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Victor Brauner

1903-1966

Victor Brauner was a painter and sculptor, born in 1903 in Patra Neamt, a small town in the Carpathians in Romania. He was an essential figure of Surrealism, a movement he joined in 1932. An active member of the avant-garde in Bucharest during the 1920s, he visited Paris periodically in 1925 before settling there permanently in 1938. It was in Paris that he made the decisive encounters that influenced his subsequent artistic career: Brancusi, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, René Char, and of course André Breton, the theoretician and leader of the movement, who praised him and considered him to be “…the leader of a magnificent body of work – by far the most important made in Paris, […] probably the only one that counts.”

From his childhood with a spiritualist father, the young Brauner retained and maintained a pronounced taste for the hidden, mysterious, occult and esoteric worlds, dimensions which intensely stimulated his imagination to better inform his work. The loss of his eye in 1938 made a premonition of his eyeless self-portrait, painted seven years earlier. He subsequently became seized with the conviction that he could see beyond the visible, through a kind of magical thought, which accentuated his aura of great mystery and his status as a “painter-seer.”

Brauner’s world is populated by chimaeras, human beings with hybrid, reinvented bodies, symbolic animals, erotic protuberances, a whole living matter which formed the basis of a language granting access, not to reality, but to its hidden dimensions. This fertile imagination, which was constantly evolving, came to life throughout a wide variety of techniques and media that translated his successive objects of research: paintings on canvas, plaster sculptures, candle drawings, subverted objects.

Offering a cryptic vision of the world, Brauner’s complex and multifaceted work echoes the great upheavals of the twentieth century. It was exhibited in the 1930s in Paris in the context of Surrealist demonstrations or solo exhibitions, following his premiere at the Galerie Pierre in 1934. But Brauner’s recognition was to come after the war. Amongst the important exhibitions, the one at the Maeght Gallery in 1947, where he presented his being-object le Loup-table, represented his break from the Surrealist group. He continued to exhibit in Paris, at the Galerie Pierre Loeb, and at Alexandre Iolas in New York. As a consecration, he was chosen to represent France at the Venice Biennale in 1966, the year of his death.

Brauner’s works are included in major modern art collections: those of the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou in Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, the first collection to incorporate one of his works, in 1949.


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Victor Brauner in his studio. Photo Ernst Scheidegger © Foundation Ernst Scheidegger Archives

“Each drawing, each discovery will be an extraordinary unknown place, each painting will be an adventure.”

Victor Brauner, Écrits et correspondances, 1938-1948, C. Morando and S. Patry (éd.), Paris, Centre Pompidou / INHA, 2005

The painter Victor Brauner, an emblematic artist of unusual images, of premonitions and chimaeric figures, was inspired by the primitive arts to express his feelings on canvas. The influence of Egyptian art can clearly be discerned in his work, particularly in his profile portraits representing women with extended gazes. The Hopi Indians and their masks were another major source of inspiration for the artist, who used coloured, geometric motifs in many of his compositions.

Luc Joubert, Victor Brauner's studio in Varengeville, [c. 1966], Fonds Brauner, BRAU 127

Video: directed and staged by Fabrice Maze, ©SevenDoc

Victor Brauner was one of the major figures of the Surrealist movement, and certainly the most enigmatic. He joined the movement in 1933 after definitively settling in France. Over the course of his childhood, two events made a major impression on him.

The first was the passage of Halley’s Comet, which Victor Brauner’s father took to be a sign of the end of the world. The second were the spiritualism sessions organised in the family home, which Victor attended in secret. This magical, superstitious universe would never leave him and would go on to influence his subsequent artistic creation. Victor Brauner borrowed from these various traditions whilst inventing his own mythology, including scultures, objects, paintings, all imbued with an intention. His work invites us to a genuine alchemical initiation to the image.

“Faced with Victor Brauner's current painting, my joy is part of the sacred.”

André Breton

Artworks

Victor Brauner

Moulure modifiée n°3, 1956
Oil on canvas
65 x 54 cm | 25 5/8 x 21 1/4 in.

Victor Brauner, La Vénus Dema

1955

Victor Brauner, Le Matin

1962

Victor Brauner, Personnage

1949

Exhibitions

Art Fairs

News

Surrealism Beyond Borders

October 11, 2021 - January 30, 2022

The Met Museum

A telephone receiver that morphs into a lobster. A miniature train that rushes from a fireplace. These are just a few of the familiar images associated with Surrealism, a revolutionary idea sparked in Paris around 1924 that asserted the unconscious and dreams over the familiar and every day. While Surrealism could generate often poetic and […]

Surrealism Beyond Borders

Victor Brauner

September 18, 2020 - April 25, 2021

Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris

For its exhibition dedicated to that singular Surrealist Victor Brauner (1903–1966), the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is publishing a monograph containing over a hundred paintings and drawings, some of them on show for the first time since the last Paris retrospective, at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in 1972. The presentation sequence runs as […]

Victor Brauner

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