Masereel, Frans

Masereel, Frans

(fräns mäsārāl`), 1889–1972, Belgian painter and illustrator. Essentially self-taught, Masereel is famous for his many series of satiric, expressionist woodcuts. He illustrated many books, including Rolland's Jean-Christophe.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Masereel, Frans


Born July 30, 1889, in Blankenberge, West Flanders; died Jan. 4, 1972, in Avignon, France. Belgian graphic artist and painter. Member of the Communist Party of Belgium.

Masereel studied at the Academy of Arts in Ghent in 1907 and 1908. After 1909 he lived mainly in France. During World War I, he lived in Switzerland, where he joined R. Rolland’s group of pacifist writers and produced a cycle of antiwar newspaper drawings. Masereel used the artistic devices of expressionism and other new currents in 20th-century art. These devices included phantasmagoric images, grotesqueness that at times changed faces into masks, angular geometric drawing, dynamic composition, and sharp contrasts of black and white. Masereel used themes from literature, traditional symbols, and allegorical elements. His series of woodcuts (“novels in pictures”) are marked by a rapid unfolding of theme characteristic of a succession of motion-picture frames.

Masereel was interested in the life of modern man, caught up in the social whirlwind of the city. Tracing the intellectual growth and fate of his heroes, he revealed the tragic conflict between free thought and bourgeois society and expressed a conscious political protest against violence and exploitation. He also sought to determine man’s place in the contemporary world and the humanist values associated with his existence. The artist’s works include Man’s Road to Calvary (1918), My Book of Hours (1919), An Idea, Its Birth, Its Life, Its Death(l920), The City (1925), Creation (1928), Dance of Death (1941), and Youth (1948).

Masereel illustrated the works of C. De Coster, R. Rolland, and others. He did a number of albums of drawings and water-colors and painted landscapes, portraits, and genre compositions. He also worked for the theater and films. Masereel influenced the work of many European artists of the first half of the 20th century and played a significant role in the development of new expressive devices in critical realism.


Kantor, A. M. “Tvorchestvo Fransa Mazerelia.” In the collection Sovremennoe izobrazitel’noe iskusstvo kapitalisticheskikh stran. Moscow, 1961.
Sapego, I. “Obraznyi stroi grafiki Mazerelia.” Iskusstvo, 1961, no. 8.
Razdol’skaia, V. Mazerel’. Leningrad-Moscow, 1965.
F. Masereel, Malerei und Graphik: 1917-1957. Berlin, 1957.
F. Masereel. . . . [Dresden] 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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