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André Masson

(French, 1896–1987)

Vois l’Antre des Metamorphoses

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Object Details

Artist

André Masson

Date

1938

Medium

Ink on paper

Dimensions

Image: 19 11/16 × 25 3/16 inches (50 × 64 cm)
Frame: 27 3/4 × 35 3/16 × 1 1/2 inches (70.5 × 89.4 × 3.8 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Membership Purchase Fund

Object
Number

69.164

Born in the French countryside, Masson developed an early affinity with nature and its temporal chan(…)

Born in the French countryside, Masson developed an early affinity with nature and its temporal changes, which stayed with him throughout his life. When he was eight, his family moved to Brussels and he took his first art classes at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. In 1912 he began classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but joined up when the First World War began. Seriously wounded in 1917, he spent many months convalescing.After the war, Masson returned to Paris where he formed friendships with Max Ernst and Joan Miró and later with André Breton, which led him to an interest in automatism. Though he withdrew from the surrealist group in the late 1920s, his art would continue to reflect their interests and style. For many of the Surrealists, the concept of metamorphosis in humans, plants, and animals, held a particular appeal and was a central theme of Masson’s output. In this drawing the viewer is invited into the den in which transformation is ongoing and where everything seems to be in flux between human and vegetative states. The beautiful calligraphic line—that attests to Masson’s interest in Chinese calligraphy—weaves and dances across the sheet, creating a poetic cycle from germination to chrysalis to putrefaction and back. Masson produced fifteen such drawings in 1938-39 that were reproduced in Cahier d’Arts, 5-10, 1939 under the title “Mythologie de la Nature.” (“FIGURE/STUDY: Drawings from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,” text by Nancy E. Green and presented at Carlton Hobbs, LLC January 25-February 2, 2019)

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