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André Masson

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André Masson
André-Aimé-René Masson

(1896-01-04)4 January 1896
Balagny-sur-Thérain, Oise, France
Died28 October 1987(1987-10-28) (aged 91)
Paris, France
Known forPainting
André Masson.Pedestal Table in the Studio (1922)
André Masson. Automatic Drawing (1924). Ink on paper, 914 × 818" (23.5 × 20.6 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York.

André-Aimé-René Masson (4 January 1896 – 28 October 1987) was a French artist.


Masson was born in Balagny-sur-Thérain, Oise, but when he was eight his father's work took the family first briefly to Lille and then to Brussels.[1] He began his study of art at the age of eleven at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, under the guidance of Constant Montald, and later he studied in Paris. He fought for France during World War I and was seriously injured.[2] Masson shared a Paris studio with Joan Miró.[3]

Artistic works[edit]

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 experimented with altered states of consciousness with artists such as Antonin Artaud, Michel Leiris, Joan Miró, Georges Bataille, Jean Dubuffet and Georges Malkine, who were neighbors of his studio in Paris.[4]

From around 1926 he experimented by throwing sand and glue onto canvas and making oil paintings based around the shapes that formed. By the end of the 1920s, however, he was finding automatic drawing rather restricting, and he left the surrealist movement and turned instead to a more structured style, often producing works with a violent or erotic theme. He was living in Tossa de Mar, a small fishing village on the Costa Brava, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which is reflected in a number of his paintings (he associated once more with the surrealists at the end of the 1930s).[5]

Under the German occupation of France during World War II, his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate. With the assistance of Varian Fry in Marseille, Masson 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 customs officials inspecting Masson's luggage found a cache of his erotic drawings. Living in New Preston, Connecticut, his work became an important influence on American abstract expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock. Following the war, he returned to France and settled in Aix-en-Provence where he painted a number of landscapes.

Masson drew the cover of the first issue of Georges Bataille's review, Acéphale, in 1936, and participated in all its issues until 1939. His brother-in-law, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, was the last private owner of Gustave Courbet's provocative painting L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World); Lacan asked Masson to paint a surrealist variant.


His son, Diego Masson[6] (born 1935), is a conductor, composer, and percussionist, while another son, Luis Masson, is an actor.[7] His daughter, Lily Masson (1920–2019), was a painter.


