The present work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Masson, Paris.
'For me it was about transposing the sensations felt in front of the corridas or rather the dreams of corridas' (Masson in a letter to Kahnweiler, from Tossa, 10 January, 1936).
Life and death collide in the bullring, where the toreadors and the bull encounter each other in an arena of mortal danger. In Corrida au soleil the dynamism of a life in danger is given a bright vitality by the angular arrangements of red and yellow. The swirling red capes of the men in the ring echo the light emanating from the sun in the top right corner. Ever-present nonetheless are the dark bull and the shadow that extends diagonally across the canvas. This shadow, cast by the mounted man, implies danger to the bull; the bull himself is another danger, each is the nemesis of the other. Masson's interest in the bullfight was inspired in part by mythology. The Minotaur, a potent Surrealist symbol which gave its name to the infamous Surrealist magazine, occupies a special place in Masson's work of the 1930s and early 1940s. The bullfight acts as a modern manifestation of the same myth, man versus beast, a myth which pits human ingenuity against the dark, animalistic instincts humans try to restrain-the Minotaur, half man, half beast, was held at the centre of Daedalus's ingenious Labyrinth, trapped in an invention of the mind.
Corrida was shown in an exhibition in 1936, organised by Kahnweiler at his gallery which showed works executed by Masson in Spain. It is no coincidence that Masson, who was in Spain for most of that year-- the same year the Spanish Civil War began-- painted and showed a picture so specifically concerned with Spanish culture, yet so imbued with violence. The yellows and reds, the component colours of the Spanish national flag, are colours of life and vitality, but their use in the painting of the sun are forceful reminders that they are also the colours of flames, of blood and sand. Masson's traumatic experiences in the First World War, where he was seriously wounded, meant that the disintegrating political situation in Spain and the eventual civil war revived strong feelings in him, resulting in works which reflected both politics and his anxieties at the outbreak of violence. Masson wanted to help in the civil war, desperate to contribute in some way to the anti-Fascist cause, but could not face a return to violence himself. He therefore produced some openly political, allegorical works. His other works of the time, like this Corrida, while reflecting politics, are not allegorical despite the capes' being waved like Communist flags. Rather, this painting is an expression of Masson's darkest presentiments, a highly personal, expressionistic howl of despair.