Fernand Léger (1881-1955) was a French painter who was originally trained as an architect's draughtsman and photographic retoucher. Having failed the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1903, he studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Academie Julian. In 1909 he ranked as one of the three major Cubists and became a member of the Puteaux group in 1911. He was the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction, contrasting curvilinear forms against a rectilinear grid.
He renounced abstraction during the First World War, when he claims to have discovered the beauty of common objects, which he described as 'everyday poetic images'.
During the Second World War, Leger lived in the USA where he taught at Yale, returning to Paris in 1945, when he opened an academy. His large paintings celebrating the people, featuring acrobats, cyclists and builders, thickly contoured and painted in clear, flat colours, reflected his political interest in the working class, and his attempt to create accessible art.
In 1950 he founded a ceramics studio at Biot, which, in 1957, became the Leger Museum. In 1967 it became a national museum.
His Femme en Bleu was sold on auction this summer 2008 for $ 39.2 million.