A visionary artist, a brilliant intellectual and a man of conviction, from Mauritius to the Ateliers Parisiens de l’Amandier, Hervé Masson has marked his time. To salute his artistic and militant commitment, the ICAIO Gallery in Port-Louis is presenting a new exhibition of drawings made in prison by Hervé Masson.
Hervé Masson was born in Rose-Hill on 17 January 1919, the youngest of seven children, including the poet and novelist Loys Masson, and the writer and journalist André Masson. A painter, writer, and politician, he is one of the most outstanding Mauritian artists and intellectuals of the second half of the 20th century.
Hervé Masson made his first artistic steps at the age of 19. He tried his hand at wood engraving and illustrated several books, including the first opuses of Loys Masson, Pierre de Sornay and Malcolm de Chazal. As soon as he married in 1942, he hosted a cenacle in his living room on Meldrum Street in Curepipe. Writers and artists of the time, including Marcel Cabon, Serge Constantin, Malcolm de Chazal, Henri Dalais, Edmée Le Breton, Raymonde de Kervern, Madeleine Mamet, and many others, could be found there. At the same time, advised by the poet Robert-Edward Hart, he studied Indian philosophy and soon became passionate about esotericism, of which he would later become a recognized specialist.
A committed intellectual, Hervé Masson fought for Mauritius’ independence through hundreds of columns in the Mauritian and French press. He remained very attached to his country and returned to Mauritius in 1970 as artistic advisor to the Ministry of Education. Tempted by political commitment, he joined the MMM and became editor-in-chief of the newspaper Le Militant. Under the state of emergency, he served ten months in political prison and was released at the end of 1972. Increasingly critical of his party’s line, he decided to return to Paris in 1977. He resumed his career as a painter and writer and ended his days there on May 13, 1990.
The ICAIO exhibition is a new chapter dedicated to Hervé-Masson after the 2005 retrospective and the February 2019 exhibition of drawings “Histoire des Esclaves et des Coolies à l’Ile Maurice” at the Institut Français de Maurice. The choice of ICAIO allows this artist’s work to be inscribed in the sphere of the Indian Ocean. Through the five themes presented, horse racing, landscapes, text illustrations, androgynous and women, the public will have access to the artist’s creative process and aesthetic choices.