André Masson was born in France in 1896. His family settled in Brussels, and it was here he began to study art when he was eleven years old, at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. His early paintings and drawings are influenced by Cubism, but he established his artistic fame as a proponent of Surrealism. He made many pen and ink works using the technique of automatic drawing. At his studio in Paris, he was the neighbour of such figures as Georges Bataille, Antonin Artaud, and Michel Leiris.
After the 1920s, he turned away from Surrealism and introduced more structure into his works. These images often explored themes of violence and eroticism, and he produced numerous paintings in response to the Spanish civil war. During World War II, he escaped the Nazi invasion of France by sailing to Martinique, and then to the USA. Here he became an influence on abstract expressionism. After the war, he returned to France and lived in Aix-en-Provence, making landscape scenes.
Andre Masson was involved with Georges Bataille’s publication Acéphale, from 1936 to 1939. He had three children, and his brother-in-law was the noted psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who once asked Masson to paint a surrealist version of Gustave Courbet’s controversial painting L’Origine du monde.