Eduardo Paolozzi Sack-O-Sauce, 1948. Printed papers on card © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS
In La Maison Jaune et L’Arbre Vert, the viewer is plunged into the dynamic, colourful world of Fernand Léger. Various modern forms are presented in contrasting manners, with the organic trees and billowing grey clouds given a sense of sculptural body through their juxtaposition with the more rigid, man-made constructions that dominate the rest of the composition. Buildings, electricity cables and swathes of bold colour criss-cross the painting, lending it an incredible sense of verve. Meanwhile, a grid of brick-like rectangles dominates the lower lef-hand corner, seemingly introducing the yellow house of the title. By the time that Léger painted La Maison Jaune et L’Arbre Vert in 1953, he was one of the bestknown artists alive with a strong international reputation. This is refected in the picture’s exhibition history: as well as being featured in a survey of his landscapes the year afer it was painted, it has featured in a number of other prominent shows, having remained for some time in the collection of his widow, Nadia.
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Léger’s success had begun early in the 20th Century, before he had even become associated with the Cubism pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. During the second decade of the century, Léger had created a number of works that explored volumes and dynamism alike, be it the smoke from chimneys contrasting with the roofops or the pared-back, geometrical fgures of people walking down the stairs. He had entitled some of these works Contraste de formes, and a similar contrast can be seen to underpin La Maison Jaune et L’Arbre Vert. Looking at La Maison Jaune et L’Arbre Vert, the viewer becomes aware that there is a great freedom, and even humour, to the composition. The electricity wires, for instance, are used in a wittily formal manner, echoing the works of abstract artists, for instance the sculptor Naum Gabo. At the same time, they playfully double as a formal device to bring a sense of movement to the picture.
Phillips presents the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 9 February in London.