Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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  29-Léger

Fernand Léger, La partie de cartes (Soldiers Playing at Cards), 1917, oil on canvas, 129 x 193 cm, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

 
The battlefield
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29 - Fernand Léger

Léger painted this picture, the largest and most accomplished of his war paintings - which are much less numerous than his drawings - whilst convalescing in Paris. Although there is nothing tragic or, strictly speaking, warlike, about the subject, here, for the first time on such a large scale, Léger develops the idea of the automaton that he puts forward in his drawings. The soldiers are faceless and expressionless, they are reduced to cones, barrels, pyramids and tubes which can only be distinguished by the insignia showing their ranks, and their decorations. The space in which they are playing is the narrow enclosed space of a geometry punctuated by the vertical lines in the background and the broken lines in the centre. All that remains of any colour, in a painting dominated by the blue-greys of the greatcoats and the metal helmets, are a few touches of ochre and red.