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Frans Masereel

In words and images

02.04 – 05.06.22

Frans Masereel, 'Preliminary drawing for 'Mon livre d'heures'', ca. 1918 - ca. 1919, MSK Gent.

Fifty years ago, on 3 January 1972, the woodcarver and graphic artist Frans Masereel died. After an exceptional mourning ceremony at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, his coffin was transferred to Campo Santo in Sint-Amandsberg. On the occasion of this 50th anniversary, MSK and Amsab-ISG are paying warm tribute to Masereel and the friendships in his prolific career. Each will draw from its own collection and focus on a different aspect of Masereel's life and oeuvre.

Ghent native in an international network

Frans Masereel grew up in the French-speaking bourgeois class in Ghent, but he led his artistic life on the international stage. Together with his wife Pauline Imhoff, he liked to travel a lot. The couple lived in Paris, Geneva and Nice, among other places, and through their travels Masereel forged close friendships with writers and artists such as Henri Guilbeaux, Léon Bazalgette, Romain Rolland, Henry Van de Velde and Stefan Zweig.

Social commitment

Masereel's work is characterised by an artistic commitment in which social commitment, social justice and individual freedom prevail. With his woodcuts, he emerged early in his career as the main illustrator of several pacifist publications, such as Les Tablettes, La Feuille and Clarté. Around the same time, he initiated the medium of the graphic novel in wordless books such as Mon livre d'heures and La Ville , with which he still enjoys an international renommée today. He also built up an impressive oeuvre of independent woodcuts during the more than 50 years that followed, with an imagery that is entirely his own and still very much loved.

Under the Nazi regime, his publications were banned in Germany. He produced anti-Nazi pamphlets and fled to the south of France in June 1940. In 1973, he died in Avignon at the age of 82. And after a life of travel, his last wish was to be buried in Ghent.

MSK: Masereel in words and images

In the collection presentation, the MSK presents a wide selection from the artist's collection of more than 700 works. Not only will the complete series of pen and brush drawings for the c.1918 book Mon livre d'heures be on display for the first time. The comprehensive tribute zooms in on the totality of Masereel's oeuvre, from the early 1920s in iconic woodcuts like The Kiss, through rarely shown sketchbooks from the years 1937-1940, to the late graphic work surrounded by a special fantasticalism.

Amsab-ISG: Friendship - Masereel, Bazalgette and Zweig

Amsab-ISG zooms in on the friendship between Masereel, Austrian author Stefan Zweig and French translator Léon Bazalgette. Through various documents and publications, the connection between these men is highlighted. The commemoration is therefore an ideal opportunity to highlight their particularly valuable collection of masterpieces: in 2003, Amsab-ISG took delivery of a unique collection of some 300 logs, almost 400 galvanos and 33 books by Masereel.