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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Piero di Cosimo

Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, 1481-85, Piero di Cosimo
I've always had a special affinity for the painter/architect/biographer, Giorgio Vasari. I'm something of a painter; I've been an amateur architect all my life; and if blogging is today's rough equivalent of a biographer, put me down for that too. Of course, I don't pretend to come close in matching the great Renaissance intellect in any of those areas (Vasari was the first to label the Renaissance as such). Having the misfortune of working during the period following the High Renaissance, his painting is...well...Mannerist, which is no high praise, but the best I can do. His architecture is likewise...adequate (he designed the Uffizi portico). However when it comes to bringing the great painters of his self-proclaimed Renaissance to life one might say he literally "wrote the book."

Piero di Cosimo as depicted by Vasari in his
Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters.
He was stretching when he included di
Cosimo in this group.
The book Vasari called, Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri (Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times). The "our times" was 1550 when the first of several editions came out. While Vasari was a highly readable writer, and the first true art historian, he was not much of a researcher. Many of his dates (since updated) were not what you would call "gospel." On the other hand, Vasari loved gossip and trivia (as do I) so his "lives" have an intimate ring of truth, inasmuch as many of those of whom he wrote, he knew personally. Perhaps the most fascinating, interesting, certainly the most amusing character in his entire tome was the Florentine painter Piero di Cosimo.
The Sermon on the Mount, 1481-85, Cosimo Rosselli, background by Piero di Cosimo.
Piero di Cosimo was no Leonardo, no Michelangelo, no Raphael, though he probably knew all three. As painters go during this period, one might even say he was no Vasari. But, had he not been such an eccentric "loon" he might have joined the "Big Three" to make them four in number. Technically, as evidenced by his brushwork, di Cosimo was at least their equal. Born in Florence in 1462, Piero was certainly in the right time and the right place to achieve artistic greatness (Leonardo was ten years his senior, Michelangelo thirteen years his junior). The son of a goldsmith, di Cosimo apprenticed under Cosimo Rosselli, whose name he borrowed (or stole) as a "tribute" to his painting master (his family name was actually Lorenzo). He is said to have painted the fresco landscape background of Rosselli's Sermon on the Mount (above) on the north wall of the Sistine Chapel around 1481.

The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, 1499, Piero di Cosimo,
mythology run amok.
The earliest work on his own attributed to di Cosimo's (none of his paintings are signed or dated), is that of Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints (top), which has been placed around 1481-85. Most of his somewhat limited oeuvre dates from after 1500. If his paintings are not exactly legendary, then di Cosimo's eccentricities (thanks to Vasari) certainly are. He is said to have been pyrophobic. He ate little or no cooked food, living mostly on hard boiled eggs which he prepared some fifty at a time whenever he was forced to whip up a batch of rabbit skin glue as sizing for his paintings. Di Cosimo was also adverse to cleaning his studio (I can identify with that) and trimming the trees in his orchard, which he regarded as living beings. Vasari depicts him more as beast than a man. His paintings (above and below) seem to indicate a fascination with a combination of both.

Satyr Mourning Over Nymph, 1495, Piero di Cosimo. Nice puppy-dog.

Simonetta Vespucci, 1480
Piero di Cosimo
Despite his eccentricities, di Cosimo was a more than adequate portrait painter, his most famous being of the legendary beauty, Simonetta Vespucci (right), mistress of the wealthy Florentine ruler, Giuliano de' Medici, and sister of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci (for whom America is named). Di Cosimo's paintings are somewhat weird in his combining of men and animals as seen in his Satyr Mourning Over Nymph (above) from 1495. Judging by their sheer number, he also liked painting nudes. His depiction of landscapes and animals was exceptional for their time. His work is said to have influenced Mariotto Albertinelli, Bartolomeo della Porta, and Andrea del Sarto, who was his student. Di Cosimo seems to have withdrawn into a secluded retirement  during the final ten years of his life, largely (according to Vasari) as the result of a single man who influenced him--the Florentine religious fanatic, Girolamo Savonarola. Vasari claims Piero di Cosio succumbed to the plague in 1521, but recently discovered documents had him hanging on until 1522.
The Myth of Prometheus, 1515, Piero di Cosimo, one of his last works.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pietro da Cortona

