A Brief Survey of Artistic Representations of Social Interaction:
From the Caves of Lascaux to the Halls of CIW

Unit 8 - Theme for the Common (Wo)Man

Fernand Léger (1881-1955),
Still Life with a Beer Mug/Nature morte
a la chope (1921-2)
Oil on canvas, 921 x 600 mm
Tate Modern, London

Continuing one of the themes brought up in Bruegel's work, we see here, again, an artist appealing to the more average-type viewer. And unlike the works of so many postmodern artists this attempt is neither ironic nor derisory.

Fernand Léger, having created quite a career for himself pre-World War I, working with the ever-growing pool of Cubists in France, went away to serve out his military service from 1914 to 1917. During this period Legér, deeply effected by his wartime experiences, decided that he needed to shift the focus of his work in order to make it more accessible. The painting shown here, made in 1921 or 1922, is a perfect illustration of this shift in Léger's work--pulling away from pure abstraction and beginning to depict more quotidian themes.

And what could be more quotidian than the lunch of a worker: eggs, fruit, sausages and beer. (It makes one wish that one were one of these well-fed, beer-guzzling workers of the world that so many artists desire to connect with.)

Related Links:
A museum in France, dedicated to Fernand Léger.

The Tate Modern homepage.

Excerpt from Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" (this is a .wav file of 1.2mb).

Web page with bio of Aaron Copland.

Essay by Arthur Miller on "Tragedy and the Common Man".