Lam arrived in Paris in May 1938 and remained for two very productive years.
Picasso admired Lam’s work, and provided him with vital contacts. He introduced Lam to the writer Michel Leiris, with whom he visited newly re-opened galleries of African sculpture at the Musée de l’Homme. Another friend of Picasso, the dealer Pierre Loeb, began to exhibit Lam’s work in the summer of 1939. Lam also established contacts within the surrealist circle, including the Spanish artists Joan Miró and Óscar Domínguez, and writers such as Benjamin Péret and Pierre Mabille.
Lam was joined in Paris by Helena Holzer, a medical researcher whom he had first met in Barcelona. When the German invasion forced the couple to flee from Paris in June 1940 they managed to reach Marseille. Here they became part of a community of refugees, waiting to leave France. They gravitated to the circle around the surrealist leader André Breton. For eight months the group passed time with activities such as making collective drawings. Lam was also repeatedly depicting Holzer in drawings that evolved into a new personal style.