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Eugene Massin

Eugene (Gene) Massin (1920---2003) was born in Galveston, Texas to Russian Jewish immigrant parents.  He developed an early interest in the sea and the painter, Alfred Pinkham Ryder, known for his stormy sea paintings [1].

By 1938, Massin was in Chicago studying art at the Art Institute, with its fabulous museum, while he also became educated at the University of Chicago (Prabook states that it was Loyola University in Chicago) [2].  He earned Bachelor Degrees from both. From 1941---1946, Massin was the Pacific Combat Artist for the United States Armed Forces. An eye surgery performed at a hospital in South Carolina was the occasion where he met his wife, Helen Levitt, who worked there. They had three children: Barry, Robin, and Leslie.

After receiving his Bachelor’s, he moved to study with David Alfaro Siqueiros at the Escuela University of Bellas Artes, Guanajuato, Mexico where he received his Master’s degree and met Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orosco. Following his study, Massin taught variously at the Escuela in Guanajuato, University in Wisconsin-Madison, University of South Carolina, Charleston, and was an artist-in-residence at the University of Morgantown in West Virginia in 1964---1965 during the time he was Professor of Art at the University of Miami, Florida from 1956---1985. 

Important exhibits were awarded by both New York museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Massin, Audrey Wright, and Margaret Lefranc were included in a landmark group exhibit for the 30th Anniversary of the Coconut Grove Artists’ Group in the Coconut Grove Playhouse [3].

His art often included scenes of animals, especially horses and human activities: Bicycles, Waiting Room, Race Track, Parking Lot, Bull Fight, Parade, Football Game, Runners on a Sandy Beach [4]. Massin’s art is in the collections at Brandeis Rose Museum, Jacksonville Art Museum, and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota [5].

The angular style is abstracted but generally the themes are recognizable. He worked in lacquers until the toxicity caused him to return to oils, using oil over lacquer on occasion. Margaret Lefranc, though older than most of the Coconut Grove artists, explored painting in lacquer under Massin’s influence [6]. Impasto oils with thick oblongs and petal leaf shapes characterize his style, using tubes, knives, brushes, and rags as part of his process. 

In 1963, he worked on the set design for an opera [7]. Recipient of the Opera Design Award, the Humanities Award of the University of Miami and the James Nelson Raymond Fellowship [8].

He and his son, Barry, had a long partnership in the arts. Barry engineered the machines used to realize his father’s designs. The studio they worked at was a 1912 house on a half acre in Coconut Grove that Massin acquired in 1959. Living elsewhere, Massin decided that he should finally move to the studio so he could work anytime creating the paintings, hanging, and outdoor pieces in acrylic and stainless steel. A multi-faceted and much loved artist, he was a fixture in the Miami art scene for many decades.

[1] Eugene Massin:  Retrospective 1955---1965, Joe & Emily Lowe Art Gallery, University of Miami/Coral Gables, 1966.

[2]; Roberta Klein story in the South Florida SunSentinel, May 29, 1995, for University of Chicago degree in 1948.

[3] Miami News, February 12, 1986

[4] Eugene Massin:  Retrospective 1955---1965, Joe & Emily Lowe Art Gallery, University of Miami/Coral Gables, 1966.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging:  The Art of Margaret Lefranc, p.196

[7] Eugene Massin:  Retrospective 1955---1965, Joe & Emily Lowe Art Gallery, University of Miami/Coral Gables, 1966. 


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