… the effort [Miró] must exert to condense his sensations into pictures produces an effect to which playfulness itself is only a means.
… Masson strains after … the monstrous, the epically brutal, and the blasphemous … it has something too literal about it — too many gestures and too much forcing of color, texture, and symbol.
This is from ‘Review of Exhibitions on Joan Miró and André Masson’ (1944) found in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 1, edited by John O’Brian (1986):
Miró belongs among the living masters. He is the one new figure since the last war to have contributed importantly to the great painting tradition of our day — that which runs from Cézanne through fauvism and cubism. During the last ten years his work has maintained a very high level with a consistency neither Picasso nor Mondrian has equalled. The adjectives usually applied to Miró’s art are “amusing,” “playful,” and so forth. But they are not quite fair. Painting as great as his transcends and fuses every particular emotion; it is as heroic or tragic as it is comic. Certainly there is a mood specific to it, a playfulness which evinces the fact that Miró is comparatively happy within the limitations of his medium, that he realizes himself completely within its dominion. But the effort he must exert to condense his sensations into pictures produces an effect to which playfulness itself is only a means. This is “pure painting” if there ever was any, conceived in terms of paint, thought through and realized in no other terms.
… Picasso is more ambitious, more Promethean; he tries to reconcile great contradictions, to bend, mold, and lock forms into each other, to annihilate negative space by filling it with dense matter, and to make the undeniable two-dimensionality of the canvas voluminous and heavy. Miró is satisfied simply to punctuate, inclose, and interpret the cheerful emptiness of the plane surface. Never has there been painting which stayed more strictly within the dimensions, yet created so much variety and excitement of surface.
… André Masson has been an ambitious painter from the beginning, one who accepts and tries to solve the most difficult problems proposed by art in this age. Very little he has done is without interest; yet little so far seems capable of lasting. There is some lack in Masson of touch or “feel” — a lack dangerous to an artist who relies, or professes to rely, so much on automatism or pure spontaneity. A line either too Spencerian or too splintery weakens his drawings; an insistence upon multiplying and complicating planes, while combining two such color gamuts as violet-blue-green-yellow and brown-mauve-red-orange, renders his painting turgid, overheated, and discordant. Energy is dissipated in all directions.
Masson strains after that same terribilità which haunts Picasso, is obsessed by a similar nostalgia for the monstrous, the epically brutal, and the blasphemous. But being nostalgia, it has something too literal about it — too many gestures and too much forcing of color, texture, and symbol.