(Le Mans, 1885 - Grasse, 1925)
Born at Le Mans, Roger Noël François de La Fresnaye, a descendant of an old Norman family, who died at the age of forty, played a significant role in the history of French cubism. A pupil of the Julian Academy, where he became friends with Dunoyer de Segonzac, then of the Ranson Academy, he became a student of Nabi Maurice Denis, whose influence is evident in his early works (La Femme aux chrysanthèmes, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris). In 1911, he made a trip to northern Italy, and his graphic design is already cubist in the sketches he reports. At that time, La Fresnaye also tried to sculpt with Maillol.
His exhibitions alongside the Cubists of the groupe de la Section d'or, led by Jacques Villon, his participation in the decoration of the Maison cubiste at the Salon d'Automne in 1912, lead him to a personal conception of Cubism. Geometry is for him a factor of analysis of the essence of the subject, as in his Cuirassier ( Musée national d'art moderne, Paris), cubist variation on the theme of the injured Cuirassier Géricault. If the landscape inspires him (views of Meudon), it is especially still lifes that allow him to pursue his research in the sense of abstraction (La Cafetière, Museum of Art, Toledo). Before 1914, it was also the period of the great compositions like La Vie conjugale (Minneapolis Institute of Art) whose broken perspective creates a strange intimacy or theLa Conquête de l'air (Museum of Modern Art, New York) where the artist and his brother, represented in conversation in the foreground, seem drowned in the luminous space, treated in a tonic color similar to that of Robert Delaunay. During the First World War, his health deteriorated severely, and this will change his pictorial orientation: until his death in Grasse, La Fresnaye is mainly devoted to drawing (Les Malades) and reduced size paintings that move away more and more of cubism to approach a kind of surrealism (Les Palefreniers, Kunstmuseum, Bern). The dough is less transparent, more sensual. The classicism of La Fresnaye has definitely taken precedence over its temperate cubism.