André Masson

Les Hain-Teny

1955, published 1956

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Original title
Les Hain-Teny
Etching and aquatint on paper
Image: 430 x 333 mm
Purchased 1985

Catalogue entry

André Masson 1896-1987

P77115 Les Hain-Teny 1955, pub. 1956

Etching with aquatint 430 x 333 (16 15/16 x 13 1/8) on Auvergne Richard de Bas paper, same size; printed by Jacques and Robert Frélaut at Lacourière, Paris and published by Les Bibliophiles de l'Union Française in Les Hain-Teny, Madagascar poems translated by Jean Paulhan
Inscribed ‘a m' b.r.
Purchased from Galerie Lahumière, Paris (Grant-in-Aid) 1985
Lit: André Masson, ‘André Masson, graveur et illustrateur: Histoire d'une de mes folies', XXe Siècle, no.38, June 1972, pp.31-2; Françoise Levaillant, ‘André Masson: Dessin, gravures, illustration', Bulletin du Bibliophile, 1972, II, p.145; Roger Passeron, André Masson gravures 1924-1972, Zürich 1973, pp.19, 156-7; Françoise Levaillant, ‘Le prétexte du livre: André Masson gravure et lithographie' in André Masson: Livres illustré de gravures originales, exh. cat., Centre Littéraire Fondation Royaumont, Asnières-sur-Oise 1985, pp.16, 34-5; André Masson: Peintures-pastels-gravures 1924-1980,, Galerie Lahumière, Paris 1984, [p.53] repr.

Les Hain-Teny, a collection of eight poems from Madagascar translated by Jean Paulhan, was published by les Bibliophiles de l'Union Française on 31 October 1956. The meaning of the title and the original authorship of the poems are not known to the compiler. Jean Paulhan, (1884-1968), who invited Masson to contribute to the publication, had been a close friend of Masson's for many years and at the time of their collaboration over Les Hain-Teny Masson was also producing written work, most notably ‘L'Effusioniste' for publication in the Nouvelle Revue Française (July 1955), which was edited by Paulhan and Marcel Arland from 1953. The work contains ten full page coloured etchings with aquatint, one of which is reproduced on both front and back covers. In addition there are eight small compositions with aquatint in one or two colours for the title pages of the eight poems (‘Désir', ‘Accord', ‘Refus', ‘Les Rivaux', ‘L'Éloignement', ‘Regrets', ‘Orgueil' and ‘Raillerie') and a vignette on the initial title page of the volume. P77115 was intended to accompany the fifth poem, ‘L'Éloignement', on page 55, mid-way through the text printed on pages 52-59, with page 51 as the title page and the verso of the image (page 56) left blank.

The poem ‘L'Éloignement' examines the complex emotions surrounding the end of a relationship between two people and notions of doubt, anger, pain, fondness and regret are filtered through images of the natural world and the seasons. These images explore dramatic juxtapositions and metamorphoses between plants, animals and the elements:

Si j'étais fils d'Andréamanitra
Je grimperais au ciel
Je mangerais les fruits des fougères
Je creuserais le bord des pierres
J'enfilerais les fruits des joncs.
- Je suis le jonc: vous me déchirez.
Si vous me déchirez, je m'en vais en terre.
- Dans la terre, je vous creuse.
- Si vous me creusez, je vais dans le ciel.
Dans le ciel, je vous escalade.
- Si vous m'escaladez, je vais dans la pierre.
- Dans la pierre, je vous casse.
- Si vous me cassez, je me donne à un autre.
- Si vous êtes à un autre, je vous abandonne bien aisément.
Le feu de fougères flamboie.
Si l'amour ne doit pas durer,
Mais flamboie seulement,
J'aime mieux rentrer chez moi,
Il est nuit.
Quand les champs sont à demi-couverts d'ombre
Songez à votre parente.
Vous êtes entre mille citronniers
Je suis entre mille coraux.
Vous avez juré en frappant le sol,
Que vous ne me prendriez plus.
J'ai juré, en battant l'eau,
Que je ne reviendrais pas.
Les serments qui ont été faits
Qu'ils ne nous terrassent pas!
Qu'ils ne nous enlacent pas!
Je vous désire encore.

Si vous alliez à Ambohimanga
Je vous donnerais une petite commission,
Apportez-moi trois mangues, je vous prie,
Pour que je vous abandonne trois ans.
Mais aujourd'hui je ne suis qu'à vous
Demain, à mon père et à ma mère.
L'amour est un semis de riz:
Il pousse à sa nouvelle place.

Dis aux nuages d'attendre
Le vent diminue.
Dis au lac d'oublier.
Les oiseaux n'y viendront pas dormir.
Il est mauvais d'oublier tout d'un coup
Il est bon d'oublier peu à peu.

Les citronniers d'Anosindrano
ont des boucliers et des lances
Mais ne protègent pas leurs fruits,
Puisque tu regrettes Ramanga
Va-t'en au pied du manguier:
Même si tu ne manges pas ses fruits
Tu t'abriteras à ses feuilles.
Je suis l'Avoko au sommet de la colline
Repas des enfants qui passent.
J'avais pour ami un étranger en visite:
Je l'aimais encore quand il m'a quitté.

