Henri Masson


Henri Masson

Henri Masson was born on January 10, 1907 near Namur, Belgium. He quickly began to take an interest in drawing and, self-taught, he began painting at the age of 13. He immigrated to Canada a few years later after his father’s death and without hesitation began his artistic studies at the Ottawa Art Association in parallel with his training in an engraving workshop.

Henri Masson was quickly spotted by several artists and gallerists around him. He first presented his work in 1936 at the Ontario Society of Artist in Toronto. In the early 1940s several articles appeared on his work and advocated the realism, the liveliness of the colors and the sense of light that one finds in his works. Against the current of cubism and surrealism which took its place at the same time, he will work meticulously the landscapes, villages, seaside and scenes of life that surround him. 

Several exhibitions were then organized in his honour from 1938 to 1945, such as the exhibition with the Canadian Group of Painters in New York and then in Montreal and especially his participation in the Rio de Janeiro biennial.

He was later called to the bench in the National Gallery of Canada’s war artists competition with the great masters of his time H. McCurry, A..Y. Jackson, and a. Lismer. Following this prestigious title, he turned to teaching and became a professor at Queens University and then at the Banff School of fine arts.

The 1950s will be a return to his roots and a formalization of his professional painter status thanks to the honorary doctorate he will receive from Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario.

Following a period of discovery in his painting as well as an evolution with regard to his work, several critics perceive in him a maturity as well as a vigorous and dynamic composition.

He was described in 1958 as one of the best water-colourists in the country. Several of these journeys will be at the origin of this artistic inspiration since he will travel often in Europe but also in the Soviet Union and the East, as in Japan, Malaysia in Thailand or China.


Henri Masson died on February 9, 1996 in Ottawa.

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