Fernand Léger (French, 18811955)
Oil on canvas; 19 1/8 x 21 3/8 in. (48.6 x 54.3 cm)
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998 (1999.363.35)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Along with Picasso, Braque, and Gris, Fernand Léger ranks among the foremost Cubist painters. By 1912, he had developed his own adaptation of Cubism. Utilizing pure color, he simplified the forms in his pictures into geometric components of the cone, cube, and sphere, leaving their contours unbroken. Leger was also fascinated by machines and modern technology. The Bargeman, which shows a boat set against a background dominated by the facades of houses, provided the artist with the opportunity to combine several of his favorite themes: motion, the city, and men at work. With colorful and overlapping disks, cylinders, cones, and diagonals, Léger presents a syncopated, abstract equivalent of the visual impressions of a man traveling along the Seine through Paris. All that can be seen of the bargeman, however, are his tube-like arms, in the upper part of the composition, which end in metallic-looking claws.