  • André Breton. Le Surréalisme et la Peinture. Paris: Gallimard/NRF, 1928 (French).
    • 2nd, expanded edition: New York/Buenos Aires: Brentano's, 1945 (French).
    • New, revised and vastly expanded edition: Paris: Gallimard, 1965, reprinted 1979 (French).
    • English edition: Surrealism and Painting. London: MacDonald, 1972. ISBN 0-356-02423-7. Translated by Simon Watson-Taylor.
  • Robert Desnos and Armand Salacrou (eds.). André Masson. Self-published, 1940. Anthology in limited edition, each copy initialed by André Masson. Texts by Jean-Louis Barrault, Georges Bataille, André Breton, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard, Armel Guerne, Pierre Jean Jouve, Madeleine Landsberg, Michel Leiris, Georges Limbour, Benjamin Péret (French). Reprinted 1993 by Éditions André Dimanche, in Marseille.
  • André Breton and André Masson: Martinique. Charmeuse de serpents. Paris: Sagittaire, 1947. Reprinted by Jean-Jacques Pauvert, Paris, in 1972.
    • English edition: Martinique: Snake Charmer. "Surrealist Revolution Series". Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008. ISBN 0-292-71765-2. Translated by David W. Seaman.
  • Georges Limbour and Michel Leiris. André Masson et son univers. Geneva: Les Trois Collines, 1947 (French). Includes poem "André Masson" by Leiris, and Masson's portrait of Breton and a self-portrait.
    • English edition: André Masson and His Universe. London: Horizon, 1947. OCLC 561660506 a. o. Same edition with supplemented partly translations by Douglas Cooper.
  • Georges Limbour André Masson: dessins. Collection "Plastique". Paris: Éditions Braun, 1951 (French).
  • André Masson. Entretiens avec Georges Charbonnier, préface de Georges Limbour. Paris: René Julliard, 1958 (French). Reprinted 1995 by Éditions André Dimanche, Marseille.
  • André Masson. "Dissonances". In: X magazine, Vol. I, No. III (June 1960). Reprinted in: David Wright (ed.): An Anthology from X. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-19-212266-5.
  • Daniel Guérin. Eux et lui: suivi de commentaires, et orné de cinq dessins originaux par André Masson. Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 1962. OCLC 25887616 (French). Reprinted Lille: GKC (Question de genre), 2000.
  • Hubert Juin. André Masson. Paris: Le musée de poche, 1963 (French).
  • Gilbert Brownstone. André Masson. Milano: Galleria Schwarz, 1970 (English).
  • José Pierre. Surrealism. "History of Art". London: Heron Books, 1970. ISBN 0-900948-72-8.
  • José Pierre. Surrealist Painting, 1919–1939/1940–1970. "The Little Library of Art" 102 &103. London and New York: Methuen and Tudor, 1971.
  • Jean-Claude Clébert, Mythologie d'André Masson. Genève: Éditions Pierre Cailler, 1971 (French).
  • Françoise Levaillant (as Françoise Will-Levaillant). André Masson, période asiatique 1950–1959. Paris: Galerie de Seine, 1972 (French).
  • André Masson. La Mémoire du monde. Geneva: Skira, 1974 (conversations with Gaétan Picon). (French)
  • Gilbert Brownstone. André Masson: vagabond du surréalisme. Paris: Éditions Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1975. ISBN 2-243-00081-4 (French). Interviews.
  • René Passeron. André Masson et les puissances de signe. Paris: Denoël, 1975 (French).
  • Françoise Levaillant (ed.). André Masson. Le Rebelle du Surréalisme. Paris: Éditions Hermann, 1976. Reprinted 1994 (French).
  • Jean-Clarence Lambert. André Masson. Paris: Éditions Filipacchi, 1979 (French).
  • Carmine Benincasa. André Masson, 1941–1945: Water, Air, Earth, Fire. New York: Marisa del Re Gallery, 1981 (French).
  • Françoise Levaillant. L'oeuvre d'André Masson: essais sur l'art et les savoirs dans la première moitié du XXe siècle. Paris: Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, 1986 (French). Ph.D. (doctoral thesis supervisor René Jullian).
  • Françoise Levaillant (ed.). André Masson: les années surréalistes. Correspondance 1916–1942. Lyon: La Manufacture, 1990 (French).
  • Florence de Mèredieu. André Masson: les dessins automatiques. Paris: Blusson, 1988. OCLC 603947158 (French).
  • Bernard Noël. André Masson, la chair du regard. Collection L'art et l'écrivain. Paris: Gallimard, 1993. ISBN 2-07-011258-6 (French).
  • Dawn Adès. André Masson. London: Academy Editions, 2004. ISBN 1-85490-314-4.
  • Kai Buchholz and Klaus Wolbert (eds.). André Masson. Bilder aus dem Labyrinth der Seele. Exhibition catalogue, Darmstadt/Frankfurt a. M.: Institut Mathildenhöhe, 2003. ISBN 3-925782-43-5 (German).
  • Armel Guerne. André Masson ou les autres valeurs. Roy (Belgique): Les Amis d'Armel Guerne, 2007. OCLC 798378983 (French).
  • Clark V. Poling. André Masson and the Surrealist Self. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-300-13562-9.
  • André Masson. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, 1919–1941. Vaumarcus: Éditions ArtAcatos, 2010. Catalogue by Guite Masson, Martin Masson, and Catherine Loewer, preface by Bernard Noël, text by Dawn Adès, biography by Camille Morando. ISBN 2-940452-00-8 (French).
  • Hélène Parant, Fabrice Flahutez, and Camille Morando. La bibliothèque d'André Masson. Une archéologie. Paris: Artvenir, 2011. ISBN 2-9539406-0-X (French).


  1. ^ "Masson, André", Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Oxford Art Online (accessed 7 June 2016).
  2. ^ McCloskey, Barbara. Artists of World War II. London: Greenwood Press, 2005, ISBN 0313321531, page 34.
  3. ^ Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. New York: Scribner, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4165-9131-3, page 8.
  4. ^ Oisteanu, Valery (May 2012). "The Mythology of Desire: Masterworks from 1925 to 1945". The Brooklyn Rail.
  5. ^ The Making of an Englishman, Fred Uhlman, Victor Gollanz, 1960, p.188.
  6. ^ Éditions Larousse. "Encyclopédie Larousse en ligne – Diego Masson". larousse.fr.
  7. ^ Luis Masson at IMDb

External links[edit]