MASSON, ANDRE. (1896-1987). French Surrealist artist. ALS. (“André Masson”). 1p. 8vo. Lyons-la-Foret, N.d. (“Thursday”) (likely 1938). To French poet, critic and a founder of Surrealism, ANDRÉ BRETON (1896-1966). In French with translation.
Surrealist André Masson Endorses Breton and Rivera’s Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art
Signed by Andre Masson
“I have received the Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art. Quite naturally, I agree with you and Diego Rivera.
Hopefully, the concept concerning the relationship between Art and the State will become reality in the near future. There is no precedent for this in history, but I know that we must overcome pessimism and nihilism – to which we are very often inclined in this age of mud, spit and blood.
In any case, our momentum – our thought – belong to the Future.
We hope that Jacqueline is doing well; that she recovers quickly, and we hope to see all three of you soon.
From the bottom of my heart, your friend…”
After studying Sigmund Freud’s works in depth, Breton developed his practice of automatic writing, tapping into the unconscious to bring together incongruous images. He delineated this philosophy in his 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, which defined the nascent Surrealist movement. In April 1938, on a French government grant, Breton traveled to Mexico for four months and met Leon Trotsky, who had been living there in exile since 1937 after losing a power struggle with Josef Stalin for control of the Communist Party in 1929. In Mexico, Trotsky had renewed his friendship with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), and together Breton, Rivera and Trotsky authored the anti-Stalinist Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art, the subject of our letter. The statement demanded that art be independent from social constraints and government interference and called for the establishment of an International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art, separate from the Communist International, and which Breton set about organizing immediately upon his return to France, where he enlisted the support of Masson, Yves Tanguy, Benjamin Péret, and others. Our remarkable, though undated, letter appears to document the moment Breton won over Masson’s support.
Masson had come to Breton’s attention as a young artist in the 1920s and he became a leading practitioner of automatic writing and drawing as well as an important figure within the Surrealist movement. Declared “degenerate” by the Nazi occupation forces in France he, like Breton, left France with the help of Varian Fry in 1939. Masson settled in the United States where he exerted his influence on American abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock.
Surrealist artist Jacqueline Lamba (1910-1993) was married to Breton from 1934-1943 and the pair had two children together, the first of which is obliquely referred to in our letter. After leaving Breton, Lamba spent seven months in Mexico with Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo. The two women enjoyed a particularly close relationship, finding common ground in their struggle to gain artistic recognition while working in their husband’s shadows. Lamba later married American sculptor David Hare.
Written in black ink on an oblong sheet of graph paper. With several notations in the upper margin in unidentified hands including “Breton” in brackets. In fine condition.