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 Frans Masereel  (1889 - 1972)

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Lived/Active: United States/Belgium/France      Known for: Expressionist street-scene paintings, woodcuts, etchings

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Les Ouvrières (Die Arbeiterinnen). 1920.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Frans Masereel was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who worked mainly in France. He is known especially for his woodcuts. His greatest work is generally said to be the wordless graphic novel Mon Livre d'Heures (Passionate Journey). He completed over 20 other wordless novels in his career. Masereel's woodcuts strongly influenced the work of Lynd Ward and later graphic artists such as Clifford Harper and Eric Drooker.

There is now a Frans Masereel Centre (Frans Masereel Centrum for Graphix) in the small village of Kasterlee in Belgium.

Frans Masereel was born in the Belgian town of Blankenberge on 31 July 1889. He moved to Ghent in 1896, where he began to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in the class of Jean Delvin at the age of 18.  In 1909 he went on trips to England and Germany, which inspired him to create his first etchings and woodcuts. From 1911 on Masereel settled in Paris for four years and then he emigrated to Switzerland, where he worked as a graphic artist for various journals and magazines. His woodcut series, mainly of socio-critical content and of expressionistic form concept, made Masereel internationally known.

Among these were the so-called image novels Die Passion eines Menschen, Mein Stundenbuch, Die Sonne, Die Idee and Geschichte ohne Worte, all of which dated from c. 1920. At that time Masereel also drew illustrations for famous works of world literature by Thomas Mann, Émile Zola and Stefan Zweig.

In 1921 Masereel returned to Paris, where he painted his famous street scenes, the Montmartre-paintings. He lived for a time in Berlin, where his closest creative friend was George Grosz. After 1925 he lived near Boulogne-sur-Mer, where he painted predominantly coast areas, harbour views, and portraits of sailors and fishermen. During the 1930s the number of illustrated books and single woodcuts decreased. In 1940 he fled from Paris and lived in several cities in Southern France.

At the end of World War II Masereel was able to resume his artistic work and produced woodcuts and paintings. After 1946 he worked for several years as a teacher at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar in Saarbrücken. In 1949 Masereel settled in Nice.  In the following years until 1968, several series of woodcuts were published, which differ from his earlier "novels in picture'" in comprising variations of a subject instead of being a continuing narrative. He also designed decorations and costumes for numerous theatre productions. The artist was honoured in numerous exhibitions and became a member of several academies.

Frans Masereel died in Avignon in 1972 and was entombed in Ghent. The cultural organization Masereelfonds was named after him.

The American graphic artist Lynd Ward was greatly influenced by Masereel in creating his novels in woodcuts.  A number of cartoonists have cited Masereel as an influence on the development of the graphic novel: Art Spiegelman cited Mon Livre d'Heures as an early influence on his Maus. Will Eisner cited Masereel as an influence on his work, as has scratchboard novelist Eric Drooker.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frans_Masereel


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