Soldiers Playing Cards Fernand Leger Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Soldiers Playing Cards is a 1917 painting by Fernand Leger. It is a good example of his unique approach which combined Cubism with inspiration from mechanical engineering.

The painting medium is oil on canvas, and the style is Tubism. The painting measures 20 3/4 x 14 7/8 in. (52.7 x 37.8 cm) and it is currently located in Kroller-Muller State Museum in Otterlo. The painting depicts soldiers in their military gear playing cards on a wooden table. Fernand used both bright and cool color in this painting to make a strong theme and make it more attractive. The artist used different colors on objects to make everything visible in the painting. Fernand was inspired to come up with this painting by the events that were taking place during that time. He did the painting while he was still hospitalized in Paris after being injured during the war of Verdun. Fernard reflects the deep passion and affinity he felt towards his army comrades. This completely changed his attitude towards life and art. The painting reflects the artist fascination with the war mechanization and how it changed things.

The painting depicts three soldiers seated around table playing cards although it is hard at first to identify them. The most visible soldier in the painting has a medal on his chest and a red traditional French army hat. The artist used him in the painting to depict two viewpoints in a true cubist style. The overall form of the characters in the painting was presented by the artist as constituent parts in a geometrical machine. The second character in the painting playing cards seems to be the sergeant by looking at the stripes on his uniform. The third player is presented in dark tones in the painting, but all of them are smoking a pipe. Fernand wanted the viewers to see the life that the soldiers were going through in the war. Despite their dangerous encounters in the war, they still had to find time to play and enjoy each other company.

However, the soldiers are still in their uniform which shows how they were committed to their work. The artist used the combat military uniform worn by the soldiers to show the viewer the seriousness of the war. The theme of war has been used by many artists over the centuries, and in many different ways. There was the heroic scenes used within the Baroque era, where victorious generals would be thrust into the limelight, given almost a god-like reception with those paintings. There was then more of a sombre reflection on the lives lost across the 20th century, perhaps reflecting the dreadful impact of the two world wars and also the greater knowledge of the public around all sides of the war, rather than just the well publicised spoils from success. The public's hunger for war was greatily diminished during this century and the reasons for war started to become questioned by the everyday person much more than previously was the case.