Artist biography

English sculptor, active in France. He trained as a painter from 1937 at Birmingham College of Art and the Royal College of Art, but he turned to sculpture while at the Slade (1943–6). In 1946 he moved to Paris; having nowhere else to work, he made the street his subject. His drawings were strongly influenced by his mentor, Giacometti.

He devoted much of the 1960s to The Crowd (1963–8; Paris, Fonds N. A. Contemp.), a bronze mass of figures; yet he found that the forms were rendered inert when translated into metal and that they ceased to be a scene and became an object.

Mason first used bright colour in the Expulsion of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris 28 February, 1969 (1969–71; Paris, St Eustache), both to ‘animate the space' and, he said, to ‘humanise the figures'; the whole thrust of his art has been to eliminate the distance between the work and the spectator. Mason attempted to create a whole world, a microcosm, in tableaux of life-size figures. The architectural setting is built up rather as the terraces of a stadium, and figures separately cast in epoxy resin are slotted in. These bulging-eyed characters, strident in colour and gesture, populist in flavour, are reminiscent of Daumier's polychrome busts of the Deputies, and of James Gillray and the English humorists. In ‘translating a painter's vision into three dimensions' (see 1982 exh. cat., p. 13), Mason successfully challenged the prevailing orthodoxies of contemporary sculpture.

Raymond Mason (exh. cat., Paris, Gal. Claude Bernard, 1977) [incl. interview with M. Brenson]
Raymond Mason (exh. cat., intro. M. Peppiatt; ACGB, 1982)
Raymond Mason (exh. cat. by G. Régnier, Paris, Pompidou, 1985)
H. Lessore: A Partial Testament (London, 1986)

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