The Aviator

The Aviator


Fernand Léger

(French, 1881-1955)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 80.1 x 106.7 x 4.6 cm (31 9/16 x 42 x 1 13/16 in.); Unframed: 65 x 92 cm (25 9/16 x 36 1/4 in.); Former: 90.5 x 117.2 x 7 cm (35 5/8 x 46 1/8 x 2 3/4 in.)

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1981.16

Did you know?

Trained as an architect to admire pure, geometric forms, Léger wrote that while fighting on the Argonne Front during World War I he was "stunned by the sight of the breech of a 75 millimeter in the sunlight. It was the magic of light on the white metal."


The abstract, circular shapes in this painting suggest the movement of a whirling propeller and infuse the composition with dynamic energy. After serving in the French army during World War I, Léger embraced the beauty of modern machinery and dedicated his life to creating art for every social class. He was among the earliest artists to embrace Cubism, but developed it into a personal style by combining abstract, geometric forms with populist subjects that proclaim his optimistic faith in technological progress.

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