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Paysage patriarchal, 1940

gouache on paper

Paysage patriarcal is in the surrealist vein of "interior landscapes". Through a landscape, animated by a few figures, Masson attempts to express emotions and feelings, making it the place of an exploration of human interiority. The landscape, admittedly deserted, is organized around two spaces: on the left of the composition, vegetation, taking the form of a couple, and on the right, a fortress, a city. It is impossible to determine exactly what this construction is; however, it takes the form of a threatening head. Biomorphism is characteristic of Masson's Surrealist productions. The Surrealists were very interested in psychoanalytical studies of dreams and the unconscious. The world of dreams is not subject to any limits, and the same is true of this work. Likewise, like dreams, the painting seems confusing at first, but one cannot help but search for meaning and connect the symbols together. The canvas does not need to be realistic in its organization or even in what it depicts to express something.

Here we get the impression that the couple are embracing under the stern eye of the figure on the right, perhaps a patriarchal figure as the title of the work suggests. This figure, which represents both a skull and a fortress, could symbolize the idea of imprisonment, the prison of the patriarchal system, both physical and mental, which threatens to attack the couple of lovers.

There is also the space Masson leaves for the sky, which is reminiscent of the works of Dali. It counterbalances the earthly elements. The clouds take the form of a bird with outstretched wings, free to leave, in complete opposition to the tree-figure imprisoned on the ground. Being infinite, it becomes the perfect place of human interiority: it is not the subject of the painting, it is not what the eye first looks at. And yet, it is not dispossessed of the subject, it is not empty, which the Surrealists abhor, it is the receptacle of hope.

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