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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Masson, Andre


Path with a Blue Cart
1950
oil on canvas
other details unknown

Andre Masson (1896-1987) was one of the major early French Surrealist painters. His early works display an interest in cubism. He later became associated with surrealism, and he was one of the most enthusiastic employers of automatic drawing, making a number of automatic works in pen and ink. Masson would often force himself to work under strict conditions, for example, after long periods of time without food or sleep, or under the influence of drugs. He believed forcing himself into a reduced state of consciousness would help his art be free from rational control, and hence get closer to the workings of his subconscious mind.

A close friend of Andre Breton, Joan Miro and Max Ernst, he joined the Surrealist movement in the early 20s, then disassociated with it in the early 30s, focusing instead on the human condition -  the fundamental impulses of love and hatred - and reacting to the Spanish Civil War.

Under the German occupation of France during World War II, his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate. In the early 40s, he escaped the Nazi regime on a ship to the French island of Martinique from where he went on to the United States. Upon arrival in New York City, U.S. customs officials inspecting Masson's luggage found a cache of his erotic drawings. Denouncing them as pornographic, they ripped them up before the artist's eyes. In America, he became interested in mythical imagery. Many of his paintings from this period show a focus on African American and Native American myths, and the style of his expression and brushwork influenced many young American painters.