Biography of André Masson (1896-1987)

French painter associated with surrealism and abstract expressionism, born on January 4, 1896 in Balagny. Between 1903 and 1911, he/she lives with his family in Brussels where he/she studied at the Royal Academy of fine arts; the work of Ensor impresses him much. In 1912 in the school of fine arts and studied fresco painting. In 1914 he/she read the work of Nietzsche, which will exert a powerful influence on him throughout his life. In 1920 he/she settled in Paris and begins to interact with some artists and writers, he/she meets Max Jacob. The influence of Rodin and Sade, is evident in his work of the early twenties in his erotic drawings and the watercolors. He/She also painted landscapes, especially forests, still-lifes and figures grouped around a table; his style is Cubist then. In 1922 the Kahnweiler dealer offers you a contract and Hemingway and Gertrud Stein buy him some fabrics; his studio in the rue Blomet becomes the meeting place of artists and writers (Leiris and Artaud,) among others. In 1924 he/she makes his first solo exhibition, organized by Kahnweiler at the Simon Gallery; Breton admired the exhibition; Masson turns fully into the techniques of surrealist automatism. In 1927 he/she meets Giacometti and, under his supervision, performs his first sculpture titled metamorphosis. Towards 1928 begins to distance himself from the surrealist group of Breton does not feel comfortable with the political orientation that the movement is following. In 1929 it breaks with Breton and it criticized his work in the second surrealist manifesto; it becomes part of a group around the magazine documents of Bataille and paints, in Paris, two large murals for Pierre David-Weil. In 1931 he/she painted the series of massacres and the following year met Matisse, with whom he/she spends some time in Nice.

In 1936, some of the works produced during his stay in Spain (Aube to Montserrat and Paysage aux prodiges) are reproduced in the magazine Minotaure with a text of Bataille; that same year he/she renews his friendship with Breton and the surrealist group, participating with fourteen works in the international exhibition of Surrealism in London. In 1937 he/she started second surrealist period of Masson, characterized by the representation of monstrous figures influenced by Picasso and Dalí. In 1941 he/she moved to the United States and exhibition at the Baltimore Museum. His American work is influenced by the Indian mythology and the natural world; he/she exhibited regularly and represents one of the biggest influences for the development of abstract expressionism. In 1945 he/she returned to France and in 1947 the landscape becomes the main theme of his paintings; in 1954 he/she participated in the Venice Biennale, and received the Grand Prize for painting. Her first retrospective takes place at the Leicester Galleries in London in 1955, followed by that of the Art Academy of Berlin and the Stedelijk Museum in 1964 and of the Museum of modern art in New York in 1976. He/She died in Paris in 1987.

Landscape Iroquois (oil on canvas, 1942). Private collection (Paris, France).


DAWN ADES - André Masson, New York, Rizzoli, 1994