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Roger de La Fresnaye


(Le Mans, 1885 - Grasse, 1925)

Born in 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 at the Julian Academy, where he became friends with Dunoyer de Segonzac, then at 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, where we can already see much cubism in his 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, as well as his participation in the decoration of the Maison cubiste at the Salon d'Automne in 1912, lead him to establish a personal conception of Cubism. Geometry is, for La Fresnaye, a factor of analysis of the essence of the subject, as we can see in his Cuirassier ( Musée national d'art moderne, Paris), a cubist variation on the theme of the injured Cuirassier Géricault.

If the landscape inspired him (views of Meudon), it is especially still lifes that allowed him to pursue his research in the sense of abstraction (La Cafetière, Museum of Art, Toledo). Before 1914, it was also a period of the great compositions such as La Vie conjugale (Minneapolis Institute of Art) whose broken perspective creates a strange intimacy of La 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, La Fresnaye's health severely deteriorated, which drastically changed his pictorial orientation. Up until his death in Grasse, La Fresnaye was mainly devoted to drawing (Les Malades) and reduced the size of his paintings, moving further and further away from cubism, to a kind of surrealism (Les Palefreniers, Kunstmuseum, Bern). The dough is less transparent, and more sensual. The classicism of La Fresnaye has definitely taken precedence over its temperate cubism.

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