Born Joseph Fernand Henri Léger in the Argentan, Orne, Basse-Normandie Region of France, at age 19 Léger moved to the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris and supported himself as an architectural draftsman. His earliest known drawings were primarily influenced by Impressionism.
In 1911 he joined with several other artists to form the Puteaux Group, an offshoot of the Cubist movement. From then until 1914, Léger’s work became increasingly abstract, and he started to limit his color to the primaries and black and white.
Léger served in the military during World War I where he almost died after being the victim of a Mustard gas attack by the Germans. Following the war his "mechanical" period evolved, in which figures and objects are characterized by tubular, machinelike forms, began in 1917.
In 1935, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented an exhibition of his work. Léger lived in the United States during World War II and returned to France in 1945. Before his passing, his varied projects included book illustrations, monumental figure paintings and murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs.
Fernand Léger died at his home and is buried in the Cimetière de Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne, France.
Recently, sales of some of his art has fetched prices close to US$2 million, a sculpture selling for US$8 million.