Victor Brauner, surrealist painter

Refugee from Romania between 1938 and 1963

Victor Brauner was born into a Jewish family on 15 June 1903 in Piatra Neamt, a town in the north-eastern part of Romania, in the Carpathian Mountains. In 1919, he attended Bucharest's National School of Fine Arts, where his work was deemed scandalous, thus leading to his expulsion shortly after. He then went on to take part in local avant-garde movements.

In 1930, Victor Brauner came to Paris. He met André Breton, whose painting “The Strange Case of Monsieur K” – which was inspired by a character created by Jarry (Ubu Roi) – powerfully illustrates all facets of the potentially destructive forces of society. Victor Brauner joined the Surrealist group and held his first exhibition in Paris in 1934.

Upon his return to Romania, he discovered that anti-Semitic policies had risen sharply under pressure from extremist movements. Jewish avant-garde artists were accused of destroying the principles of classical beauty, national tradition and expressing the "nihilistic Jewish spirit".

And so Victor Brauner left his native country for France once again in 1938. That same year he lost his left eye when he was struck by shards of glass during a scuffle between two other artists. After the defeat of June 1940, he fled to the free zone and was hidden in Provence by the poet René Char when the area was occupied. The lack of stability in his life compelled him to make do with what little he had, thus leading him to paint with wax.

In 1954, Victor Brauner was recognised as a "refugee on site since 1938". He was naturalised in 1963.

Victor Brauner died in 1966, the same year that France honoured him by appointing him as its representative at the Venice Biennale. His body of work is housed in various locations including the Centre Pompidou, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in Strasbourg, the Museum of Modern Art in the Saint-Etienne Metropolis and the Museum of the Sainte-Croix Abbey in Sables-d'Olonne.