This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Masson dated Paris, décembre 1993.
One of the truly radical and groundbreaking series of sand paintings that Masson made between 1926 and 1927, Personnage animal (Animal person) is a rare and important work from the key period of Masson's involvement with the Surrealist group. "At that time" Masson wrote, "there was a great temptation to try to operate magically on things, and then on ourselves. The impulse was so great that we could not resist it and so, from the end of the winter of 1924, there was a frenzied abandon to automatism" (A. Masson, Painting is a Wager, Paris, 1943).
Following the poetic example of automatic writing laid down by Breton and Soupault in their Magnetic Fields, Masson was among the first of the Surrealist artists to attempt to capture a spontaneous and unconscious flight of ideas in visual form. Beginning with fluid pen and ink drawings created unconsciously in moments of trance, Masson developed his technique into a precise meditative ritual that he described as follows: "a) The first condition was to liberate the mind from all apparent ties. Entry into a state similar to a trance, b) Abandonment to interior tumult, c) Rapidity of writing. These dispositions once attained, under my fingers involuntary figures were born and most often disturbing, disquieting, unqualifiable. The slightest reflection broke the charm. But when in the end images appeared, I could not prevent a movement of shame - an indescribable unease - combined with a vengeful exultation, like a victory carried over some oppressive power" (A. Masson, 'Le Peintre et ses Fantasmes', in Le Rebelle du surréalisme, Paris, 1976).
In 1926 while staying in Sanary-sur-Mer, near Toulon, Masson took his fluid trance-like pen and ink drawings into a deeper realm of unconscious creation by experimenting with sand. Applying glue randomly to the surface of the work and then covering it with sand from the beach, Masson generated random but persuasive patterns that acted as prompts for his fluid, even dripped, line. Out of the textural background Masson began to articulate forms suggested to him by the patterning of the sand. These forms grew into animals, landscapes or, as in this example, mysterious figures and personages.
Through the extraordinary results of this radically new approach to painting, Masson discovered that his work "almost always had an erotic foundation. An eroticism that could have been that of the cosmos, but whose element was Eros" (Masson, quoted in exh. cat., Surrealism: Desire Unbound, Tate Gallery, London, 2001, p. 105). In addition the fusion of the figure with elements of the earth in these works brought back hidden memories from the war and Masson's time on the Somme where, he recalled, there were no trenches, "you made your body one with the ground" (Masson, quoted in exh. cat., André Masson, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, p. 30). It was perhaps for this reason that the imagery of these works often seemed to describe a disturbing world of mythological conflict and violence underpinned with eroticism. "Eroticism," Masson asserted, "can be considered the essence of what is most serious... most grave, and most exalted - since it can lead to the giving of life" (ibid, p. 28).