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Masonite Paintings

William H. Mason patented Masonite in 1924. He wanted to find a use for the wood chip waste produced by sawmills. Mason found that by steaming the wood fibers and then pressing them together, he could create hardboard. The resulting product, Masonite, was one of several hardboard materials developed from the 1890s onward.

Masonite is dark brown in color, with a smooth surface and a textured reverse. Unlike wood panels, Masonite does not swell or shrink with the weather, though it may warp. If the artist sands the smooth surface to create “tooth” to hold paint, the panel loses its integrity and becomes more susceptible to the effects of temperature and humidity changes.

Masonite signifies ideas of practicality, industrial production, organic, and inexpensive material. Artists began experimenting with Masonite as a painting support almost right away. American folk artist Grandma Moses, the Surrealist Leonora Carrington, and Abstract Expressionists Franz Kline, Willem De Kooning, and Hans Hofman are a sampling of artists who used Masonite.

Quick Facts

  • On June 24, 2015, Fernand Léger, "Composition abstraite," 1941, an oil on Masonite painting, sold for £182,500 in an Impressionist and Modern Art sale at Christie’s London
  • Leonora Carrington, "A Camelia for Ánima," c. 1958, a painting in oil and tempera on Masonite, sold for $250,000 in a Latin American Modern and Contemporary Art sale at Sotheby’s New York
  • Ilya Kabakov, "Holidays #10," 1987, a mixed media composition on Masonite, sold for £1,497,250 in 2011 at Phillips (then Phillips de Pury) in the second and final of the company’s BRIC-themed sales

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