Fernand Léger, Les femmes à la toilette, 1920,
Oil on canvas, 92,3 x 73,3 cm, © 2011 ProLitteris, Zurich
Contemporary aesthetic values are largely related to the practical use of an object. Consider for a moment… the automobile: it had to become lower, longer and more streamlined in order to meet the demands of speed – thus achieving a balance of curves and horizontally elongated lines defined by its geometric arrangement. The geometric shape is what dominates, penetrating every area of production. It influences our perception and behaviour.
It was this kind of perception, one influenced by modern life, that was expressed by Fernand Léger in his 1925 painting “Les femmes à la toilette”. The geometric shapes, squares, circles, cylinders and cones, fill the centre of the picture in apparent randomness. But in fact, they each correspond to an object and can be recognized as lipsticks, jars, pots and bottles on a table. And even the ladies are there in disordered fragmentation, even if the individual parts are so disjointed that they're beyond recognition. This was Léger's way of putting them on a par with the industrially manufactured products that surround them.
In 1920 Léger created an entire series on the theme “Les femmes à la toilette”. The pictures were testament to his newly awakened interest in the representation of people. In the years previous to that Léger´s painting had reflected his experiences in the First World War and were produced during what was known as his “mechanical period”. In his view the soldiers in the trenches had been like part of a machine, acting and reacting like robots.