Kunstsammlungen am Theaterplatz
13. Oct 2019 – 12. Jan 2020

André Masson. Zwischen Welten – Entremondes

André Masson, Portrait du poète Heinrich von Kleist, 1939, Öl auf Leinwand, 55 × 38 cm, Privatsammlung, Foto: Archives Comité André Masson © 2019 VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

André Masson. Zwischen Welten – Entremondes
Zwischen Welten – Entremondes

Classical modernity at the beginning of the 20th century: a time full of creative impulses and upheavals, at the same time a time when two terrible world wars were raging and human civilisation was being questioned. Like no other artist, André Masson (1896-1987) devoted himself to the existential contradictions of this time. The exhibition André Masson. Between Worlds – Entremondes in the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz shows works from all creative phases of the French artist from the early 1920s to 1987, revealing the artist’s versatility in the struggle for the themes of death and desire. From 13 October 2019 to 12 January 2020, 35 paintings, 58 drawings and prints, as well as 5 sculptures, some of them large-format, will be on display in the art collections on Theaterplatz.

Initially in the circle of the Surrealists around André Breton, he later distanced himself from this group again. Masson was interested in the strength of the psyche and the subconscious, so he was one of the first artists to capture his creative power in automatic drawings. For him, surrealism is not a Dadaist plaything, but an attempt to penetrate to cosmic truths. Forced to go into exile in America during the German occupation of France, he is regarded as an important inspiration for Jackson Pollock’s developing action painting in America. In 1945 he returned to France and is considered a pioneer of Tachism and Informel.

For the first time, the exhibition and catalogue focus on Masson’s interest in Germany, which is remarkable in view of his wartime experiences. As an infantryman in World War I, André Masson was seriously injured physically and emotionally. Even though this experience deeply traumatized him for years and he dealt with it throughout his life, German culture is a point of reference for him. Masson, who did not know German and was not dependent on translations, but who visited Germany again and again when he was a Wagnerian, was one of the cosmopolitan free spirits of the 20th century, who was interested in the cultures and ways of thinking of his neighbours without any inner restrictions. With reference to Greek mythology, the German Romantics, but also Friedrich Nietzsche, André Masson created works that are deeply rooted in European intellectual history. In the late 1930s, for example, he portrayed the German poet and naturalist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose theory of colours and studies of the metamorphosis of plants fascinated Masson. Central to the exhibition is a portrait of Heinrich von Kleist, who took his own life at the age of 34, despairing of his failure, and who was later appreciated for his unconventionality, the boundlessness and vehemence of the linguistic images. The picture expresses his existential doubts about life, perhaps for Masson a brother in spirit. It also represents his desire to show the ugly sides of human existence with its brutality, abysses and horror, which in his world view are in turn closely related to sexual desire.

André Masson is still a discovery to this day, although he is one of the most important French artists of the 20th century. The exhibition André Masson. Between Worlds – Entremondes in the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz follows the main and secondary paths of artistic creation and has been developed in close collaboration with the artist’s family. On show are loans from the Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, Berlin, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunsthalle Bremen, the National Museums in Berlin, the National Gallery and Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg, the State Gallery Stuttgart, the Gallery in Frankfurt am Main, the Galerie Jacques Bailly in Paris and Toninelli Art Moderne, Monaco, as well as lenders who wish to remain unnamed.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 160-page catalogue published by Wienand Verlag, edited by Frédéric Bußmann and Diana Kopka, which is dedicated to the artist’s versatility and includes scholarly contributions by Frédéric Bußmann, Cornelia Fünfstück and Didier Ottinger as well as an extensive biography of the artist by Louise Bannwarth. The museum edition costs 29 euros.

 

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André Masson, Portrait du poète Heinrich von Kleist, 1939, Öl auf Leinwand, 55 × 38 cm, Privatsammlung, Foto: Archives Comité André Masson © 2019 VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
André Masson
Portrait du poète Heinrich von Kleist, 1939