Frans Masereel

The graphic designer Frans Masereel (1889-1972) died 50 years ago, on 3 January 1972. Exceptionally, a remembrance service for him was held in the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) before his remains were taken to Campo Santo in Sint-Amandsberg (Ghent). To mark the 50th anniversary of Masereel’s death, the MSK and Amsab-ISG will pay tribute to him and to the friendships that he nurtured during his highly productive career. Drawing on their own collections, each will spotlight a different aspect of Masereel’s life and work.

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An artist from Ghent in an international netwerk
Frans Masereel grew up in Ghent’s French-speaking bourgeoisie, but as an artist he occupied an international stage. He travelled widely and well, spent time living in Paris, Nice, Geneva and elsewhere, and in between trips Masereel forged close friendships with writers and artists such as Henri Guilbeaux, Léon Bazalgette, Romain Rolland, Henry Van de Velde and Stefan Zweig.  

Social engagement
Masereel's work is characterised by artistic dedication, in which social commitment, social justice and individual freedom prevail. Early in his career, his woodcuts propelled him to success as the main illustrator of various pacifist publications such as Les Tablettes, La Feuille and Clarté. Around the same time, he introduced the concept of the graphic novel through his wordless books such as Mon Livre d’heures and La Ville, for which he continues to be renowned today. And in the course of a career spanning more than 50 years, he built up an imposing oeuvre of individual woodcuts with their own deeply original and still very popular artistic language.

Masereel’s publications were banned in Germany under the Nazi regime, and in 1940 he fled the country and moved to southern France. He died in Avignon in 1972, at the age of 82; after a lifetime of travelling, his final wish was to be buried in Ghent. 

At the MSK: Frans Masereel in words and images
For this exhibition the MSK has drawn a wide selection from its collection of over 700 works by Masereel. This wide-ranging tribute illuminates Masereel’s oeuvre in its entirety: from his iconic woodcuts of the early 1920s, such as The Kiss, to his seldom-seen sketchbooks from the period from 1937 to 1940, to his late graphic works with their fantastical imagery. In addition, the full series of pen and pencil drawings for his book Mon Livre d’heures, which was published around 1918, will be on display for the first time ever.

The presentation in the MSK will take place from 2 April to 5 June 2022.

At Amsab-ISG: Friendships – Masereel, Bazalgette and Zweig
The presentation in Amsab-ISG will focus on the friendship between Masereel, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and the French translator Léon Bazalgette, and a range of documents and publications will shed light on the close ties linking the three men. In 2003, Amsab-ISG received a unique collection encompassing over 300 woodcuts, nearly 400 galvanic prints and 33 books by Masereel, and this tribute is the perfect occasion on which to spotlight the major works in this exceptionally valuable collection.

The presentation in Amsab-ISG will take place from 2 April to 28 August 2022. It can be visited on weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 1 pm.

Frans Masereel, 'Mon Livre d'heures', 1919, MSK Gent
Frans Masereel, 'Mon Livre d'heures', 1919, MSK Gent