French painter, printmaker, sculptor, stage designer, and writer; born 1896 at Balagny, in the Oise. Formed his artistic education by himself. After having studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, Masson, following the advice of the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren, came to Paris in 1912. His meeting with Kahnweiler in 1922 enabled him to devote himself entirely to painting. His work underwent the influence of Cubism and of Juan Gris. During the winter of 1923 he painted his first deliberately symbolic picture, The Four Elements, which attracted the attention of Surrealist leader André Breton when it was exhibited at the Galerie Simon in the spring of 1924. Masson met Antonin Artaud, Miró and Max Ernst, and until 1928 took part in the exhibitions of the Surrealist group. Particularly sensitive to the fundamental drama of existence and to the interdependence of all particles of the universe, he always placed men or animals in a kind of architectural framework, while probing their very insides to discover what makes them move, act, love and suffer. His Fights of Fishes symbolizes the hand-to-hand combat of human beings. The austere and undisguised cruelty of the fishes suggests the motives of love, of an eroticism without obscenity. For him the earth exists only in fusion, its substance in a state of decay upon which future germination feeds. Even when he give himself over to automatic writing (vide Surrealism), his hand kept the habit of giving matter a shape and forcing it into significant form. Thus, against the dull colours he used, browns or greens, against a ground of sand or ashes, the line stands out, deep, shaded with thin and thick strokes. In this way he has forged a whole symbolism, not accidental or childish but nourished upon the ancient and curious myths with which he characterizes his philosophical interpretation of man's destiny. Since settling in Provence in 1947 he seem to have discovered a new secret of the elements, through his contact with the Southern light on objects, beings and landscapes. His art has lost what may sometimes have been abrupt and grating, to be enriched by a more flexible vocabulary and more complete expression. One could not be further removed from the Cubist concept of the object in itself, or from the revelation by means of accidentals that was fostered by Surrealism. At the final point in its evolution the work of Masson culminates in a rediscovery of heretofore unsuspected magic in the visible world, whose changes are infinite on the groundwork of eternal fixity.

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