Fernand Léger’s Vibrant ‘La Grande Parade’ Focuses on Circus Performers

We hope that you enjoy this lithograph in our collection. When you visit the museum, this print is on view in the lobby.

Fernand Léger (French, 1881‒1955)
La Grande Parade (The Great Parade), 1965
Color lithograph on paper
Printed by Fernand Mourlot
20”h x 24.625”w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Cinda Perry, in memory of Spence Perry, 2018.7.79
 
In The Great Parade, Fernand Léger represented a colorful troupe of performers (among them acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns, and jesters), all gathered together in costume on a group of platforms and accompanied by their various accessories. The long bands of red (observe the large “C” for circus), blue, and yellow heighten the scene’s pageantry and reference the lighting and elaborate decorations used at these events. Though the show has not yet begun, Léger alerts us that it will begin soon; note that one performer near the center, posed with her legs outstretched and carried by her partner, is ready to enact a stunt.
 
Circus performers long fascinated Léger and were among his favorite themes, something that he shared with Picasso. Like his contemporary, Léger also collaborated with the printer, Fernand Mourlot, to produce many of his lithographs. In 1950, Léger created an illustrated book, Cirque, with 83 lithographs of circus-related subjects, printed by Mourlot and published by Tériade Editors of Paris.
 
A leading figure in the emergence of Machine Art of the 1920s and 30s (an abstract style inspired by industrial technology), Léger, like Picasso, was also intrigued by the human figure. Over the course of his career, Léger was especially drawn to depictions of dancers, musicians, and the circus.

Daniel Fulco is the Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

This WeekendArt is sponsored by Dr. & Mrs. Dean Notabartolo