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 Andre Masson  (1896 - 1987)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut / France/Spain      Known for: surrealism, abstract expressionist painting

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from Auction House Records.
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Andre Masson was born in Balagne, France on January 4,1896. He was an engraver, sculptor, stage designer and writer; he was one of the leading figures of Surrealism. He was admitted to the Academie Royale des Beaux-arts et l'Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Brussels, Belgium at the age of eleven.

Masson was severely wounded in the First World War and was deeply scarred emotionally. His pessimism was accompanied by a profound and troubled curiosity about the nature and destiny of man and an obscure belief in the mysterious unity of the universe, to which he devoted the whole of his artistic activity to penetrating and expressing. In the early 1920s he was influenced by Cubism, but in 1924 he joined the Surrealist movement and remained a member until 1929.

From 1934 to 1936 he lived in Spain and in the years between 1941 to 1945 he took refuge from World War II in the United States. He settled in Connecticut, dazzled by the colors of the New England autumn. There his work formed a link between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. In 1945 he returned to France and two years later settled in Aix-en-Provence, where he concentrated on landscape paintings. He died on October 28, 1987.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 1988, edited by Jan Chilvers, Harold Osborne and Dennis Farr, consulting editor
ARTnews, December 1986
From the internet,

Biography from
The work of Andre Masson has an important place in the development of Surrealism. He began his studies before 1914, at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He served in the Great War in the fighting lines, and was severely wounded. The war experience of Masson affected him very deeply. The abnormal realities of trench warfare, with its domination by extreme violence, its immediate contiguity of life and death, presented questions of the motivation of human behaviour.

His work has been an essay in confronting life at that-level of experience. Masson went to Paris in 1922, and associated with Miro and with the poets. Armand Salacrou, Michel Leiris and Georges Limbour.  His interest in the deeper reality of man's behaviour drew him to Surrealism.

In 1924 he met Andre Breton, joined the Surrealist group, and exhibited with them for some years. He became very involved with non-rational purpose in art, in developing drawing and painting as nearly as possible as direct thought transference. With Miro he produced 'automatic' drawings. These allowed the free movement of the pen line, without pre-thought or condition of any kind. To obtain the same effect in painting, Masson used drawn continuous lines of glue on the canvas, adding the color by coating with different colored sands.

Very early in his career Masson relinquished any desire to construct paintings on Cubist or any other lines. For him painting has not been a contrived art, a matter of developing a style. It.had to be a part of life itself, a 'way of knowing' simultaneous with a way of action; admitting the violent, the erotic, the chaotic, spurning any rationally formulated order.

In 1940 he exiled himself to America.  Masson's Surrealist ideas found the new soil productive, and. his influence on American painting was strong. In particular Arshile Gorky drew on it, as did Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Pollock's Action Painting has much in common with Masson's early sand paintings, and with his automatism of method. He returned to Paris in 1945.

He designed the scenery for a production of Hamlet in 1946, and for Berg's opera Wozzeck in 1963.  He had before the war been concerned in a similar way with various productions. Masson's life work represents a series of periods of exploration, for his personal purpose, of various techniques, varying from full, rich polychrome to monochrome and purely linear work. On occasions involving closely defined bio-morphic images, his work is characterized by extreme speed of execution and complex personal imagery.

M. Leiris and G. Limbour. Andre Masson et son univers, Geneva and Paris 1947.
Otto Hahn. Andri Masson, London and New York 1965.

Biography from
André Masson born on January 4th, 1896 in Balagny, France. He was severely wounded in WWI, and joined the Surrealist movement in 1924, becoming the leading practitioner of automatism. He lived in Spain (1934-36) and later the U.S. (1941-45), where he became an important link between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. He died in 1987.

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