Masque nègre Artist: Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955)


Modern and Contemporary Art

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

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.


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)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



20th century


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 records is ongoing.



Pasternacki Collection, Bloomfield Hills

  • 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.
  • "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.

Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

abstract (general art genre)


Signed and dated '42 lower right: F. Leger

Technical metadata and APIs


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