Fernand Léger, Ballet mécanique, Kiki souriante, 1927 (c) Adagp, Paris, 2022
Past exhibitions

Fernand Léger and the cinema

from June 11th to September 19th 2022
Musée national Fernand Léger

This exhibition explores, in an exhaustive and completely new way, the strong, lasting and fruitful relationship that the painter Fernand Léger (1881-1955) had with the seventh art throughout his work.

As a film lover, set designer, poster designer, theorist, director, producer and even actor, all the facets of Fernand Léger's involvement in the film world are evoked in this presentation.
It was during the First World War, while on leave in 1916 with his friend Guillaume Apollinaire, that Fernand Léger discovered Charlie Chaplin, a real revelation for the painter. From 1919 onwards, Léger's works reflected the influence of the cinematographic image on his artistic approach: the illustrated books produced in collaboration with the poets Blaise Cendrars and Yvan Goll played with the vocabulary of the cinema by introducing close-ups, typographical research and kinetic effects.

As early as 1925, Fernand Léger declared: " The cinema is thirty years old, it is young, modern, free and without tradition. This is its strength [...]. Cinema personalizes the fragment, it frames it and it is a new realism whose consequences can be incalculable." When he uttered this sentence, Fernand Léger had just made his first film, Ballet mécanique, in 1924, the result of a collective artistic effort with Man Ray, Dudley Murphy and the composer Georges Antheil. This avant-garde film, which animates and alternates, in a rapid and jerky montage, everyday objects, characters and geometric figures, still ranks today among the undisputed masterpieces of experimental cinema. The genesis of the film, its influences, the different versions produced by the artist, as well as its critical reception and posterity in France and abroad, will be presented.

The exhibition also evokes Léger's first contributions to the cinema: the poster projects and the animation of the credits for Abel Gance's film La Roue, or the poster and set design for the futuristic laboratory of L'Inhumaine. This prestigious 1924 film by Marcel L'Herbier brought together other great designers of the 1920s, such as the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, and the furniture and costume designers Pierre Chareau and Paul Poiret.
Other film projects followed in the 1930s before the collective adventure, strongly influenced by the surrealist aesthetic, of the film Dreams that money can buy, directed in 1947 by the painter and filmmaker Hans Richter, to which the artists Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Alexander Calder also contributed.

Films, paintings, archives, and photographs help us to understand this fascinating subject in all its richness and modernity and to highlight the totally multidisciplinary dimension of Fernand Léger's work.

Exhibition curator :
Anne Dopffer, general curator, general curator of heritage, director of the National Museums of the 20th Century in the Alpes-Maritimes
Julie Guttierez, curator, heritage curator at the Fernand Léger National Museum

Based on an original idea and the research programme conducted by the Fernand Léger National Museum in Biot, the City of Belfort is presenting, from 6 November 2021 to 6 February 2022 in Tower 46, the exhibition Faire vivre les images. Fernand Léger in the cinema, which focuses on the avant-garde period of the 1920s. At the Fernand Léger National Museum, the exhibition Léger and the Cinema, organised from 11 June to 19 September 2022, will offer a complete overview of Léger's relationship with the seventh art. 

The exhibition Léger and the Cinema is organised by the National 20th Century Museums of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais. 
The Biot and Belfort exhibitions share a common scientific catalogue, published by the
Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais editions.


Photogramme représentant Kiki de Montparnasse filmée avec un vortographe dans Ballet mécanique, de Fernand Léger et Dudley Murphy (1923-1924). Film 35 mm en noir et blanc silencieux. Coréalisation: Dudley Murphy. Collaboration: Man Ray. Musique: Georges Antheil. Photo © Light Cone (Paris) / Bruce Posner © ADAGP, Paris, 2022. 

Exhibition open every day except Tuesdays and May 1st.
from May 1st to October 31st: from 10 am to 6 pm
1 November to 30 April: 10am to 5pm.

Ticket sales stop 30 minutes before the museum closes.

The entrance ticket includes access to the permanent collection and a multilingual audio guide.

Exhibition rates :
Full price: 7.50 €
Reduced rate: 6 €
Group rate (minimum 10 people): 7 € per person

Tous publics
Ensemble mécanique by Winfried Ritsch
Until November 7th 2022
Catalogue of the exhibition "Léger and the cinema"