Le tonnerre gronde à Ambohimananivo
Ceux qui ont du mas, semez-le.
Quand je le savais malade
Je m'étranglais en buvant l'eau pure.
Quand j'ai su qu'il était pris par une autre
J'ai laissé tomber mon riz à terre.
Non, je ne tourne pas la tête, je ne reviendrai pas,
Je suis une petite à qui l'on a fait du mal.

Les feuilles du figuier reviennent
Et revenez, Ramatoa.
Les passants sont bavards
Les voisins aiment à causer
Le mariage est comme les crevasses des pieds
Qui donnent du mal et de la honte.

- Votre amour est presque fini,
Vos caresses vont cesser.
Si vous m'aimez un peu
Je suis le nénuphar au beau lac.
Si vous ne m'aimez plus,
Je suis l'oiseau qui frôle l'eau et qui s'envole.

Les ruisseaux, au sommet de l'Ankaratra,
brillent pour qui les voit de loin
Coulent doucement pour qui est près d'eux.
- L'oiseau est frappé d'un coup de sagaie
Ne s'arrête pas, tant qu'il n'est pas à l'Itasy.

Dites-moi, petites herbes, petites plantes,
Dites, le vero et la fougère,
Razakavelonanivo était-il ici hier?
- Il était ici hier, il était ici avant-hier.
- Je l'ai salué, il n'a pas répondu,
Je lui ai demandé de l'eau,
Il n'en a pas donné.
Ce n'est pas que je l'aime de grand amour
Je voulais chasser mes regrets.

Of the edition of 116, 100 were numbered 1-100 and the remaining 16, I-XVI, were retained for those involved in the production. All editioned examples were signed by the author, the artist and Léon Léal, President of the Union Française. Full details of the edition and publication are set out in the 1985 Asnières-sur-Oise exhibition catalogue. P77115 is undated and only initialled by the artist. Its status is thus difficult to establish, although according to Françoise Levaillant (letter to the compiler 26 May 1988) it is unlikely to have been an artist's proof. The etchings for Les Hain-Teny were achieved using single plates holding several colours for each print and were thus each printed with one impression alone. This was a major technical achievement for Masson and the studio. The experiment, of which P77115 was one result, was suggested by the artist's recent innovations in lithography. Working in Aix-en-Provence with Marchutz, a local painter and printmaker of German origin, during the early 1950s, Masson had found that it was possible to print well over a dozen colours using one lithographic stone and a single impression. According to the artist:

I immediately asked myself if one could not do the same thing on copper. At that time I was working at Lacourière's studio, a man whom I admire and who was my tutor in colour aquatint, but it was the son of the printer Frélaut, who was neither afraid of adventures nor the risks of the craft, and who told me that it really was a possibility. I then received the commission for Paulhan's Les Hain-Teny and after several experiments on small plates I asked myself: why not?

You can compare etching on a piece of copper with a succession of sea-beds on different levels; never more than four including the plate itself which is the highest level. It was thus necessary to bite the plate three times corresponding to the three colours, with the forms in relief (provisionally in white), call them islands. With Frélaut we understood that one couldn't use the large roller until the last colour, that of the islands. In passing over the plate the rubber rollers held well at the centre, on the islands, but bent at the edges, creating a marmalade of unnamable colours. Thus Frélaut and I decided that for the large plates we should reserve the islands for the last colour at the edges of the plate so that the roller could maintain its pressure, even if the islands did not form a complete ‘framework'.

It was not created without ‘accidents', in the happy sense with which Turner used the word ... Finally no etching exactly resembled another, they were almost original each time. But with the necessary length of time to make them the publishers were not happy: the price of the book was increased ten fold. I shall never have such an experience again (André Masson 1972, p.32).

In order to achieve the depth of the deepest level in the copper plate a highly concentrated acid was needed. This was a process which Masson was fully involved with and which he found deeply satisfying:

With something as noble as copper a sense of the sacreligious is born when I am violating it in this way. It was magical. At one point I realised that everyone in the studio was a bit put out. So, in order to continue my work, I asked if I could set up outside, near the stairway beside the Montmartre cable-car. Even then the large, violent, smoking bath of acid was slightly disturbing. As always the kids of Montmartre were everywhere on the hill. In several minutes I was surrounded by a crowd of youngsters jostling to see. It was really dangerous, the nitric acid bubbling and smoking while I was stirring the acid with a goose feather in one hand at the same time trying to deflect the kids - since they had nothing to do they had to get their noses inside ... Imagine the scene! It was truly the heroic period of my etching! What a struggle ... The word ‘eau-forte' was truly justified (Passeron 1973, p.156).

The techniques described by Masson not only allowed him to create images with an eloquent range of colour (green background, black figure with ochre surround and blue patterning) but also to make prints which, like the plates from which they were pressed, are of such a depth and variation in depth that a very strong effect of texture and relief is achieved. This is enhanced, as in P77115, by the overtly variegated fabric of the paper. The sculptural quality to which the technique lends itself is echoed in the Les Hain-Teny etchings, including P77115, by the sculptural motifs deployed, which allowed full exploration of the figure-ground relationship in the images.

According to Françoise Levaillant Les Hain-Teny is one of the most important books illustrated by Masson. Jean Paulhan was clearly delighted by the results and Masson responded, in a letter to Paulhan from Aix-en-Provence, 26 December 1956, that he was ‘moved and delighted that my colour etchings for ‘Les Hain-Teny' have pleased you' (letter repr. in André Masson, exh. cat., Musée des beaux-arts Nîmes 1985, p.137).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.414-17