Andre Masson and the Surrealist Self Clark Poling

Publication date:
25 Jun 2008
Yale University Press
212 pages: 190 x 254mm
100 b/w + 33 colour illus.

This richly documented book examines the attempts of the French Surrealist artist André Masson (1896-1987) to define “self” in his art in the period between the early 1920s and 1940, the most fruitful period of classic Surrealism, culminating in the emergence of existentialism. Through a close reading of Masson’s paintings, drawings, and writings, Clark Poling explores the ways in which the artist figured the self—as fragmented, dissolved, merged with other selves and with the natural environment, and, ultimately, reconstituted and consolidated.


Masson’s work, Poling argues, reveals his involvement with modern conceptions of the self that he absorbed from Nietzsche and the Surrealist writers, as well as from other sources in philosophy, psychology, psychoanalysis and ethnography. He traces Masson’s articulation of these ideas in paintings and graphic works, using his correspondence from the Surrealist period and his many subsequent writings as supporting evidence.


Clark Poling is professor emeritus of art history, Emory University.