Modern and Contemporary Art
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Fernand Léger, French, 1881–1955

Masque nègre


Oil on canvas

29 × 36 1/2 in. (73.7 × 92.7 cm)
framed: 41 1/2 × 48 3/4 × 2 5/8 in. (105.4 × 123.8 × 6.7 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
During World War II, Fernand Léger fled Nazi-occupied Paris for the United States, and he spent the war years traveling and teaching across the country, notably at Mills College, in California. He participated in the 1942 Artists in Exile exhibition at Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, together with other exiled artists. In this painting, Léger captures the energy and dynamism of modern life that he experienced in New York, where he was fascinated by the skyscrapers and bright neon signs on Broadway. He translates this vibrancy into whirling forms and large bands of primary colors that swirl on the surface, free from the restrictions of geometric shapes and lines that characterize Léger’s earlier Cubist-influenced works.
On view
20th century

Pasternacki Collection, Bloomfield Hills


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2006–June 30, 2007,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 239.

Georges Bauquier and Nelly Maillard, Fernand Leger, Catalogue Raisonne: 1938–43, 6 (Paris: Aimé Maeght, 1998), 187, no. 1096, ill.

Cathleen Chaffee, Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 40–41, 173, no. 8.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.