The Builders

Fernand Léger (French, Argentan 1881–1955 Gif-sur-Yvette)
Oil on canvas
25 3/8 x 36 1/4 in. (64.5 x 92.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, 2006
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 909
The quintessential painter of the machine age, Léger observed the effects of modern technology in the trenches as a solider in the French army during World War I. Featuring workers whose bodies appear to be assembled from standardized industrial parts, The Builders exemplifies the style that Léger developed after the war to convey his belief that all of modern life was succumbing to the machine. He wrote in a letter in 1922, "The contemporary environment is clearly the manufactured and ‘mechanical’ object; this is slowly subjugating the breasts and curves of women, fruit, the soft landscape."
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): FLEGER/ 20; signed, dated, and inscribed (on reverse): LES quatre personnages / I'ETAT / F. LEGER 20
[Louis Carré Gallery, Paris and New York, by 1945–51; sold on October 22, 1951 to Steinberg]; Muriel Kallis Steinberg, Chicago (1951–2006; her gift to MMA)

Paris. Galerie Louis Carré. "Fernand Léger: Peintures antérieures à 1940," January 16–February 5, 1945, unnumbered cat. (p. 14).

New York. Louis Carré Gallery. "The Artist in the Machine Age," October 24–November 18, 1950, no. 7.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "An American Choice: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection," May 21–September 27, 1981, unnumbered cat. (p. 21).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 17, 2007–February 3, 2008, extended to March 2, 2008, no. 4.

Douglas Cooper. Fernand Léger et le nouvel espace. Geneva, 1949, pp. IX, 85, ill. p. 94.

Christian Zervos. Fernand Léger: Oeuvres de 1905 à 1952. Paris, 1952, p. 93, ill. p.45.

Pierre Descargues. Fernand Léger. Paris, 1955, p. 60, ill.

Grace Glueck. "Met Is Given a $12 Million Art Collection." New York Times (December 10, 1980), p. B7.

Hilton Kramer. "Modernist Show Moves Met Firmly into Art of 20th Century." New York Times (May 22, 1981), p. C21.

John Russell. "Léger's Contagious Enthusiasm." New York Times (August 16, 1981), p. D24.

Georges Bauquier assisté de Nelly Maillard. Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné. Vol. 2, 1920–1924. Paris, 1992, pp. 30–31, no. 209, ill.

Carolyn Lanchner in Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Gary Tinterow, Lisa Mintz Messinger, and Nan Rosenthal. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 20–23, no. 4, ill. (color).

Richard Meyer. "Changing Partners: Richard Meyer on 'Reimagining Modernism' at the Met." Artforum (November 2015), p. 146.