André Masson (1898-1987)

Biography

André Masson was born in Balagny-sur-Thérain, Oise in 1898. He consequently moved to Brussels, where he attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. In 1912 he moved to Paris and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, until 1914 when he served the French Army in the First World War, during which was seriously injured. After the war he moved to the South of France, returning to Paris a few years later, where he met Derain, Gris, Breton and Miró.

André Masson's extensive oeuvre incorporates a variety of innovative approaches and techniques, throughout his early investigations of Cubism, to his high period of Surrealism, participating in the first Surrealist exhibition, held at Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. Masson also took great interest in psychoanalytic theory, in line with his engagement with Surrealism, inspiring his investigation of automatic art-making processes and motifs exploring of the realm of the subconscious.

His work is direct, impassioned and psychologically charged, with subjects - or figurative suggestions - at times alternating between the mysterious, explosive, erotic, violent, brutal, sensual, metaphysical, mythological, and classical, but always with a sense of immediacy and urgency evident in his gesture.

Having moved to New York after the outbreak of the Second World War, Masson had a profound impact on the Abstract Expressionists who would emerge in New York in the 1940s, particularly the movement's best-known proponent Jackson Pollock who immersed himself within the ideas of Jungian psychoanalysis. Pollock's 'drip' paintings can largely be seen to have evolved out of automatic painting ideas, Surrealist in nature and furthermore inspired by Native American sand painting.

He later returned to France and settled in Aix-en-Provance, where he returned to nature and mainly worked on landscapes with an Impressionist style of painting, combined with other completely abstract paintings.

He died in France in 1987.