Painted in 1939, Le météore dates from the end of André Masson's so-called Second Surrealist period. During this time, Masson, who had formerly been excommunicated from the movement, had been re-embraced by its leader, André Breton. It was Breton, writing in the same year that Le météore was painted, who recognised that Masson was one of the few artists who was willing to portray the chaos of his age. Masson had, for some years, been Cassandra-like in his visual protests at the era of violence in which he lived. Having spent some years in Spain, he had been heart-broken by the outbreak of Civil War there, and indeed had created anti-Fascist propaganda images to support the Republicans. While he was unwilling to pick up a rifle, though offered the chance, following his own traumatic experiences on the front line in the First World War, he nonetheless had felt the urge to participate in some way.
In a sense, the palette in Le météore reflects Masson's love of Spain, dominated as it is by the yellow and red, the colours of blood and sand that were at the heart of that nation's flag (even the Republican version). Masson has imbued this strange landscape, which combines bold colour with the jutting angularity that bespeaks the influence of his automatism, with a mythic quality embodied in the strange meteor-sun. There is an air of the epic about this strange omen hovering over the land, implying an imminent apocalypse, all too near reality considering the impending global conflict. Fascinated by myths, by the fundamental powers underpinning our existence, Masson was observing the passing of old gods and the emergence of new mythologies, as well as the strange currency that so many ancient tales, for instance that of Theseus, continued to have in the modern world, be it in the form of the corrida in Spain or in terms of ideas about existence and the labyrinth of life itself.
Masson's landscape in Le météore relates closely to his 1935 painting, Paysage des prodiges, which was in turn based on the artist's own experiences when he and his wife were stranded at the top of Montserrat earlier that year. This resulted in an epiphany that became a part of Masson's own personal mythology, a theme that appeared occasionally linking him to the wider destiny of the universe. 'The sky itself, I thought, appeared an abyss,' Masson recalled of his night on Montserrat. 'The vertigo of heights and the vertigo of depths both at once. I found myself in a kind of maelstrom... there were shooting stars the whole time... The whole world was entirely under a cover of clouds. The only place clear was the place where we were. And the sun rose. It was sublime. We were on our summit like Moses awaiting the arrival of the Lord' (Andre Masson, quoted in W. Rubin & C. Lanchner, André Masson, exh.cat., New York, 1976, p. 141). In Le météore, it appears that the cosmic entity that dominates the canvas acts as a freak phenomenon, a shooting star, and also the sun rising above the cloud-veiled landscape, marking a happy return to the theme of his beloved Spanish landscape and an anxious yet optimistic dawn of some new age.