Victor Brauner was born in Piatra Neamt (in Moldavia, Romania) in 1903. His father was a Spiritualist, and from an early age Brauner took part in Spiritualist séances at home. It was in his mature years that this philosophical religious movement had an effect on his creative development.
Brauner received his early art education at the Art Academy in Bucharest and had his first solo exhibition there in 1924. His early works were mainly landscapes, painted “in the spirit of Cézanne”, as he said himself.
Between 1925-1927 Brauner lived in Paris. This was a significant period for him, as it was when he discovered the Surrealist movement, which he remained associated with for many years. His works during this time portray an alarming, dark and fantastical world, populated with weird creatures in amorphous animal shapes. In 1939 he returned to Bucharest briefly, and then settled finally in Paris. He was accepted into a group of surrealist artists which included Constantin Brâncusi, Yves Tanguy, Giorgio di Chirico and Joan Miró. In 1934 he had his first solo exhibition in Paris, which was opened by André Breton himself, the ideologist and leader of the surrealist movement. After this exhibition Brauner regularly took part in Paris exhibitions. His compositions are fantasy worlds inhabited by creatures which seem to have emerged from terrifying dreams. One of his main motifs from this period is “the eye” - eyes which exist on the canvas independent of everything else.
In 1949 Brauner broke off relations with the group of Surrealists, and this marked the beginning of the time which he referred to as his “autobiographical period”. The works of this period portray imaginary, “esoteric” images which reflect the development of his life and his spiritual experience. He addresses us and future generations not through contemporary symbols, which quickly become outmoded, but with thousand-year old images that have a universal significance: totems, ancient symbols of life and death, symbolic animals, representing the eternally recurring cycle of life.
Brauner’s later works are in an abstract style which takes its motifs from the symbolism of the prehistoric rock art of primitive tribes in Europe, Egypt, and pre-Columbian America. Visitors to his studio in Paris were impressed by his collection of oceanic cult objects and applied art artifacts from early American tribes. It is not coincidental that one of the works bought by the New York Metropolitan Museum was Brauner’s “Prelude to a Civilisation”: the symbolism of the primitive ancient tribes is incorporated into this monumental artistic composition.
In 1965 Brauner had a solo exhibition in Amsterdam. By this time his reputation in art circles around the world was firmly established. In 1966 he represented the art of France at the Venice Biennale. He died in March of the same year and is buried in Montmartre cemetery. The epitaph on his tomb is an inscription of his own words: “Painting is life, the real life, my life”.
Brauner’s paintings and drawings (particularly his posters) can be found in famous collections around the world: the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, MOMA in San Francisco and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Today Brauner’s drawings, (his posters and etchings), are sought-after objects in the auction houses of Europe and America.