The Bargeman

Fernand Léger (French, Argentan 1881–1955 Gif-sur-Yvette)

Oil on canvas
19 1/8 x 21 3/8 in. (48.6 x 54.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    Along with Picasso, Braque, and Gris, Fernand Léger ranks among the foremost Cubist painters. By 1912, he had developed his own adaptation of Cubism. Utilizing pure color, he simplified the forms in his pictures into geometric components of the cone, cube, and sphere, leaving their contours unbroken. Leger was also fascinated by machines and modern technology. The Bargeman, which shows a boat set against a background dominated by the facades of houses, provided the artist with the opportunity to combine several of his favorite themes: motion, the city, and men at work. With colorful and overlapping disks, cylinders, cones, and diagonals, Léger presents a syncopated, abstract equivalent of the visual impressions of a man traveling along the Seine through Paris. All that can be seen of the bargeman, however, are his tube-like arms, in the upper part of the composition, which end in metallic-looking claws.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower right): F LEGER

  • Provenance

    [Léonce Rosenberg, Paris, 1918–38; stock no. 5357; purchased from the artist on March 7, 1918, for Fr 300; sold on October 20, 1938, for Fr 7,000, to Balay and Carré]; [Roland Balay and Louis Carré, Paris, 1938–39; sold on May 1, 1939 to Willert]; Paul Willert, New York (from 1939); [Theodore Schempp, New York; sold 1/2 share to Janis]; [Sidney Janis, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block, Chicago (until 1972; sold to Marlborough); [Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York, from 1972]; sale, Christie's, London, July 2, 1974, no. 105, as "Le Marinier," sold to Acquavella and Berggruen; [Acquavella Galleries, New York and Heinz Berggruen, Paris, 1974–83; on consignment to Daniel Malingue, Paris, in 1980]; [Interart, Ltd., Zug, 1983; sold on September 10, 1983 to Gelman]; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1983–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    Geneva. Galerie Moos. "La Jeune peinture française: Les Cubistes," February 1920, no. 92 (as "Le marinier") [possibly this picture].

    New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "Léger: Major Themes," January 2–February 2, 1957, no. 5 (as "Sailor [Motive for 'The Tugboat']").

    Paris. Berggruen et Cie. "F. Léger: Huiles, aquarelles, et dessins," May 1975, no. 3 (as "Le Marinier").

    Geneva. Musée de l'Athenée. "Léger," July 12–October 11, 1979, no. 3 (as "Le Marinier").

    Paris. Daniel Malingue. "Maîtres impressionnistes et modernes," June 12–July 19, 1980, no. 19 (as "Le Marinier").

    New York. Acquavella Galleries, Inc. "Fernand Léger," October 23–December 12, 1987, no. 12 (as "Le Marinier [The Bargeman]," lent by the Gelman Collection).

    Saint Paul de Vence. Fondation Maeght. "Fernand Léger: Rétrospective," July 2–October 2, 1988, no. 28 (as "Le Marinier," lent by Jacques and Natasha Gelman).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 152).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

    Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 176).

  • References

    Fernand Léger. Letter to Léonce Rosenberg. [February 24, 1918] [published in Ref. Derouet 1996, p. 26, no. 18].

    Jean Bazaine. Fernand Léger: Peintures antérieures à 1940. Exh. cat., Galerie Louis Carré. Paris, 1945, ill. p. 13.

    William Rubin. Three Generations of Twentieth Century Art: The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1972, p. 6.

    "The Sale Room." Apollo‚ 100 (October 1974), p. 345, ill.

    John Herbert, ed. Christie's Review of the Season 1974. London, 1974, ill. p. 145 (color).

    Geraldine Norman. "Cézanne, Renoir and Monet Unsold in Erratic Bidding." Times (July 3, 1974), p. 2.

    Angelica Zander Rudenstine. The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880–1945. Vol. 2, New York, 1976, p. 468.

    François Daulte. "Beauté, mon beau souci: à propos d'une exposition à la Galerie Daniel Malingue." L'Œil, no. 299 (June 1980), p. 48, ill. (color).

    Sabine Rewald in Twentieth Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 151–53, 302, ill. (color and bw).

    Georges Bauquier assisté de Nelly Maillard. Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné. Vol. 1, 1903–1919. Paris, 1990, pp. 236–37, no. 131, ill. (color).

    Christian Derouet, ed. Correspondances Fernand Léger–Léonce Rosenberg, 1917–1937. Paris, 1996, p. 26, no. 18, n. 1, p. 34, no. 32, n. 1, p. 67, no. 65, n. 4, p. 260.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History