Triumph of Divine Providence, 1633-39, Pietro da Cortona (sometimes called the
"Triumph of the Barberini," because of it's ceiling location in the Barberini Palace
in Rome). The headcount is close to one-hundred.
Should art be about theoretical principles, intent upon narrating a story, propounding a viewpoint, perhaps expounding upon some important social issue, or, should it be purely decorative, intent upon nothing more than exciting the senses? Before anyone comes down firmly on either side, go back and read the first word: "should." Remember, what art should be is often very much at odds with what art is. And, to add further complexity, as silly as it may have sounded at the time, Bill Clinton had a point: "It also depends upon what your definition of "is" is." The common definition involves present, momentary, facts. However, in our minds, we all too often broaden the definition of "is" to encroach upon the word "was." All to often we mentally include in the definition of "is" the concept of "always has been." That is, of course, incorrect, but nonetheless unconsciously frequent. In other words, what art "is" not only does not include what it "should" be, but also does not include what it has been. We could also get into the definition of art in general, but that's a whole other can of worms.
Pietro da Cortona Self-portrait,
ca. 1640
Andrea Sacchi, 1650-55,
Carlo Maratta
There are those, of course, who would try to have it both ways, asserting that art should be both principled and decorative. I suppose it can be argued that sometimes this fence-straddling may be valid. Michelangelo could be said to have demonstrated that with his Sistine ceiling, yet he veered sharply to the opposite extreme with his Last Judgement, which, though heavily populated, certainly could not be considered decorative in any sense. As one might suspect, there is nothing new about this debate. Art today is mostly decorative. Outside of the comic pages, the editorial page, YouTube, and Netflix, art today seldom narrates, propounds, or expounds. Back in the 17th century, around 1637, Pietro da Cortona, the director of Rome's Academy of St. Luke (the painters guild) formally debated this question with Andrea Sacchi, who, like da Cortona, was a leading Baroque painter at the time. Not surprisingly these two "union" painters pretty much defined art as painting, with perhaps a patronizing nod toward sculpture and maybe architecture. Beyond that, they boiled the question down to how many figures should populate a painting. Da Cortona argued for lots and lots of them, in order to accomodate subplots and add depth to the central natrrative theme. In looking at his (to our eyes) over-populated Triumph of Divine Providence (top), he obviously practiced what he preached, considering his figures to be highly decorative.
Allegory of Divine Wisdom, 1628-33, Andrea Sacchi.
Compare this to da Cortona's "family reunion" depicted on the Barberini ceiling (top).
Sacchi (above) argued that painting should incorporate only a few figures since it was impossible to convey any distinct role or individuality to more than a limited number. During the next hundred years, as the Rococo era evolved from the Baroque, da Cortona's views would seem to have dominated as painting practically divorced itself from meaningful narration. Then as painting "got serious" again, during the Classical era of the early 19th century, Sacchi viewpoint seems to have won out. Of course, to us today, the whole arguement seems as silly as the arguing among medieval theologians as to how many angels could fit on the head of a pin. For starters, we no longer include beauty as a mandatory element in our definition of art. Likewise, today, painted figures more often involve prurient interests rather than either social narrative or decorative motifs. In which case, "the more the merrier" may support da Cortona's viewpoint.

Cortona may have been guilty of painting too many of them, but when it came to the human body, he certainly knew it from the inside out. He got his start in 1618 by etching anatomical drawings. Though highly accurate, the plates were considered so disturbing they were not printed until around a hundred years later. Strangely, the figures seem
very much alive. One might say that Cortona's models "spilled their guts" for him.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Currency Art

Kazakhstan 5,000 Tenge, the winner of the 2012 International Bank Note Society's
Note of the Year. (It's worth about $32 USD).
Someone once commented that the three most prevalent items of conscious human consideration (in no particular order) are food, sex, and money. It would be hard to argue with that. Notice that art did not make the top three, probably not even the top ten. Not, that is, unless you are a collector of currency art. Just as there are hundreds of thousands of coin collectors worldwide, there is also an ever-growing cadre of individuals who find money beautiful (and who doesn't to some degree). From what I've seen in my various international travels, cash from whatever country, is nearly always more attractive than their coinage. Coins have but two design attributes, durability and distinctiveness (as to value).
The Australian Five-dollar Bill--a simple, attractive design and color.
A pretty face always helps too.
Continental currency bank note, designed
by Benjamin Franklin. Their value fell to
such a low point they were sometimes used
as wallpaper (and they weren't even pretty).
International currencies have much more complex demands as to design. Like coins, there is a minor matter as to durability. It must be printed on good paper (though sometimes surprisingly thin). Also like coins, one must be able to instantly tell a "five" from a "ten" (color has come to be an important element in this regard). Beyond that, currency has the added requirement that it be difficult to counterfeit (more and more of a challenge as copying technology accelerates). And, in most cases, the currency commemorates (Americans seem to favor dead presidents and Classical Revival architecture). The Brits love their queen (above). Beyond that, there seem to be few limits. The newest requirement as to currency design is that it be distinctively beautiful. and money...what a great combination.

The Song Dynasty Jiozi,
11th century China.
Paper money is nothing knew. The Tang Dynasty in China played around with the concept on a local level as far back as the 7th century though true legal tender did not appear in China until the 11th century (the Jiozi, left). Okay, they weren't much to look at, but they saved the rich from having to carry around hundreds of pounds of copper pocket change. Marco Polo is credited with introducing the concept (and it is a concept as much, or more, than a physical presence) to Europe in the 13th century. On the western side of the Atlantic,the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first to issue paper bank notes. Like the Chinese Jiozi, they weren't particularly attractive, but they served their purpose. Though the U.S. Continental Congress printed some money to finance the Revolutionary War (above, right), the Treasury Department never got into the act until 1862 when, because of the Civil War, it was necessary to standardize currency in lieu of a plethora of circulating bank notes of varying and fluctuating value depending upon the strength of the banks issuing them.

The Canadian Five Dollar bill with its children playing hockey and it's
verse by Roch Carrier, seems almost like a Christmas card.
The Dutch Guilder (before the Euro
 in 2002) was often printed with a
horizontal format on one side,
vertical on the other.
Today, insofar as design elements are concerned, the U.S. dollar, while being the international currency of choice, falls well back in the pack where the criteria is beauty. Though recently redesigned and updated, eschewing forever the idea that currency should be approximately symmetrical, except for the dollar bill, American money is, at best, not unattractive. But as compared to the brightly colored Kazakhstan 5,000 Tenge bill (top) it's, well...rather dignified and a bit stodgy. The Dutch (pre-Euro) Guilder broke ground by utilizing a vertical design format with many of its denominations. However, to my way of thinking, perhaps the most beautiful currency on the planet is the Antarctica dollar (bottom). What? Antarctica has its own currency? It doesn't even have it's own government. Right, yet be that as it may, their dollar bill is gorgeous, seemingly plagiarized from the pages of National Geographic. If ever money was too beautiful to spend...

The Antarctica Dollar. I'd pay a dollar for such a work of art.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thomas Cornell

The Birth of Nature, the Death of War, 2011, Thomas Cornell
It's a disturbing fact of life for professional artists, but very often they are forced to choose between a life of constant insecurity and privation (starvation is mostly a thing of the past), and a comfortable, relatively obscure existence as an art instructor. For the working artist, the career either soars or plummets. Seldom is there anything close to a smooth assent to the top or a gentle glide to obscurity. For a teacher of art, whatever the level, there is a degree of financial security (often called tenure), a great deal of satisfaction in helping and watching students grow as artists, and some degree of local community acceptance. What the teaching artist sacrifices for all this is time. In essence, we trade major portions of our life itself for the knowledge of where our next meal will come from. Certainly there are summer months when the teaching vocation allows a respite in which to work and travel, broadening both our outlook and our output. But that seldom permits the intense concentration and prolonged focus needed to make a name for oneself as a prominent artist.
Robert Frost summed it up quite well in his The Road Not Taken:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Thomas Cornell Self-portrait, 1970s
I did not take the "[road] less traveled by." Neither did Thomas Cornell. I did not become a prominent artist. Neither did Thomas Cornell, though in his case, in teaching for some fifty years at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine), he taught a wrung or two up the academic ladder from my mundane position at a local high school for about half that time. However both he and I discovered one additional inherent attribute not so well known with regard to the teaching profession--retirement. From first-year rookie to rapidly aging "old school," virtually every teacher, at any given point in time, can tell you the number of years until they can retire, maybe even to the month, and day. I retired October 30, 1998. In 2001, Thomas Cornell became the "artist in residence," a professor emeritus at Bowdoin, which is a sort of beatified apotheosis having a bit more prestige than simple retirement. Whatever it's call, the period late in an artist's life restores a limited amount of the precious commodity of time in which the artist may establish a legacy of sorts, becoming, if not prominent, at least attaining some degree of respect, which may, or may not, portend a "life after death" for that artist through his or her work. That was the case for Thomas Cornell, who died of Cancer at the age of 75, almost a year ago (December, 2012).

Cornell's John Hancock mural didn't even rate color photography.

