Léger was born in the Argentan, Orne, Basse-Normandie, where his father raised cattle. Fernand Léger initially trained as an architect from 1897-1899 before moving in 1900 to Paris, where he supported himself as an architectural draftsman. After military service in Versailles in 1902-1903, he enrolled at the School of Decorative Arts; he also applied to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but was rejected. He nevertheless attended the Beaux-Arts as a non-enrolled student, spending what he described as “three empty and useless years” studying with Gérôme and others, while also studying at the Académie Julian. He began to work seriously as a painter only at the age of 25. At this point his work showed the influence of Impressionism, as seen in Le Jardin de ma mère (My Mother’s Garden) of 1905, one of the few paintings from this period that he did not later destroy. A new emphasis on drawing and geometry appeared in Léger’s work after he saw the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907
Posters as an art form were invented by Jules Chéret in Paris in the 1860’s. Their proliferation and refinement were the result of advances in printing technology, a relaxation of laws regulating the press, and a booming demand for the advertisement of ‘modern’ products and of the Parisian lifestyle in the Belle Epoque (1871 – 1914). In journals, books, theater programs, and posters, the graphic arts soon transcended their commercial function and became art objects sought out by art collectors worldwide.