André Masson French, 1896-1987


André Masson, born on January 4th, 1896, is a major figure of the surrealist movement and considered one of the fathers of automatism, as well as a strong influencer on the abstract expressionist movement which was born in New York during the 1940's.


Masson's career as a surrealist truly took shape in 1922, after he moved to the Atelier Blomet in Paris which became to the surrealists what the Bateau Lavoir was to the cubists. His close contact to Joan Miro took Masson's artistic production to an irrationallevel, one that he had not reached before. A couple years later, Masson became one of the most important artists to sign with Galerie Simon, the gallery of the famous dealer, Henri Kanhweiler. Masson's involvement with Kanhweiler and other artists of the gallery, notably Juan Gris, kept cubism essential to Masson's early surrealist works. With the likes of Joan Miro and Max Ernst, Masson always pushed the boundaries of experimentation by integrating various techniques, material and support into his production. In 1927, Masson he began experimenting with sculpture, using terracotta, clay and plaster.

Famous for his "automatic drawings" and his "sand paintings", he is marked - on an aesthetic level - by "the spirit of metamorphosis" and "the mythical invention" and - on an ethical level - by a visceral anti-conformism, including within the surrealist group from which he eventually moved away from.However, Masson remained a true surrealist: never throughout his artistic production did he abandon the surrealist aesthetics.

Having narrowly escaped death during the First World War, and being sensitive to the writings of Sade and his friend Georges Bataille, his work can be interpreted as an uncompromising questioning of human barbarity and perverse behavior. This preoccupation with all aesthetic considerations taking a primary role in his artistic language explains the role he plays in modern art by the fact that "he never cared to please."

His influence is mainly notable in New York during the Second World War, where he stayed after fleeing Nazi Germany. His paintings break with the classic pattern of figures standing out against a background in order to best symbolize the state of mental confusion that - according to him - governed his century.  And his work served as a reference to founders of abstract expressionism, primarily with the painters Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky.