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The City
The City, 1919
Fernand Léger, French
Oil on canvas
7 feet 7 inches x 9 feet 9 1/2 inches (231.1 x 298.4 cm)
A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952
1952-61-58
[ More Details ]

Let’s Look

  • What colors do you see in this painting? Are they bright, dull, warm, cold? What mood do they convey?
  • What shapes do you see in this painting? Do these shapes remind you of any familiar objects? What are they?
  • How many figures do you see? What are they doing?
  • Which areas of this painting convey a sense of movement? Which areas seem still or at rest?
  • How do you think Léger felt about the modern world and the future of the twentieth century? What makes you think so?

Let’s Look Again

  • Léger trained as an architect early in his career, and his knowledge of this trade is seen in his paintings. The triangle is the strongest and most stable shape in architecture. Léger incorporates this important element throughout this painting. Can you find the triangular patterns included in this painting? Why do you think Léger included them in this painting of an urban city? What other patterns do you notice?
  • Léger painted many black and white dots in this painting. How many can you find? Why do you think he included so many? Where do they lead your eyes?
  • Traditional cityscape or landscape paintings include a foreground, horizon, and background to give a sense of space. Can you find shapes in The City that appear to be in the foreground? Which shapes appear to recede in the distance? Is it difficult to tell? Why?

Let’s Compare


The City
The City, 1919
Fernand Léger, French
Oil on canvas
7 feet 7 inches x 9 feet 9 1/2 inches (231.1 x 298.4 cm)
A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952
1952-61-58
[ More Details ]
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower, c. 1925
Robert Delaunay, French
Oil on burlap
51 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches (130.8 x 31.7 cm)
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
1950-134-43a
[ More Details ]
 

Léger was not the only French artist of the early twentieth century celebrating modern technology and progress. His friend Robert Delaunay completed more than thirty paintings and drawings of the Eiffel Tower during his career. Built in 1889 when Delaunay was only four years old, the Eiffel Tower remained the tallest structure in the world throughout his lifetime. Many artists saw the building as a symbol of both human achievement and modernity. Léger and Delaunay shared an interest in architecture as well as in painting. Delaunay loved the geometric clarity in the tower’s design and its ambitious height.

Suggested Activities

Elementary: City Collages
Brainstorm with students about objects found in the city and make a list. Each student should select a sheet of construction paper as the background surface. If possible, pre-cut a number of smaller rectangles, squares, circles, and triangles from construction paper. Encourage students to cut distinctive roof-lines in the smaller pieces of construction paper to distinguish the function of each building. Before gluing, have students arrange their cut shapes on the paper. Use small squares of metallic paper or aluminum foil for windows. Think about things that might also appear in the sky.

Middle School: Pop-Up Cities
Each student should begin with a small sheet of corrugated board which will serve as the background surface. Use oil pastels, tempera, or acrylic paint to cover this surface with bold patterns or a city skyline. Instruct students to draw city subjects on smaller pieces of corrugated cardboard with pencil. Use paint or oil pastels to add color and architectural details to each shape. Cut these shapes with either sharp scissors or a craft knife. To increase the sense of depth, allow the patterns or the skyline from the background surface to peek through. Glue several shapes on the background surface, followed by a second layer of shapes randomly overlapping and connecting the first layer. Use thicker pieces of cardboard behind buildings and shapes to make them "pop-up" from the background surface.

High School: Technological Collage
Discuss technological advancements and new inventions made since the twentieth century. Assign students to collect advertisements and images of new technology. Make a "sketch" depicting machines and new modes of transportation and communication by cutting, arranging, and gluing these images into a collage. Then, reinterpret your collage into a painting or drawing using a medium of your choice.
 

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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