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André Masson (1896-1987)

The French artist André Masson is known for his automatic drawings. These derived from the idea of automatic writing where the creativity comes without conscious control. The Surrealists developed the automatic drawing as a means of expressing the subconscious, with Masson as the front figure. Masson sometimes worked under strict conditions, for instance after long periods of time without food or sleep, or under the influence of drugs. When getting himself into a reduced state of consciousness it would help him to be free from rational control and consequently get closer to his subconscious mind. Masson’s early works are influenced by Cubism, and from the 1920’s he was associated with the Surrealist movement. The Surrealists worked in a common search for a poetic art whereas Masson as well as Joan Miró represent a more abstract branch than the more dreamlike surrealism of for instance Salvador Dali. Masson later found the automatic drawing, despite its spontaneous approach, to be restricting. After the automatic drawings and experimental sand paintings anchored in his Surrealist period, he reached a more structured style with motives often violent or erotic. ”Around 1960 Masson displayed an increasing tendency toward figural allusiveness and with that a greater willingness to detach form from ground, although neither of these propensities affects his art in full force until after 1965.” (William Rubin & Carolyn Lanchner, André Masson, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, p. 192).

RVI284640 Andre Masson (b/w photo) by French Photographer, (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: Andre Masson (1896-1987);); Roger-Viollet, Paris; FRENCH, ITALIAN & JAPANESE RIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE; French, out of copyright

Andre Masson (b/w photo), French Photographer, (20th century)
/Private Collection /Roger-Violet, Paris/Bridgeman Images

The artist figured the self in a number of paintings. He depicted it as fragmented, dissolved, merged with other selves and with the natural environment, also reconstituted and consolidated. Masson was involved with modern conceptions of the self, which he absorbed from Nietzsche and the Surrealist writers, as well as from other sources in philosophy, psychology, psychoanalysis and ethnography.

The three paintings L’escalier de l’être, La chute du cavalier and Les adieux du guerrier are from a late period in the artist’s life. He had reached a structured style and in his use of colour, form and lines he creates a style, which is both abstract and figurative at once. L’escalier de l’être from 1969 shows the staircase of the self. The self was a topic that Masson often returned to and tried to examine in his works. The painting is capturing a striving motion with bodies reaching upwards, in an aspiration to preserve their existence. The verticality is enforced by the pyramid in the background, the bodies in the stair-like composition, crowned by the bird, leaving it, just as an altarpiece, with the impression of the holy, radiant heaven above. The painting with its many details is structured with red lines and contours, which are accentuated by blue shades. With a more intense colour scheme La chute du cavalier from 1976 is a dramatic capture of the falling rider. In a whirl of colours, with a deep blue sky and strong yellow-orange and red mixed almost like flames towards the sky, the fall towards the ground of arms, legs and the horse´s head shows a vivid and moving scene.Les adieux du guerrier (1976) from the same year is an example of Masson’s more quiet and sensual expression. The embrace of two lovers, almost joined together by the growing plants and flowers, and the intimacy of the couple enforced by the deep red hearts pounding in the two bodies. Around the vertically stretched couple it can be both day and night, with dark and light blue shades indicating that the good-bye is never ending.

“Indeed, for all that Masson’s work of the last several years defies a single general characterization, there blows through it an especially strong Nietzschean wind – particularly evocative of the vivid rethoric of Zaratustra” (William Rubin & Carolyn Lanchner, André Masson, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, p. 201).

Mr. Magnus Bexhed
+46 705 – 22 12 04

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