January Reading Update


2014 got off to a good start for my reading challenge. I read three books in January. I already wrote about The Illearth War. In addition to that, I finished Henry Miller’s The Wisdom of the Heart and Léger: Modern Art and the Modern City.

As with most of Miller’s collections of essays and stories, The Wisdom of the Heart is a bit of a mixed bag. For every good piece (Reflections on Writing, The Alcoholic Veteran with the Washboard Cranium, The Eye of Paris), there’s the bizarre (Benno, the Wild Man from Borneo) and the overwrought (Balzac and His Double).


I will admit upfront that my opinion of the book, Fernand Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, is influenced by my visit to the exhibit of the same name that was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from October 14, 2013 until January 5, 2014. Both the exhibit, curated by Anna Vallye, and the book, edited by Vallye, not only focus on Léger’s works but also include works from his contemporaries, such as Cassandre, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Theo van Doesburg, Alexandra Exter, Le Corbusier, Piet Mondrian, and Man Ray, among others, which places Léger’s art in a broader context.

I am fascinated by modern art from the 1920’s and 30’s and have been a longtime fan of Léger’s The City, which is part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s permanent collection. I had not been familiar with any other of Léger’s art and the exhibit and the book provide an overview of his career from 1919 until his death in 1955. The book includes numerous works that were not on exhibit.

Léger worked not only in painting but also in stage design, film, architecture, advertising and print design. The exhibit included one of Léger’s films as well as films by Marcel Duchamp, René Clair, Marcel L’Herbier and Man Ray. The book includes some stills but seeing the films in the context of his other art was enlightening.

The essays in the book cover Léger’s main periods. Vallye provides an opening essay that gives a more holistic view of Léger, while other essays focus on more specific aspects of his life and work.

Fernand Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis is a fascinating book who is interested in Léger or modern art in general. It may also be of interest to anyone who likes early 20th Century experimental film and theater, architecture and graphic design, among other things.

  • The Illearth War
  • The Wisdom of the Heart
  • Léger: Modern Art and the Modern City (library book)