André Masson, ‘Battle of Fishes’, 1926, The Museum of Modern Art

Collection: The Museum of Modern Art, New YOrk

Image rights: © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


About André Masson

An early Surrealist and devotee of Cubism—who went on to inspire the New York Abstract Expressionists before taking up a late interest in impressionistic landscapes—André Masson was an iconoclast whose abrupt stylistic transitions defy classification. Along with Joan Miró, he explored automatic drawing, seeking to express the creative force of the unconscious. This led to images—like the celebrated Battle of the Fishes (1927), a poetic depiction of conflict and metamorphosis with undertones of primordial eroticism—derived from random gestures and drawn spontaneously in glue, then sprinkled with colored sands for added texture and complexity. His signature violence, evident in the terrifying, fragmented figures of In The Tower of Sleep (1938), reflects the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and WWII, as well as his own troubled psyche in the aftermath of his service in WWI.

French, 1896-1987, Balagny-sur-Thérain, France