Successively a bank clerk, accountant and sales representative, Baskine finally discovered alchemy in 1937, via the book Letter From the Cosmopolitan by Alexander Sethon, and began his search for the Philosopher's Stone while living in Fontenay-sous-Bois, just outside Paris, with his wife. Taking his inspiration from alchemical symbolism, Baskine also made painted images and objects in plaster tinted to imitate "the matter of the Great Work." In 1945, at the Galerie Katia Granoff in Paris, he showed Le Temple du Mas, which caught the eye of Jean Dubuffet. At the exhibition, Surrealism in 1947, at Galerie Maeght, he presented Le Mas Goth, which featured a double Janus head and a mandrake. André Breton asked him to illustrate the deluxe edition of Arcane 17 (1947 edition) with three etchings. Baskine developed "fantasophy," a system of thought comparable to a philosophy of fantasy (or phantasm). Calling himself the "last of the alchemists, first fantasopher," at the start of a lecture against the prophesies of Nostradamus that his surrealist friends asked him to give at the Hotel Lutétia, Baskine was petrified and rendered speechless in front of the audience. After his wife left him in 1951, Baskine moved into a garret in an apartment building on Boulevard Edgar Quinet in Paris. Simone Collinet helped him by organizing two exhibitions at the Galerie Furstenberg (in 1952 and 1957) and a oneday show (October 6,1954) of his altarpiece La Mére Folle (Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris). In 1964 Baskine exhibited his triptych Fantasophopolis (6.5'x 16') at the Galerie Charpentier's surrealism retrospective and, in 1968, Le Conquérant de l'espace at the Salon de Mai. He created the mixedmedia series, Androgyries, Les Travaux, Personnages aux Sceaux, Ogives and Prophètes. In 1990, his principal collector, Jean Saucet, showed every Baskine piece he owned at the Grenier du Chapiteau, in Cahors, France. Since then, most of Baskine's works—including his album of prints, Bacchanales, his series Les Treize Heures de ma Mère l'Oye (36 plates) and Cris de Lumière captès dans l'Un-fini (33 plates)—are in the collection of the Musée d'Art Moderne in Cordes-sur-Ciel, France. This small medieval city, which dates back to the Cathars, has a Maison des Surréalistes, where one can learn about fantasophy and view the film Maurice Baskine by Jean Desvilles, with a commentary by Paul Sanda.  

Maurice Baskine

Born 1901 in Kharkov, Russia; died 1968 in Paris. 

The Siren, Mixed Media, 1961