André MASSON (Balagny-sur-Oise 1896 – Paris 1987)

André Masson, versatile artist, dedicated his creativity to the exploration of the irrational world. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He fought during World War I and was seriously injured. A large part of Masson’s artistic production during the 1920s appears to be influenced by the trauma of war. Masson settled in Paris in 1920. Two years later he met Kahnweiler, who served as his principal dealer until 1931. His first one-man show was held at Kahnweiler’s Galerie Simon in Paris in 1924. That same year Masson met André Breton and joined the Surrealist group, with which he was initially affiliated until 1928. During his first Surrealist period, Masson made “automatic” drawings and paintings and experimented with sand paintings. At this time be began to explore violent and erotic themes and was influenced by Analytical Cubism. He illustrated books and his works were reproduced regularly in the magazine La Révolution Surréaliste. In 1925 he participated in the first Surrealist exhibition, at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. Two years later he met Giacometti and executed his first sculpture.
After breaking with the Surrealists, Masson worked in various idioms: progressing from violent and erotic themes interpreted with increasingly abstract forms to more figurative landscapes to massacre subjects and finally, when he lived in Spain from 1934 to 1936, Spanish subjects. In 1933 the artist designed sets and costumes for the Ballets Russes. Thereafter he frequently designed for the theater, the opera and the ballet. Masson returned to Paris in 1936, and the following year reconciled with the Surrealists. In 1941 he fled German occupied France, where his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate, for America, where he settled in New Preston, Connecticut, and where his works deeply influenced Abstract Expressionists, including Jackson Pollock. His first major museum exhibition took place at The Baltimore Museum of Art in 1941. During his sojourn in America, Masson showed frequently with artists in exile, for example at the opening exhibition of Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century in New York, and delivered lectures on modern art. In 1943 he made his final break with Breton and with official Surrealism. The artist returned to France in 1945. In the succeeding years he painted landscapes as well as abstract works and continued to explore the violent and erotic imagery of his early years. Plaisir de peindre, a volume of Masson ‘s collected writings, was published in 1950. In 1965, at the request of André Malraux and Jean-Louis Barrault, he decorated the ceiling of the Théàtre de l’Odéon in Paris. In 1972 he exhibited at the Biennale of Venice. Major solo exhibitions and retrospectives include The Museum of Modem Art in New York (1976) and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1981).


Paris, Centre Pompidou
Marseille, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Marseille, Musée Cantini
Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Belfort, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
Céret, Musée d’Art Moderne
London, Tate Gallery
London, Courtauld Institute of Art
New York, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
New York, Guggenheim Museum
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Chicago, Art Institute
Madrid, Reina Sofia
Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna