André Masson – Pedestal Table in the Studio (1922)

When the French artist and writer André Masson (1896 – 1987) met the Catalan painter Joan Miró, the two of them bonded over their love for the limitless visual potential of poetry. In a letter written in 1972, Masson recalled:

“It was obvious that for Miró as for myself, poetry (in the broadest sense of the term) was of capital importance. Our ambition was to be a painter-poet. […] As painters purporting to work from poetic necessity, we were taking a great risk. Furthermore, but for a few rare exceptions, the verdict of the French critics observing our beginnings was: ‘Definition of a Surrealist painter – not a painter, but a failed poet’.

Pedestal Table in the Studio 1922 by Andr? Masson 1896-1987
André Masson – Pedestal Table in the Studio (1922), oil on canvas

But before he aligned himself with the Surrealists, Masson, having fought and been seriously wounded during World War I, at the beginning of the 1920s was still trying to find his voice and use art as an outlet for his suffering. Pedestal Table in the Studio (1922) is a still life reminiscent of  pre-war Cubist paintings, while being far more realistic. The milky haziness of the painting, coupled with the abstract background, makes it look almost like a dream or a distant memory, possibly a sign that Masson was close to embracing Surrealism.

On the top of a pedestal table, we have a mandolin, the body of a guitar, white flowers, a black pipe and a white pipe, a dead bird, two pomegranate halves. The pomegranates (also meaning “grenades” in French) were not used by chance, for they evoked the gruesome scenes that Masson had witnessed while fighting in the trenches, including the “memory of the blown-open skull of a soldier in the battlefields of Champagne”. In light of his use of pomegranates, I find that the guitar looks even more sinister, as if beheaded, and that the white flowers, instead of symbolizing life, suggest a funeral setup.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Another fascinating piece.
    The use of pomegranates especially, makes me think of this conversation I was having with a friend about the fruit. Each of its seeds, jewels in their own right.
    What another image that has stayed with me is of me walking on a lonely trail, and I found this bloodied thing on the side of the road. I wasn’t so sure, what it was. But it looked to me like a broken jaw with teeth having sputtered out. When I looked closely I realized it was just an over ripe piece of spoilt pomegranate someone had thrown on the side.
    This image though has stayed with me. And now I recollect it.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. artschaft says:

      Whoa, that’s quite a dramatic encounter with a pomegranate. I can understand why it would remain imprinted in your memory. There is something visceral about them, like seeing the insides of our bodies, but they’re nonetheless beautiful, tiny rubies.

      Liked by 1 person

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