Distinctive cubist style
Fernand Léger had trained as an architect, but soon switches to painting. He admires Paul Cézanne, who seeks the structures and order in nature in his work. In his view, all natural shapes can be reduced to a sphere, a cone or a cylinder. Léger also finds inspiration in the cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. With this as a basis, he develops a very distinctive cubist style, in which he reduces reality to rhythmic compositions of cylinders, tubes and cones.
Nude figures in a wood, Léger's first large canvas, could be an homage to Cézanne’s analytical approach. In a mechanized landscape, we find three nudes composed of geometric shapes: a standing figure with raised arms on the left, a sitting nude slightly lower down and another on the far right with one arm raised. The apparent confusion of shapes makes the work highly dynamic.
‘Battle of volumes’
Léger himself regards this work in sober shades of green, blue grey, grey and white as a ‘battle of volumes’. ‘I thought that I shouldn’t give it any colour. The volumes alone were enough’.