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Untitled, 1955

oil on paper

Untitled is a canvas that differs from the abstract compositions that Masson is used to making. Here, the canvas seems rough, the brushstrokes are apparent, one has the impression of paint being projected onto the canvas. He no longer practices the biomorphic abstraction of the Surrealist years, with figures that were certainly abstract, but strangely reminiscent of bodies, creatures or living forms. In 1955 Masson seemed to be inspired by American abstract expressionism. However, when Masson was in the United States as he fled the war, it was he who inspired the painters of this movement. Pollock said he was stimulated by the Paysage Iroquois (1942). Arshile Gorky, Masson's neighbor in Connecticut, was interested in the process of automatic painting. His 1947 work Agony (MoMA) is not unlike the painting we are interested in. The tones are the same, the forms similar. After the war, influence and artistic stimulation changed sides: it was Masson's turn to take an interest in young artists.

In 1955, the Algerian war, or more precisely the "Algerian events" as they were called at the time, had a strong impact on Masson, who had been an anti-militarist since his youth. During this period, his paintings were quite agitated, the current events undoubtedly awakening in him sufferings that were difficult to bury. The earthy tones applied dynamically to the background of the canvas give an impression of urgency and anguish. More generally, the dark, black, and red tones of the canvas are worrying as they form stains, evoking wounds and blood, or sometimes even simply, emptiness. However, the few yellow and white brushstrokes in the middle of the composition, applied in a very light manner, are not without evoking lyrical and expressive forms. They are like a trace of the painter's sensitivity, delicate and fragile, surviving with difficulty despite the context of violence.

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