Graphic design has been among the elements of art for centuries and, accordingly, most people chose it as their main occupation. Based on different interests and issues in the society both in the past and modern life, graphic designers create specific arts to symbolize ideas, express information, and mark memories. The works of different graphic designers usually represent a certain culture or ethnic region as they solely design unique graphics in relation to their cultural identity and specific traditions. For instance, Fernand Leger is a renowned graphic designer that left a legacy in graphic design industry through his various pieces of art that portrayed different types of ideas in the modern society ranging from machines to nature. He was of French origin but worked in various regions at different periods of his time. This paper is a detailed analysis of Leger as a graphic designer as it aims to focus on his biography, works of art, historical period and working conditions in which he operated.
Leger’s Biography and Time in the History of Graphic Design
Fernand Leger was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker at the same time. He was born in 1881 and lived until his death in 1955 having achieved much recognition in the film as well the graphic design industry (Bartorelli 10). Initially, between the period of 1897 and 1899, Leger trained as an architect. However, later on, namely in 1900, he moved to Paris with the aim of supporting himself as an architectural draftsman. Eventually, the future artist enrolled for the school of Decorative Arts after attending a military service in Versailles, Yvelines, between 1902 and 1903. Leger then started practicing art fully at the age of 25 as an all-time painter, creating designs, and bringing them to live through the unique techniques of sculpture and painting. Starting from this particular period, all of his works portrayed the effect of impressionism as seen in one of his artistic works of 1905, Le Jardin de ma mere, meaning My Mother’s Garden. According to Bartorelli, this is among the very few works of his that he never destroyed later on. Also, the French sculptor and painter developed a new artistic concept with an emphasis on drawing and geometry, which he included in his work after seeing the Cezanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne.
Starting from the year 1905, after the emergence of Le Jardin de ma mere, Leger reached the pinnacle of his career. He then moved to Montparnasse where he met with several leaders, including Robert Delaunay and Joseph Csaky. At this period, his major and most famous paintings were the Nudes in the Forest, wherein the artist reflected a personal form of Cubism that he slowly modified into a figurative style with an emphasis on the populist features. Additionally, the relationship between machines and human beings in the current world inspired Leger to create unique cubist paintings. From this period and up to 1914, his works became more abstract and even encompassed some ideas related to the World War I. For example, his sketches of airplanes, artillery pieces, and soldiers had an immense impact on the art industry. All through his periods of creative work, he made significant changes through his pieces of art that were meant to convey different information up to his last piece of work in 1954 before his death the next year.
The Period and Setting that Influenced Leger’s Activity in Graphic Design
During the initial stages of his artistic career, Leger worked as an architect draftsman in Paris while studying in Ecole des Arts Decortifs. He became fully influenced while in Paris in the year 1907 by Cezanne. Moreover, he met Douanier Rousseau and many other artists. At that period, Leger was engaged in the Cubist movement and developed a semi-abstract Cubist idiom in 1909, which had dynamic contrasting forms of tubes. In 1912, he participated in a one-man exhibition at the GalerieKahnwiler, Paris. During the French Army war in 1914-1917, the French artist went to the front. While fighting in the war, Leger became excited by how the machines magnificently operated in a battle, which led him to devote some of his works to the military theme. During that period, Leger worked under tough conditions as he struggled to create his artwork in the middle of fights while in the French Army.
In the period between 1940 and 1945, he traveled to the USA and took refuge. Later, the country inspired him to produce paintings about divers, acrobats, and even cyclists. In the USA, Leger worked under normal conditions without experiencing any difficulties, which enabled him to concentrate on his art works only. After a while, namely in 1945, he returned to France where he continued to work not only as an artist but also as a designer. Fernand Lager later received the Grand Prix award in Sao Paulo Bienal in 1955 before his death.
An analysis of his Specific Works as a Graphic Designer
Leger’s artistic pieces of work as well as perfection and accuracy in designing are known to be a contributory factor in the development of the history of graphic design. Moreover, unlike many artists in his time, he not only painted but sculpted, which diversified his occupational activities and enriched a variety of his art works. Fernand Leger was not only a painter but also an influential figure in the art industry as he featured in different works, such as set designs, book illustrations, mosaics, murals, and ceramic sculptures. Owing to the establishment of a free art school, he managed to inspire many artists in France and other parts of the world, including the USA. In the school, he taught many renowned artists that lived to revive Leger’s legacy after his death.
Many of Leger's paintings were based on different ideas which made his work variable in terms of different aspects. Through his paintings, he managed to express exactly what he wanted to express with great artistic panache. Moreover, the artist managed to sell some of his paintings at a high price for as much as $22 million. The following pictures are some of his art works that represent different types of his occupation.
Mechanical Elements 1926 T06798
Leger had a great interest in mechanics and based many of his pieces of art on mechanisms of machines as a way of passing and storing information. The French artist named this painting Mechanical Elements 1926 T06798, and, with its help, he aimed to explain the indispensible role of mechanics in everyday life. Research indicates that Leger perceived machines as elements of variety and intensity that represented the modern ways of life. However, he never limited himself to the expansion of his ideas through the arts of machines.
Leaves and Shell 1927 N05907
Although many of Leger’s paintings were based on machines and modern urban life in the 1920s period, he started incorporating natural motifs and forms in his art works. The painting Leaves and Shell 1927 N05907 involves a curving line down to the left that softens the underlying geometric form of both horizontal and vertical figures. He aimed to show the link between organic shapes of leaves and shell. According to the previous studies in the graphic design, these naturalistic elements with their streamlined shapes relate closely to the abstract life of the real world.
Fernand Leger was a French artist who dedicated a significant part of his life (from 1907 and up to 1954) to painting as well as sculpture. During his first years of artistic career, Leger was a draftsman and a student at the same time, which helped him make his future work prolific. He left invaluable legacy of graphic design methods as he trained many renowned artists in his free art school. Compared to many other contemporaries, his style included a wide range of sources as well as techniques and was therefore based on different aspects, including mechanics. Leger was active at various points of his artistic career, having worked under conditions of World War I and as a refugee in the USA. The creativity and impressive quality of his art works underline his unique style that undoubtedly contributed to the development of the modern art.