Jean Charlot

Trenzando el pelo, 1930

Oleo / tela
122.5 x 61.5 cm

In many works, Jean Charlot was inspired by the canonical image of the nude female bather accompanied at her toilette, seen in works by artists from Ingres to Degas and Picasso. In The Coiffure, the original title given to this painting by the artist, Charlot Mexicanizes a universal subject, drawing on the post-revolutionary articulation of costumbrismo in which "everyday life" was coded as rural or indigenous. Although a somewhat sentimental image painted after Charlot left Mexico for the United States, The Coiffure is a testament to his longstanding respect for Mexico’s indigenous people. Completed in late 1930, the painting was first exhibited at the John Levy Gallery in New York, in a show titled "Jean Charlot: Paintings, 1927-1931" that took place in April 1931. It was included in the section dedicated to "Yucatan," suggesting it was informed by his work as an illustrator for the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s excavations at Chichén Itzá. Like many of his Mexican peers, Charlot imbued this image with the romantic notion that Mexico’s indigenous people lived a "timeless," pre-modern existence. The vertically oriented composition demonstrates, however, his continued attention to compositional balance. The standing figure, clothed in pale yellow and pink, offsets the round massing of the foreground nude. The shape of the standing figure’s raised arms, her white lace collar and coral necklace, is repeated in nude’s long brown snaking braid, lending rhythm to composition. The nude in the foreground may have inspired by pre-Columbian ceramic vessels from Nayarit and Colima. Referring to his 1934 print Coiffure: Idols, which features a figure similar to the nude shown here, Charlot identified "Tarascan terracotta" as "one of the things that really formed me." Finally, the nude in the foreground is reminiscent of Luz Jiménez who, judging from the numerous portraits he made of her, many done after he left Mexico, represented paradigmatic indigenous beauty to the artist.

Vide. Adriana Zavala, Arte moderno de México. Colección Andrés Blaisten, Mexico, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005.

More of this artist

Francisco Díaz de León Fund