93.5 x 185 cm
Acrylic on canvas
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Marie Legros and Galerie Lahumière, Paris
Toile à bandes
Jean Legros (born 1917 in Paris, France, died 1981 in Malakoff, France) is regarded as one of the most important French colorists of his generation. However, he did not receive the recognition he deserved in his lifetime due to his somewhat reclusive life style. He grew up in an artistic environment and taught himself to paint early on. He later studied philosophy, psychology, sociology, and aesthetics, graduating in 1940. The war was a troubled time during which he distanced himself from art, and it was not until 1946, after he had worked as a shepherd for some time, that he began to paint again and enrolled at the École de Paris. He distanced himself from the art scene again in 1957, during which he developed a new approach to his artistic practice while living a reclusive life. He began creating works that first included reduced geometric compositions (1958), then abstractions with a spiritual shade of blue (1963–1964), and finally a series of colorless reliefs (1966–1969) that were inspired by his friend Jean Arp.
The feeling of serenity and concentration inspired by nature also remained an integral element of Legros’s works when he reintroduced color in 1970. It was also a constant when he began working on the series of works called "Toiles à bandes" (1974–1975), which consist of only a few horizontal color stripes and which he began after a phase during which he created many collages and pictures on paper using a stencil technique. This series includes the artist’s most abstract works in terms of form and titles because they marry the idea that color has energy, which was key to him, with striving for a basic vocabulary of forms. They are only superficially related to Constructivist and Geometric art, and they also have little in common with the American Hard Edge and Color Field Painting movements, despite the fact that Legros was fascinated by Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Ellsworth Kelly at the time. Instead, they follow the tradition of Henri Matisse’s late work. With their distinct flat colors and tranquil horizontality, these stripes are sublimations of the artist’s memories of landscapes that he had often visited since the 1940s – in particular, the moors in the area around Sologne and the never-ending cornfields in the Touraine and Beauce regions of France.