Michelangelo, 1965, Thomas Cornell
Cornell was born in 1937 in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from Amherst College and later studied at Yale. His early work consisted of dramatic portrait etchings of prominent individuals in the arts and humanities. His Michelangelo (right) from 1965, is richly embued with an intense depth characaterizing both the man and the artist. However, it takes a major work of art, a major commission to "make" an artist. Cornell's chance came in 1985 when John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company commissioned him to paint a mural themed around the four ages (seasons) for their corporate headquarters in Boston. While the work is quite competant (above), no one has done much "writing home" about it. The third segment (autumn) is typical of Cornell's painting style.

The Four Ages, Autumn, 1985, Thomas Cornell (third penel in the John Hancock mural).
In more recent years, Cornell's work embraced a complex, anthropomorphic theme involving social, environmental, and ecological issues in which Cornell was not so much painting as expounding. His Birth of Nature and Death of War (top), completed shortly before his death, evolved from a simple, crude, pencil sketch (bottom) through several color sketches into classical sounding but modern looking anthology involving several other related pieces such as The Education of Nature. Through it all, Thomas Cornell did not become famous. While his work is in a number of museums, it seldom hangs on their walls. His painting is impressive, if, perhaps, a bit philosophically esoteric for most tastes. Will it provide Thomas Cornell with the artist's "life after death?" I guess you'd have to say it's too soon to tell.

The Birth of Nature (initial charcoal sketch) 2010, Thomas Cornell.
Compare it to the final painting (top).
Cornell talks about his Birth of Nature in the video below:


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Colin Campbell Cooper

Hudson River Waterfront, 1913, Colin Campbell Cooper. What Americans were
painting when Cubism came calliing at the 1913 Armory show.
Window on the City No. 4, 2011-12, the
urban landscape as seen by European
artist, Robert Delaunay, in the 1913
New York Armory Show.
When one mentions American Impressionists, people's eyes tend to glaze over, even those of Americans, even those of those who love Impressionism. Unlike French Impressionists, who, initially at least, were relatively limited in number, by the time the style flowed, fled, or flooded to this side of the Atlantic after the turn of the century, the number of Americans embracing the style and its color theories were quite numerous. Moreover, the American Impressionists all tended to paint the same "Frenchy" subjects which were quite pretty, but also pretty boring, as compared to what was happening in Europe. The American public came face to face with such art for the first time in the 1913 Armory Show in New York. Impressionism in France by 1913 was so passe the only imported impressionist paintings in the entire show were by Monet and Renoir (as might be expected). There were barely a handful of American Impressionists works exhibited.

Concarmeau, (the south of France), 1890, Colin Campbell Cooper,
one of his few surviving works from the late 1800s.
Colin Campbell Cooper Self-portrait, 1922
Colin Campbell Cooper was one of those American Impressions whose work was not seen in the Armory Show. That was just as well, he would have felt quite out of place among the world's art avant-garde. Born in 1856, the middle child among eight siblings, he grew up in Philadelphia. His mother was an avid watercolorist, though young Colin seems to have been bitten by the "art bug" mostly as a result of visiting the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. He was fortunate that both his parents supported his ambition to become an artist, and who better to study under at the time than Philadelphia's own Thomas Eakins (for three years). Then came the fashionable "Grand Tour" of Europe and his eventual settling in at Paris' Academie Julian for four more years. There he was exposed to the Barbizon school, plein air painting, and hence, Impressionism. Thus, when Cooper returned home to Philadelphia in the early 1890s, he knew art, knew painting (especially watercolor), and he knew Impressionism from the ground up. Moreover he taught what he knew at the Drexel Institue of Art (now Drexel University). Unfortunately, much of his painting from this period was destroyed by fire when the art gallery handling his work, burned to the ground in 1896. His Concarmeau (above) is an exception, painted in France before his return home.

Central Park in Winter, 1927, Colin Campbell Cooper. This must have been
something of a challenge for an "en plein air" painter.
Beauvais Cathendral, 1926,
Colin Campbell Cooper
The main thing that makes the work of Colin Campbell Cooper stand apart from the dozens upon dozens of equally able American Impressionists was the fact he was an inveterate traveler. Every summer this college painting professor traveled, usually back to Europe, then eventually all over the world. He may have been an American but most of his scenes were not. Certainly he was fond of New York (top and just above), painted Martha's Vineyard sometimes, and even the steps of the U.S. Capitol, but he also painted the Taj Mahal, he loved painting Gothic cathedrals (left), oriental ladies and their environment, even the SS Carpathia (below) as it rescued survivors from the Titanic in 1912 (his wife was a psssenger on the Carpathia at the time).

