Fernand Léger / La grande Julie, 1945 / Copyrights
La grande Julie, 1945
This famous painting is one of the major works of Léger’s New York period. It shows a woman in an orange suit, “Great Julie,” with separate parts of a bicycle spread out alongside her. The same figure appears in a smaller version of the painting, Julie, la belle cycliste (Julie, the Lovely Cyclist). The subject of cycling anticipates Léger’s involvement with the theme of leisure and recreation, which would play a key role in his later years in France. The butterflies and flower likewise evoke the idea of recreation in the country. Yet there is no landscape in the background, as might be expected, but only fields of color. Nor is Julie’s bike in much shape for riding. Just as her figure on the left is built limb by limb in Léger’s classic way, the bicycle on the right is largely disassembled. Julie’s arm, extending into the mechanical world, serves to combine figure and bicycle into an assemblage.