The Comité Masson has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed in 1938, Paysage cosmique is related to André Masson's painting from the following year, Le météore, which will be offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, London, 4 February 2009. This epiphanic and apocalyptic landscape, with the meteor/Sun dominating the picture-surface, appears to be a vigorously-captured, bold vision in part inspired by Masson's stranding, with his wife, on the peak of Montserrat in 1935. This experience became vital to Masson's own personal mythology, making him feel more a part of the greater scheme of things, of the Universe itself. In this picture, the swirl of the clouds that had covered the landscape during his time on Montserrat are depicted through swirls of light blue which may also represent some form of cleansing flood. Meanwhile, the choice of media in this work lend the various areas, in which Masson has restrained himself from adding distracting details, an intense visual potency, thrusting the yellow and red of the meteor and the flaming sky into bolder relief. This fills the surface of the work with the colours of the Spanish flag which, at the time of execution, were also all too tragically the colours of the blood being spilt on the sands during the Civil War, a conflict that horrified the artist as it tore apart the country in which he had lived and which he loved. Indeed, red and yellow had often featured in the propaganda images that he had created for the Republican cause only a couple of years earlier.
Paysage cosmique is invaluable as a guide to Masson's working techniques, as it provides an indication of the extent to which some of his works were planned out, rather than being based on automatism. While there are elements in both the oil and the watercolour that bear the traces of his automatism, of the effortless spontaneous draughtsmanship that he had so painstakingly developed, this work clearly provides the matrix for the later oil, and is therefore more likely a result of Masson's combination of dream imagery, visions and automatism, resulting in a raw, intense and direct visualisation of the epic yet highly personal range of visual references, the sense of apocalypse and cleansing and the birth of new myths so crucial to the artist.