Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Fernand Léger, La Cocarde, l'avion brisé (La Cocarde, Shot-down Plane), 1916, watercolour on paper, 23.5 x 29.5 cm, Musée National Fernand Léger, Biot.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998. Photo RMN - H. Lewandowski.

Total war

60 - Fernand Léger

Something completely different. No longer the almost legendary heroic vision of the dogfight in the air, rather the view of the ordinary man: the infantryman, in this case the stretcher-bearer Léger. In 1916 and 1917, he made several paintings of the wreckage of either French or German planes. The dream of lightness gives way to a vision of the broken machine, the tangle of stays and guy ropes and shattered wings. Léger does not show the charred, mutilated bodies of the downed pilots that often appeared in photographs. He does not need to enter into such details, for his alternative use of Cubism is a powerful enough suggestion of the violence of the crash.