Pencil on cream wove paper, circa 1924. 278x315 mm; 11x12 1/2 inches. Initialed in pencil, lower right recto. Ex-collection Nadia Léger, Paris; acquired from the above by Robert Prouté, Paris; private collection, London; private collection, New York.
The current drawing is a pencil study for the same-titled painting from 1924, now in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (inventory number AM 3718 P), see also lot 466.
Léger (1881-1955) made several pencil drawings in preparation for this iconic oil painting. One of these studies was with the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, Etude pour La Lecture, pencil on paper, 1923 (Cassou/Leymarie, Léger: Drawings and Gouaches, New York, 1973, number 97, and later donated to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Another study for the painting is now at the Lille Métropole Musée d'Art Moderne, d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut, Ascq. A study for La Lecture, pencil on paper, squared for transfer, circa 1923, was also offered at Sotheby's, London, in 2004.
According to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, "In Leger's La Lecture, the two impersonal, frontally presented and monumental-looking figures are examples of what Léger called 'object figures,' not so much human creatures as complexes of visual and formal elements. The artist has in fact structured the work around a series of contrasts and repetitions, with echoes and tensions between horizontal and vertical masses, rounded and angular forms, hot and cold colours, a clothed body and naked body. Caught in this contrapuntal rhythm, the women seem like the gears and cranks of a powerful machine, stilled in a curious timelessness."