Rescue of the Survivors of the Titanic by the Carpathia,
1912, Colin Campbell Cooper
Temple in Bangkok, 1912,
Colin Campbell Cooper
After his wife's death in 1921, Cooper moved to California, settling in the coastal community of Santa Barbara just north of Los Angeles. No more setting up his easel in a frigid Central Park, Cooper loved the climate, the remnants of the Spanish ambience, and the growing colony of artists who shared his love for painting out-of-doors. His painting, Courtyard in Santa Barbara (bottom), from 1925, reflects this sunny affection. However, even though he loved California, Cooper continued to travel broadly all over the world. He married again in 1927 (everyone needs a traveling companion). He continued his international painting expeditions along with closer jaunts around California as well as Arizona and New Mexico until failing eyesight forced his retirement from painting in the early 1930s. He died in Santa Barbara in 1937 at the age of 81.

Courtyard in Santa Barbara, 1925, Colin Campbell Cooper
--why American Impressionists move to California.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Cubist Sculpture

Mountains in the French Provence, 1870-80, Paul Cezanne--the roots of Cubism.
LEstaque, 1906, Georges Braque.
Cezanne's cubist roots sprout.
Yesterday, in discussing the work of Fernand Leger (the item directly below), I talked a great deal about Cubism. All too often when "artsy" people encounter Cubism, they tend to think first, foremost, perhaps even exclusively of Cubist painting. And, indeed, Cubism did begin on the flat surface of the painted canvas. However (and this is a big however), it didn't stay there for long. That's not surprising in that the cube, by definition, is three dimensional. Its presence in painting, therefore necessarily involves illusion. We often think that Cubism began with Picasso and Braque (left). Technically, it did, but the roots date back to Cezanne, a generation before (above). But Cezanne was no sculptor. Picasso was. However, one of the things that made Cubist painting fascinating was, in fact, the multiple viewpoints rendered illusionistically in a three dimensional manner. Here, Picasso and his followers (or imitators, take your pick) were breaking new ground.
Bust of Nefertiti, 1345 BC.
When one changes to a sculptural media, multiple viewpoints become a given, in that the viewer has the option of moving around the piece, as opposed to the 90 to 120 degrees that is optimal in viewing a painting (which, in any case, changes little, if at all, as one's viewpoint changes). Therefore, early Cubist sculpture was merely a translation of Cubist painting into three-dimensional reality. Unfortunately, such sculpture loses something in the translation--the magic of illusionistic space. For better or worse, sculpture occupies "real" space...painting, not so much. Thus, for thousands of years, sculpture projected a vision of reality toward which painting might strive, but seldom come close to matching. However, with the advent of photography, which largely freed painting from the burden of depicting reality, painting began to outpace sculpture as a means of exploring the multiple ways in which the mind sees and thinks. Sculpture, on the other hand, being little influenced or effected by photography, remained "mired" in reality.
Head of a Woman (Fernande),
1906, Pablo Picasso--the first
cubist sculpture
What Picasso, discovered in 1909, when he created his plaster sculpture, Head of a Woman (Fernande) (left), was that in switching to a three-dimensional media, Cubism added very little more to the understanding and appreciation of the varying planes of the human face than did the Bust of Nefertiti (above, right, discovered in Egypt about the same time) yet created some 3,300 years before. The result was not a new insight, but simple distortion of the human face. Thus, the tables were turned. Picasso's Cubist sculpture was simply an attempt to mimic Cubist painting through distortion rather than illusion. (The effect is not as noticeable in a 2-D photo as in viewing the piece in real life.)

Woman with Pears, Fernande Oliver,
1909, Pablo Picasso

Woman Walking, 1912,
Alexander Archipenko
Picasso moved on, from the synthetic phase of Cubism to the much richer vein of analytical cubism. Here, rather than attempting to reveal the intricacies of visual perceptions, he began exploring the distortions he'd encountered in doing so. Whereas his earlier form of cubism had been finite, bound by the lingering constraints of reality, in analyzing, rather than synthesizing, there was virtually no limit as to the heights (or depths) to which he might go. It was in this new mode that Cubist sculpture once more had relevancy. Sculpture could realize what painting could only illustrate. It was about this time (1914) when Picasso began bluring the lines between the 2-D and the 3-D combining sculptural elements into his paintings or adding paint to sculptural works then hanging them on a wall (bottom). It wasn't long before other sculptors began to take note of what Picasso was doing and the new freedom of expression afforded by analyzing rather than synthesizing nature. Alexander Archeipenko was one of the first with his, Woman Walking (above, left), dating from 1912, followed by Jacques Lipchitz, Joseph Csaky, Henri Laerens, and later Ossip Zadkine, none of whom could hold a candle to that rambunctous Spaniard who started it all.

