The Bicyclist

Fernand Léger (French, Argentan 1881–1955 Gif-sur-Yvette)
Oil on canvas
51 1/2 x 38 1/2 in. (130.8 x 97.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Not on view
In 1948, the bicentennial of Jacques-Louis David’s birth was commemorated at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. This same year, Léger remade an earlier painting of six figures posed stiffly in an outdoor setting, one woman astride a bicycle with a child perched behind. A reclining woman in the foreground holds a paper inscribed "Hommage à Louis David," a reference to David’s famous painting "The Death of Marat" (1793), portraying the murdered leader of the French Revolution. With this large-scale picture, "Leisure (Homage to David)" (1948–49; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), Léger connects his depiction of a working-class pastime with a reference to politically engaged art.

"The Bicyclist" reprises the two right-hand figures from "Leisure," as noted by the artist’s inscription on the verso of the canvas. Removed from the larger narrative of the scene, this woman and child, rendered in thick black outlines with bright pink outfits set against a vibrant background of blue, yellow, and red, recall Léger’s acrobats series. Another version, "Two Cyclists, Mother and Child," also dated 1951, is in the Fondation Beyeler, Basel.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): F.LÉGER/ 51; signed, dated, and inscribed (verso): F. LEGER/ 51/ Hommage a/ DAViD/ (FRAGMENT/ de Droite)
the artist, Gif-sur-Yvette (until d. 1955; his estate, 1955–60, no. 296); Musée Fernand Léger, Biot (from 1960); [Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, by 1964–at least 1968; stock no. 010366]; [Saidenberg Gallery, New York]; Private collection, Tokyo; [Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York, in 1986; stock no. 25.916]; [Perls Galleries (Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Perls), New York, by 1987–97; stock no. 13643; gift to MMA]

Nice. Palais de la Méditerranée. "Peintres à Nice et sur la Côte d'Azur, 1860–1960," July–September 1960, no. 77 (as "Fragment des loisirs [Hommage à David]," lent by Musée Fernand Léger, Biot).

Kassel. Museum Fridericianum. "Documenta III: Internationale Ausstellung," June 27–October 5, 1964, no. 5 (as "Hommage à David," lent by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris).

New York. Chalette. "Fernand Léger: The Figure," April 1965, no. 23 (as "Homage to David").

Bremen. Michael Hertz. "Fernand Léger: Werke aus den Jahren 1909 bis 1955," mid-February–April 30, 1966, no. 18 (as "Hommage à David [Fragment de droite]").

Chicago. International Galleries. "Fernand Léger, 1881–1955: Retrospective Exhibition," November–December 1966, no. 49 (as "Homage to David").

Tel Aviv Museum of Art. "Fernand Léger, 1881–1955," April–May 1967, no. 30 (as "Hommage à David," lent by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris).

Vienna. Museum des 20.Jahrhunderts. "Fernand Léger," April 26–June 9, 1968, no. 56 (as "Hommage à David," lent by Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris).

New York. Perls Galleries. "Fernand Léger (1881–1955): Oil Paintings," November 12–December 21, 1968, no. 28 (as "Hommage à David").

New York. Marlborough Gallery. "Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries," November 5–December 2, 1986, no. 24 (as "Hommage à David").

London. Whitechapel Gallery. "Fernand Léger: The Later Years," November 27, 1987–February 21, 1988, no. 44 (as "Hommage à Louis David [fragment]," lent by Perls Galleries, New York).

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Fernand Léger: Zeichnungen, Bilder, Zyklen, 1930–1955," March 26–June 19, 1988, no. 75 (as "Hommage à Louis David [Fragment]," lent by Perls Galleries, New York).

Pierre Descargues. Fernand Léger. Paris, 1955, ill. p. 129 (color), as "La Mère et l'enfant".

Gaëtan Picon. "Le Musée Léger à Biot." Cahiers d'art 33–35 (1960), ill. p. 199 (installation photo).

Werner Haftmann. Malerei im 20.Jahrhundert: Eine Bild-Enzyklopädie. Munich, 1965, p. 410, fig. 444, as "Studie zu Hommage à David," in the collection of the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris.

William Berkson. "In the Galleries: Fernand Léger." Arts Magazine 39 (September/October 1965), pp. 62–63, ill.

Michèle Richet with Claude Laugier in Fernand Léger. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1971, p. 27, under no. 152.

Claude Laugier and Michèle Richet. Léger: Œuvres de Fernand Léger (1881–1955). Paris, 1981, p. 95, fig. k, call it "Hommage à David," in an unknown collection; note that Léger reprised the right-hand side of "Les Loisirs (Hommage à Louis David)" (1948–49; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Bauquier 2000, no. 1311) in this picture and a version in the Fondation Beyeler, Basel (1951; Bauquier 2003, no. 1425).

Peter de Francia. "London: Léger at the Whitechapel." Burlington Magazine 130 (February 1988), p. 153, fig. 85 (color).

Paul Overy. "Fernand Léger: A New Realism." Studio International 201 (July 1988), pp. 14–15, ill., as "Hommage à David".

J[ason]. E[dward]. K[aufman]. "Perls Adds Gems to the Met." Art Newspaper no. 61 (July–August 1996), p. 14.

Georges Bauquier, with the collaboration of Irus Hansma, Claude Lefebvre du Preÿ, and Nelly Maillard. Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné. Vol. 8, 1949–1951. Paris, 2003, pp. 184–85, no. 1424, ill. (color), calls it "Les Loisirs (Hommage à David), fragment de droite"; erroneously locates it as still in a private collection, Tokyo.