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Catalogue Summer 2024

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In July and August, the gallery can only be visited by prior arrangement by telephone.

Past exhibition:  
André Masson and His Graphic Universe


Online catalogue

Duration of exhibition: 12 December 2023 – 21 March 2024
Opening: Tuesday, 12 December 2023, 7 p.m.
Opening hours: Tue - Fri 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Mon/Sat by appointment
Location: Galerie Hochdruck, Friedmanngasse 12/5, 1160 Vienna
Phone: +43 699 11506010


Along with Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti, the French painter, printmaker, poet and essayist André Masson (1896–1987) was one of the earliest advocates of painterly Surrealism (avant la lettre, as he later wrote). In the First Manifesto of Surrealism published by André Breton in 1924 the movement was initially limited to literature, and Masson's closest friends at this time were in fact mainly writers. Gertrud Stein and Ernest Hemingway were the first to buy his paintings. In 1941 he escaped the war via Martinique (which he wrote about in 1948) to the USA, where he not only continued to exhibit but also developed into a major source of inspiration for the Abstract Expressionism movement there. His encounter with Stanley William Hayter at the latter’s Atelier 17 in New York had a marked influence on his print production. When he returned to France at the end of 1945 – having long since distanced himself from Surrealism in the narrow interpretation of its inventor André Breton – Masson repeatedly reinvented himself, and from the 1950s onwards he was heavily influenced by the painting of the Far East. In each creative period, Masson also wrote concisely and poetically about art and artists, from Antiquity to the present day.

In our exhibition title, we allude to Masson’s “graphic universe”, not only in the usual pictorial sense, but also in the original meaning of the Greek word graphein (= writing). Masson was not only an important graphic artist but also a profound connoisseur of art history, unrivalled in his ability to amalgamate art theory and personal experience in a highly poetic and original way and communicate them to the readers of his numerous essays. The comments on artists whom he held in particularly high regard and/or who crossed his path in one way or another are especially instructive. Joan Miró had the studio next door to him in Paris from the early 1920s, from which a lifelong friendship developed. Masson’s studio developed into a meeting place for Bohemians, including the literary and growing Surrealist scene, which Masson describes vividly in his later account 45, Rue Blomet. “Due to some alchemical accident that you might call l’air du temps, my studio became the headquarters not of an organization, but of a crucible of friends, ” he wrote. He mentioned not only his neighbour Miró but also the more or less turbulent visits by Jean Dubuffet, Georges Limbour, Antonin Artaud, Michel Leiris, André Breton, Marcel Jouhandeau, Max Jacob, André Beaudin, Ernest Hemingway, Jacques Doucet, Roger Vitrac, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, Raymond Queneau, Georges Bataille and Paul Eluard (“Evidently, poetry in the widest sense was of capital significance both for Joan and myself”.) This is where Masson’s roots as a painter-poet (peintre-poète ), as he saw himself throughout his life, can be found.

After Masson had distanced himself from the hard core Surrealists around André Breton, who, in Masson’s opinion, was gradually introducing a new “academicism” into the movement as a result of his doctrinaire attitude, Henri Matisse became a kind of father figure for Masson in the south of France. “This man was impressive! [...] Matisse gave weight to my life,” Masson wrote later, reminiscing on his conversations with the admired artist in 1932/33. Through him, he also gained the conviction that a “picture originally painted according to nature” should be transformed “into a second movement and into a metaphor – in a word, into poetry”. Masson wrote essays not only about Henri Matisse but also about the painters and graphic artists Honoré Daumier, Camille Corot, Paul Klee, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti, Nicolas Poussin, Eugène Delacroix, Odilon Redon, Rembrandt, Herkules Seghers, Hieronymus Bosch, Pierre Klossowski and Victor Hugo.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to acquire from the estate of Roger Passeron, a distinguished collector and author of a standard work on André Masson’s prints, a set of unique proofs of etchings and lithographs, some of which have been reworked by hand and annotated by Masson. We are showing them together with prints by some of the artists that Masson particularly admired – or alternatively was critical of. The exhibition is accompanied by apposite quotations from the German edition of Masson’s collected writings.

Barbara Sietz writes in the introduction to the second volume of Masson’s writings: “Masson is definitely one of the dying breed of poètes maudits. In the art and media business, in other words in the system of representation, he is not present either in a good or a bad way – they flee him. His constantly changing complexity is not easy to grasp. [...] Rebellion pervades his life, his art, his entire œuvre.”

In 1958, in a fit of pessimism that for a moment obscures his otherwise subtle irony, Masson reacted in unusually explicit terms to the herd mentality:  “Modern man has a sick mind: he worships the profane – looking shamefacedly for substitutes for religion – and, if he has found a place in some militarized herd, he devotes himself body and soul to the leader, who bludgeons him with a ridiculous morality. There are a few people who resist this general self-surrender. Admirable exceptions.”

It is good to counter the “general self-surrender” with the works and thoughts of an extraordinary personality like André Masson.

Artists other than Masson in this exhibition: John Baptist Jackson (after Tintoretto), William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, Camille Corot, Edouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Stanley William Hayter, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí

Catalogue summer/autumn 2023


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