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Daniel Massen immigrated to the United States in 1929 after completing his art training at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. Settling in Chicago, he quickly achieved success as an industrial and interior designer. Many of his interiors included murals of his own design, which reflected the prevailing tastes of the time of stylized art deco figures and patterns. One of Massen's best known interiors was for the Chicago Athletic Club. It is not clear when Massen began to explore pure abstraction and geometry in his painting, but perhaps his affinity for grids and patterning originated in his design and mural work of the 1920s. Several of his mural studies from this period are nonobjective.

In 1930 Massen hired the young artist Charles Biederman to assist him as a housepainter, interior designer, and pewter ware designer. As Biederman developed as an artist the two influenced each other and remained supportive friends through each other's lives. Many of Massen's rigidly geometric paintings and constructions show this affiliation with Biederman. When Laszló Moholy-Nagy set up his New Bauhaus school in Chicago named the Chicago School of Design, Massen was asked to be an instructor, teaching color theory, painting, and design through the 1940s. The influence of Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus led Massen's art become entirely based on geometry. Among all the non-objective work produced in Chicago during the 1930s and 1940s, Massen's paintings and constructions are the most severe and mature.

Massen exhibited regularly in the Art Institute of Chicago annual exhibitions and was included in the Abstract and Surrealist American Art exhibition at the same museum in 1947-48. He does not appear to have exhibited much outside of Chicago, with the exception of a masterful, large geometric construction with Lucite and copper elements at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts around 1940. Massen continued to paint and teach in Chicago until 1962 when he moved to Washington, DC, where he died in 1971.

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