Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool
Fernand Léger, The Acrobat and his Partner 1948. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2018

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool, Waterfront 23 November 2018 — 17 March 2019 Tickets from £10.50 — Book now

Though the French painter, sculptor and filmmaker Fernand Léger (1881-1955) is best known for his striking contribution to cubism, it is the political underpinning of his creative vision that Tate Liverpool will highlight in its major new retrospective of the renowned artist’s work – the first to be staged in the UK for over 30 years.

Bringing together a rare collection of drawings, a large-scale mural, films, graphic design, books, textiles and over 40 paintings – many of which have never been seen in Britain before – New Times, New Pleasures promises to capture the breadth and energy of Léger’s output. Through this impressive survey, the impact of many of the seismic historic, artistic and technological developments of the early 20th century will be traced; from the artist’s experiences serving in the French Army during World War One to his interest in the emerging field of cinema – crystallising in his 1924 experimental film Ballet Mécanique, made in collaboration with the surrealist artist Man Ray among others and which will feature in the exhibition.

Yet other influences, such as Léger’s modest upbringing (born in Lower Normandy to a cattle farming family) and later the socialist, utopian spirit that spread among Europe’s artistic avant-garde, look set to also come to the fore. From an early age, central to Léger’s work was a belief that art should be enjoyed by all, not just society’s privileged elite, and should play a role in elevating the quality of life for ‘working people’ – a view he gave many impassioned public speeches and lectures on. The subjects of his paintings were often drawn from the world of labour, depicting groups of construction workers, for example, bestowed with a sense of monumentality and dignity.

Léger also laid the ground for pop art – a movement considered democratic in its non-discriminatory embrace of popular culture – through his boldly simplified treatment of modern life and the impact of everyday street advertising like posters and neon signs on his graphic-style. A major highlight of the exhibition will be ‘Essential Happiness, New Pleasures’ (1937/2011) – a striking photo-mural with clear ‘pop’ elements created by Léger and the architect and designer Charlotte Perriand – which promoted unity and peace among nations against a backdrop of economic depression and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.

Léger’s career has always been somewhat overshadowed by his contemporaries, especially Pablo Picasso, yet there seems to be a stir of new interest in this significant artist as the Tate Liverpool retrospective coincides with another at BOZAR in Brussels. Bringing together important works from across Europe, this is a rare opportunity to experience a large cross-section of Léger’s remarkable oeuvre up-close, and should not be missed.

Fernand Léger: New Times, New Pleasures at Tate Liverpool, Waterfront 23 November 2018 — 17 March 2019

Book Now

What's on at Tate Liverpool

What's on: Exhibitions

Nothing About Us Without Us at PHM

‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ at PHM explores the history of disabled people’s activism and their ongoing fight for inclusion with a wonderful collection of exhibits brought together for the first time, 

free entry
ExhibitionsNorth East
Chris Killip, retrospective at Baltic

This spring, Baltic welcomes a major retrospective of the work of Chris Killip, one of Britain’s most influential and prolific post-war documentary photographers whose tender gaze captured the lives of communities in the North East of England.

free entry
(Un)Defining Queer at The Whitworth

Through a fantastic collection of classical and contemporary artists’ work, ‘(Un)Defining Queer’ examines the use of language, histories and narratives to explore what ‘queer’ really means today. free entry

Culture Guides


There's no rest for the art lover - this month brings outdoor sculpture, musings on water, political drawings and Liverpool Biennial 2023!


We look towards a summer filled with quality festivals, from cultural behemoths to grassroots gems.

Winnie the Pooh at Manchester Opera House

The sun has finally got his hat on! Enjoy our top picks of family-friendly events and activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Classical Music

Summer's classical music calendar is filling up nicely! Read our top picks of concerts happening in Manchester and the North.

Gerry Potter (credit Lee Baxter)

Books are big this summer, with festival readings, poetry slams, creative writing activities and famous faces all putting in an appearance.

Food and Drink

All signs point toward June being a scorcher of a month, so let’s take a look at all things summery food and drink.

Tours and Activities

From literary activities to brilliant independent shops, keep your minds and homes filled with the good stuff this month.

Theatre in Manchester

Check out our updated guide for lively theatre festivals, rip-roaring rooftop circus and dreamy outdoor shows.