“The Last Trip” by Victor Brauner 1937.
Born in Romania, Victor Brauner was a significant player in the art world in the early 20th century publishing the avant-garde magazine 75HP in Bucharest in 1924 when he was 21. After heading to Paris for a short time, he met another young Surrealist, Yves Tanguy. Tanguy was already deeply involved with Surrealism, and his work had been shown in group exhibitions along with Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and many other influential creatives not only in Paris but New York, London, and Brussels. Tanguy would introduce his new friend to the Surrealist circle in Paris in 1933. A year later, the leader of the Surrealist movement in Paris, André Breton wrote a glowing introduction for Brauner in honor of his first solo show in the city. Although the Parisian Surrealist community dug Brauner, the reviews for his fledgling show were disparaging, and Brauner moved back to Bucharest to try to sort things out.
Brauner returned to Paris in 1938 where he would experience an incident thought by some to have been foreseen by the artist for several years. If you are familiar with Surrealism’s ethos, then you understand at its core it embraces the concept of tapping into the subconscious mind without restriction in order to create. Setting his unconscious mind free was not difficult for Brauner and his work is full of complexity, warped configurations of people, and perhaps a prophecy concerning his own eyes. Eyes were a widely recurring theme in Brauner’s work, appearing regularly in his paintings as early as 1931 when he painted a self-portrait of himself with his right eye gouged out. Seven years later Brauner would have a run-in at a bar with Spanish artist Óscar Domínguez trying to defend his friend, another Spanish Surrealist, Esteban Francés. In a drunken rage, Domínguez hurled a glass at Esteban. Brauner threw himself in front of his friend and the glass collided with his left eye, ripping it from its socket.
Just before the outbreak of WWII Brauner ended up in Switzerland after deciding not to re-apply for citizenship—a new requirement for all Jews living in France. This was a good move considering what was to come, and the fact Brauner painted a fantastically unflattering portrait of Hitler in 1934 made it all the more so. Following the end of WWII Brauner went back to Paris where he would continue to work until his death in 1966. Images of Brauner’s work including an odd piece of taxidermy he created in 1939 called “Loup-table” (or “Wolf-Table”) inspired by two of his paintings done the same year, “Fascination” and “Psychological Space” depicting an angry wolf incorporated into a table, follow.
“Suicide at Dawn” 1931.
“Composition without Portrait” early 1930s.
“The Head of Benjamin Fondane” 1931. A fellow Romainian, Fondane was poet, screenwriter, and existentialist philosopher. He was sent to the gas chamber during the last wave of the Holocaust in 1944.
Brauner’s portrait of Hitler, 1934.
“The Glowworm” 1933.
“Luxury Air” 1934.
“The Reappearance of Hypergenesis” 1932.
“Au Crepescule” 1938.
“Extreme Reconciliation” 1941.
“The Encounter” 1946.
“Psychological Space” 1939.
Brauner’s taxidermy “Loup-table.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Yves Tanguy: The master Surrealist who ate spiders and created smutty sketches just for fun
Dream of Venus: Inside Salvador Dalí‘s spectacular & perverse Surrealist funhouse from 1939
The photographs of pioneering Japanese surrealist Kansuke Yamamoto
From Russia with drugs: The twisted erotic surrealism of Dmitry Vorsin
Sex, Satan and surrealism: The unsettling erotica of Michael Hutter