The Painter’s Revenge by Gordon Hughes

In aesthetics, art, film, history of art, theory, visual arts on November 3, 2012 at 20:21

From: “The Painter’s Revenge”: Fernand Léger For and Against Cinema By Gordon Hughes,

Intuitively enough given its subject matter and title, Fernand Léger’s and Dudley Murphy’s 1924 film Ballet mécanique is generally understood as a relatively straightforward extension of the so-called “machine aesthetic” that informs Léger’s painting of this period. Standish Lawder’s comparison of the film with Léger’s paintingis typical in this regard when he writes: “He sought to create in film the same discontinuous, fragmented, kaleidoscopic world that his paintings [evoke]…. The [same] pulsating energies of modern urban life, its rhythms and its forms.” In marked contrast to this view, I want to argue just the opposite: that the relationship between film and painting is highly vexed for Léger; that Ballet mécanique does not function according to the same aesthetic principles as his painting—quite the contrary; and that the strongest relationship between cinema and his painting is to be found not in Léger’s “machine aesthetic” works of the late-19-teens and ‘20s, but rather in his abstract or near-abstract “Orphic” paintings of 1912-1913, particularly in the 150 or so works that make up his Contrasts of Forms series.

As unlikely a comparison as this may seem, I’m not the first to propose it. In a recent essay on these early paintings, Maria Gough has suggestively argued that Léger’s post-Cubist push into abstraction is rooted in a hardening of volumetric and tonal effects, such that, as she describes it, Léger: “hypostatiz[es] chiaroscuro’s most elementary property, that of value, into its two most extreme or contrasted states—brilliant black, brilliant white.” And in so doing, Léger “interrupts the surface of the sheet, animating it with an insistent flicker…[ a ] compulsive, pulsatile flickering on and off…. [such that] Léger creates, in short, a cinematic effect.”

Read the article

Reposted with permission from:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: