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Victor Brauner (1903-1966)
Property from The Museum of Modern Art Sold to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund
Victor Brauner (1903-1966)

Sans titre

Details
Victor Brauner (1903-1966)
Sans titre
signed and dated 'VICTOR BRAUNER 1938' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (55.5 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1938
Provenance
Mr. and Mrs. Nathan L. Halpern, New York (acquired from the artist, after 1945).
Gift from the above to the present owner, 1974.
Sale room notice
Samy Kinge has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Lot Essay

Samy Kinge has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Victor Brauner left his homeland of Romania in 1930 and settled in Paris, where he became deeply involved with the Dada and Surrealist review UNU and worked alongside Constantin Brancusi, Yves Tanguy, and Alberto Giacometti. Officially joining the Surrealist movement in 1932, Brauner derived much inspiration from the flatness of folk art, as well as from themes of spiritualism and the occult--interests inherited at a young age from his father.

In 1935 Brauner moved back to Bucharest due to a lack of funds only to return to Paris in 1938, the year in which the present work was painted. In a letter to André Breton who was staying with Diego Rivera at the time, he wrote, "I am finally here, where I so much wanted to be. I assure you that to me it seems magnificent to live in France, especially at this moment when in Europe there is not a single livable place. I had an enormous number of all sorts of difficulties in Romania" (quoted in D. Semin, "Victor Brauner and the Surrealist Movement," Victor Brauner: Surrealist Hieroglyphs, exh. cat., The Menil Collection, Houston, 2001, p. 29).

Returning to Paris didn't make circumstances any easier for Brauner. During a brawl in Oscar Dominguez's studio in August 1938 he was hit in the face by a randomly thrown glass and lost his left eye. This "cyclopean breach" as he called it, may explain the prominent right eye of the central figure in the present canvas. However, over time, his injury became a mark of destiny. Didier Semin observes, "from the accident in 1938, Brauner assumed the weighty role of serving as a living emblem of the chance encounter. He found himself...invested with a special authority amongst the other members of the Surrealist group. In many ways, the mutilation of his eye resembles the ancient ritual that George Domézil aptly called mutilation qualificante. Brauner described in this way his exchange of sight for vision:

'The hunter, the better to aim, closes his left eye for a moment.
The soldier, the better to shoot and kill, closes his left eye.
The marksman, in games of accuracy, closes his left eye the better to send a ball or an arrow to the center of the target.
As for me, I have closed my left eye forever; it was probably by chance that I was given the opportunity to see the center of life'" (ibid., p. 31).

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