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Books 343 tinually enriched his art is the real theme of the text. Phillips was one of the earliest artists to take up permanent residence in Western Canada; he was 29 years old and a mature artist at the time of his arrival in Winnipeg in 1913. Born and educated in England, he did not swerve from the 18th- and 19th-century English watercolour-landscape tradition but adapted it to his new environment and experiences. Phillips encouraged colleagues at art schools where he taught to introduce him to print-making. He avidly studied articles on prints in International Studio, and his abundant intellectual curiosity led him to make personal discoveries. The topographical artists who preceded him in Western Canada were interested in 'views'; he was not. For example, he comments wryly on the absurdity of being flown to an inaccessible waterfall in Northern Manitoba to paint its 'portrait '. 'The Waterfall,' he observes, 'turned out to be no more interesting than a sewer. ' The need to support his growing family, however, forced him to recognize that paintings of picturesque views provided income. 'I am content to make pictures wherever I happen to be', he wrote. Phillips could afford tolerant amusement at the public taste in subject matter. His real passion lay elsewherein an austere devotion to the refinement of pattern and shape. Gribbon's text, unfortunately, fails to enlarge one's knowledge of the historical and cultural context of the Western Canada in which Phillips worked. More seriously, it also fails to offer a critical justification for redeeming Phillips from relative obscurity. Was Phillips only a competent provincial hack working in a moribund tradition? Does his technical finesse and, particularly , the elegant, turn-of-the-century Japonaiserie of his colour prints qualify him as an international artist of the first or even second rank? Weighing the arguments for and against these contradictory critical judgements would be a challenge. Gribbon does not even try to weigh them. Andre Masson. William Rubin and Carolyn Lanchner. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976. 232 pp. illus. Paper, $8.95. Reviewed by Susan Myette' In this scholarly monograph Rubin points out in his assessment of Andre Masson's contribution to 20th-century art, that he has long been considered to be separate from Surrealism, when, in fact, he was one of its pioneers who kept faith with his original intentions. Moving in and out of favor with the recognized clique of surrealists in France patronized in the early 1920's by Andre Breton, Masson realized that it was the self-definition of the group that fluctuated, not his art. He had utilized automatic drawing for his highly evocative, poetic ends even before Breton defined Surrealism in his 1924 manifesto as 'Pure psychic automatism, by which one intends to express verbally, in writing or by any other method, the real functioning ofthe mind' (italics mine). Rubin divides Surrealism into two branches, abstract and illusory, in which artists are in search of a 'poetic art' (peinture-poesie). Masson, in his attempts to treat the emotional forces of the human condition-birth, death, sexuality, violence-was in direct contrast in both style and iconography with Dali and Magritte, who explored dream imagery and Freudian implication without societal concerns. Basing his work on his imagination rather than on concrete symbols, Masson used automatic drawing to release his unconscious thoughts. As Rubin is quick to point out, Masson's basic skill and rigorous training remove this seemingly facile approach from the realm of the haphazard. In fact, in her critical appraisal of dozens of Masson's paintings and drawings, spanning more than 40 years, Lanchner reveals a man obsessed with the work of his art-a continuous renewal of the struggle to depict the images in his mind. Masson deliberately plunged himself time and time again into the chaos of invention rather than resting on his striking successes. The luxury of curatorial hindsight on the production of a prolific, vital artist, combined with admiration of a prodigious '27 Stanhope St., Boston, MA 02116, U.S.A. talent, might lead one to glamorization of the struggle or an attitude of inevitability of his success. Not so with Lanchner's approach. Refreshingly...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 343
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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