The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'L'accordéon' by Fernard Léger is composed of forms derived from musical instruments. They partly overlap as flat planes and are combined with abstract lines. The orange plane and the black and white vertical lines to the left refer to an accordion. The four white horizontal elements to the right of the blue cylindrical shape are recognizably the valves of a trumpet. The curved red shape could be associated with an African drum. The green shape with a semicircle at the bottom inside half a square can be seen as a guitar. These elements of instruments have been combined to form a compact whole in which the emphasis is on the vertical. The background also consists mainly of vertical lines. The shapes have been painted evenly in contrasting colours.
The composition of 'L'accordéon' is largely based on the starting points of Cubism. During the early stages of this movement the subject was analysed, divided into fragments and combined in a new way. During the second stage, the synthetic stage, these separate fragments serve as the starting point. They are used to construct a coherent whole in which the emphasis is mainly on the planes. A spatial quality is suggested to some extent by the overlapping of the planes or where they cut across each other. 'L'accordéon' is an example of synthetic Cubism. The work is composed of juxtaposed planes which fit together. However, Léger composed his painting in such a way that the plasticity of some of the elements is maintained. The perspective distortion in the black and white lines of the accordion and the range of colour in the blue cylinder mean that these elements have a spatial quality.
The subject was very important for Léger. He said: “The fragment of the object has its own value; by isolating it, it is given its own personality”. In the mid-1920s he mainly painted objects which varied from the traditional subjects of still lifes, such as bottles and musical instruments, to contemporary industrial objects such as doorknobs or reading lamps. Léger was very interested in modern technology. He believed in its usefulness for the community and wanted to express this in his work. His paintings often look like compositions of all sorts of parts of machinery, even when he used people as the starting point. Léger considered that a good construction is important for a machine but also for a painting.
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