André Masson (b Balagny, Oise, France, 4 January 1896 – d Paris, 28 October 1987) studied painting at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Brussels before moving to Paris, in 1912, to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. During the First World War he was seriously wounded, an experience which left an indelible mark on his psyche and art. Hence, by 1922 he had begun an association with the Surrealist group.
Masson’s first ballet commission was for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo’s production of Les Présages (1933), followed by set designs for Armand Salacrou’s play La Terre est ronde (The earth is round) (1938). After the Second World War, Masson returned to theatre work, producing set and costume designs for Hamlet and Jean-Paul Sartre’s play Morts sans sépulture (The victors) (1946).
In 1958 he appeared as a cameo role in the film André Masson et les quatres eléments (André Masson and the four elements), while also completing designs for Jean-Louis Barrault’s production of Tête d’or (Head of gold). In 1965 he again returned to the theatre, this time producing designs for the ceiling of the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris. During the 1970s Masson continued to produce theatre designs and his work also appeared in several films, one of which, A la source, la femme aimée (At the source, the beloved) (1966–67) about his erotic drawings, was censored.
André Masson in Aix-en-Provence, during preparations of Iphigenia in Tauris 1953 Atelier Robert Doisneau, Paris