The quintessential painter of the machine age, Fernand Leger observed the effects of modern technology in the trenches as a soldier in the French army during World War I. Featuring workers whose bodies appear to be assembled from standardized industrial parts, The Builders (1920) exemplifies the style he developed after the war. Unlike the toiling laborers of Thomas Hart Benton’s mural, America Today, the builders here fuse seamlessly with the scaffolding and gears around them, as though they are part of one, harmonious machine. In the 1930s and 1940s. Leger would go on to make his own murals, featuring abstracted images of industry and machine power.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
I first became acquainted with Marcel Duchamp’s very famous sculpture, Fresh Widow (1920), when I was studying art in college. Constructed by a carpenter in accordance with Duchamp’s instructions, Fresh Widow is a small version of the double doors commonly called a French window. Duchamp was fascinated by themes of sight and perception; here, the expectation of a view through windowpanes is thwarted by opaque black leather, which Duchamp insisted “be shined everyday like shoes.”
Fresh Widow is also reference to the recent abundance of widows of World War I fighters.
An inscription at the sculpture’s base reads COPYRIGHT ROSE SELAVY 1920, making it the first work to be signed by Duchamp’s female alter ego Rose Sélavy (later spelled Rrose). Duchamp derived the name from the French saying: “éros, c’est la vie,” which can be interpreted as “the sex drive is life.”
Fresh Widow is part of the permanent collection at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art.