Léger served as an engineer for the French army during WWI, and painted this piece whilst recovering in hospital from a mustard gas attack. Using cubist techniques, Léger’s painting shows French soldiers playing cards. The metallic-looking cylinders that make up the soldiers’ bodies give them a robotic feel, and the repeated patterns filling the canvas make it difficult to pick out the individual figures, perhaps a reference to the dehumanising effects of the war machine.
Soldiers playing cards
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 129.5 x 194.5 cm Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Netherlands © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018
French painter and designer Fernand Léger, was born in Agentan, Normandy in 1881. His work encompasses cubist and semi-abstract styles, and in his later years he also worked in design for the stage. Léger also became an active advocate for peace, and in 1948 became a founder-member of the National Council of the World Peace Movement.