During the First World War Fernand Leger wanted to make his artwork more accessible to the working classes. This transition would become known as his mechanical period that would concentrate on industrialization. Roy McMullen describes Fernand Leger in this period as trying to, “depict the beauty of urban life by portraying humans as geometric and mechanized figures integrated with their equally geometric and mechanized environments. (1)” In 1921, Leger created one of his most recognizable works known as the Three Women. The painting shows three nude women with enlarged details of certain body parts in a very decorative and organized room. Fernand Leger gives his women a machine like form in the Three Women to show how life has become simplistic and unemotional like a robot.
The oil on canvas painting now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and stands at 6′ 1/4″ x 8′ 3″. The most noticeable objects in the painting are the three nude women drinking a hot drink, the two that are lying down are gray and the one-seated lady is brown. The objects and designs surrounding the ladies are in a vertical pattern. There are no outlines used, however Leger uses shadowing to help define the curvature of the tables, couch, and women’s body parts. The women’s bodies look stiff and their skin looks very clean. The women have swollen legs and arms that look distorted compared to their faces. Leger most likely does this to give the women a masculine figure which allows the women to not be beautiful. If they were beautiful then the women would take the focus away from Leger’s background and the women’s faces. Their faces are their most noticeable feature which do not show emotion while drinking coffee and tea together in the apartment. The shapes used for the ladies chest and kneecaps are spheres and their bodies are in circular shapes, while the background and objects surrounding them are in regular and realistic form. Leger uses all types of colors, as there is not a noticeable color that stands out. Having basic colors that don’t stand out allow for Purist paintings to have balance. Leger uses a diverse color palette that focuses on basic colors, nothing too dark or bright. Purism is shown in this painting by having objects displayed in vertical lines, using basic colors, and having decorative backgrounds.
The faces and mood of the women can relate to machines having no emotions. Fernand Leger was most likely overwhelmed by World War I, and wanted to see an environment that was calm and empty of violence. The war has brought tranquility and peace to the three ladies in the painting. The women do not represent a perfect body, as their bodies are not attractive. The objects surrounding them have more importance and detail than the women. The decoration of the room shows the new lifestyle of added color and designs in houses. The position of everything is very geometric and is perfectly placed to make everything organized. The color coordination is well placed, because nothing stands out more than the other. From a balance standpoint, the two women that are grey and the cat seem to be more closely connected than the tan lady who is sitting up. The tan woman looks to be more independent and less involved, as she is holding her cup and reading a book. Life for the women in the portrait is machine-like consisting of no emotions in a world of new designed furniture.
Fernand Leger uses non-emotional women in his painting of the Three Women to describe the new innovation of machines and how they do not express feelings but add new details in objects surrounding humans. He surrounds the women with vibrant colors and all kinds of designs which represent a new lifestyle for living in decorated and machine made furniture. The poles used in the background and the couch design had to have been made by machines due to its complexity in metal design. Finally, he does not put an emphasis on making the women pretty, because his goal was to put focus on their emotionless faces. Industrialization now makes life simple, and effortless which allows for lounging in a house with new advancements in decorating.
1. McMullen, Roy. “Fernand Leger (French painter).” Britannica Online Encyclopedia.http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/334999/F ernand-Leger (accessed March 19, 2012).