Nature Morte, 1914, Pablo Picasso


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fernand Leger

Fernand Leger's brand of Cubism evolved rather quickly--
The Smokers, 1911-12, Woman in Blue, 1912, Nude Model in the Studio, 1913. 

The Mechanic, 1918, Fernand
Leger, considered a self-portrait
Yesterday, as I was posting links to some of the exceptional artists who had attended the Academie Julian (the item just below), I went in search of my discourse on the French Cubist painter, Fernand Leger. Guess what. There wasn't one. Although I've mentioned the man's name and shown his work quite a number of times, I'd never actually written about him. Leger is seen at right in what is assumed to be a self-portrait from 1918, by which time his work had evolved (above) from the harsh angularity usually attributed to Cubism into a more rounded, cylindrical embodiment, often termed by critics as "tubism." In any case, Leger was an important figure in the Modern Art movement in Paris during the early 20th century, so it's high time I included him in my pantheon of artists to be "worshipped and adored."

Le Jardin de ma mère (My Mother's Garden), 1905, Fernand Leger
Born in 1881, the same year as Picasso, Fernand Leger worked in the shadow of this mighty man all his life. He died in 1955, long before Picasso (1973). Besides studying at the Academie Julian, Leger spent what he termed "three empty and useless years" studying at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under the legendary academic painter, Gerome, though he was not officially enrolled as a student. Thus he was twenty-five years old before he began painting seriously. His Le Jardin de ma mère (My Mother's Garden, above) of 1905, is one of the few paintings he did not destroy from this early period. It appears to be loosely influenced by Impressionism, though not what you'd call an infatuation with a style that was, by then considered vaguely old-fashioned and passe.

The City, 1919, Fernand Leger
Leger undoubtedly knew of Picasso's ground breaking Cubism, and probably knew the man himself. The left bank, avant-garde artist community during the first decade of the 20th century was not that large, nor diverse. It including other artists such as Alexander Archipemko, Jacques Lipchitz,, Marc Chagall, and Robert Delaunay. Leger, as well as his friends, were all influenced, or inspired by Picasso (and Braque), if not, in some cases, actually imitating them. Leger comes very close as seen in his work from the period 1911-1913 (top). However, after the war, Leger moved on, imbuing Cubism with his own creative elements.

The Breakfast, 1921, Fernand leger
Soldier with a Pipe, 1916, Fernand Leger
Two Sisters, 1935, Fernand Leger

Fernand Leger wasn't the first artist to be influenced by a war, but few have encountered such a profound effect as seen in his Soldier with a Pipe (above, left) from 1916. Leger exchanged cubes for cylinders and spheres. Actually, he barely survived the war. A front-line combatant, Leger was very nearly gassed to death. During his recovery, he began to paint the rounded shapes he'd encountered with the guns of combat. This style, the "tubism" mentioned above, dominated his work during the 1920s as seen in his The Breakfast (above) from 1921. During the 1930s, Leger's work continued to evolve into a more organic manifestation of his trademark cubist cylinders. His Two Sisters (above, right), from 1935 illustrates a more monumental quality in his work, incidentally, not too unlike that that of Picasso's Classical Period during the 1920s.

Leisures on Red Bottom, 1949, Fernand Leger
Having had his fill of war the first time around, Leger sat out the Second World War in a teaching position in the U.S. at Yale University. His work from this period is known for its juxtaposition of nature versus the abuse of civilization upon the landscape. After the war, Leger returned to France then later settled in Switzerland where, during the final five years of his life, he joined the Communist party, though he was far more of a humanist than a socialist. His work became less abstract, more domesticated, featuring acrobats, builders, divers, and family outings in the country such his Leisures on Red Bottom (above) from 1949. Likewise, he extended his talents to stained glass, sculpture, book illustrations, and murals. In recounting his life, it would be very easy to relegate Fernand Leger to a role as a mere copyist of Picasso. However, more accurately, one might better see him as Picasso's shadow.

The Fernand Leger Museum, Biot, France (halfway between Cannes and Nice).