's not telling you, very deliberately, is that this painting would have been figures and you see these kind of mechanical shapes, almost like mannequins or tin men, that form these vertical stacks, very much like bodies. Like any painter at that time, Leger would have training from life to do anatomy. Now he's trying to put that behind him trying to turn what might be a rather calm image into one that almost seems like a snapshot caught at an accidental moment in mid motion. He wants you to look at this painting as a painting. He leaves so much of that burlappy canvas blank and raw, those pigments on it, they feel kind of crusty and almost like they're put there not by a painter with a fine brush, but somebody applying things in a much more rugged way, in a much more hands on way. The white is applied almost like chalk. It's so rough. To make this picture pop, an offsetting, contrast, as Leger knew, to these reds and blues, yellows and greens, that would have been unthinkable in painting a mere ten years before this. I bet you when this painting was put on view in 1913, most of the viewers would have thought, "When is the painter gonna come along "and turn this sketch into something "that's actually a final product?"