Les fumeurs (The Smokers)

  • André Masson Balagny-sur-Thérain, France, 1896 - Paris, France, 1987
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    81 x 65 cm
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In André Masson’s paintings between 1923 and 1924, his drinking, eating, betting and gambling characters are all connected to the world of magic, while also clearly being portraits of his closest friends (Limbour, Leiris, Fraenckel and Tual), recognisable in symbolic paintings like Les fumeurs (The Smokers) by their short hair and the general features of their physical appearance. Masson even identified these four friends with characters from tarot cards, indicating the interest they shared in the remaining vestiges of no longer existent systems of thought – a curiosity shared by the Surrealists.
In its formal and conceptual aspects, Les fumeurs represents a new starting point for Masson’s style. The artist’s debt to André Derain and Cubism that is evident in his earlier works is sidelined in favour of a growing interest in the exploration of a new vocabulary. The choice of colour and the construction of the space by means of geometric planes are still reminiscent of Analytical Cubism, but the sinuous lines used to execute the figures are a clear reference to automatic writing, so beloved of the followers of Surrealism.

Paloma Esteban Leal