Wolfgang Paalen, Paris
Acoris - The Surrealist Art Centre, London
Private collection, since 1971
Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Glancing at the Century, 28 June - 20 September 1998, p. 104, ill. p. 105
In 1937, Victor Brauner, a sarcastic Surrealist painter, former communist and Jew, was about to leave Bucharest heading to Paris, for reasons of political and artistic freedom.
Knowing that he would be able to leave strictly only with the basics, Brauner painted in very small formats, oils on oak panels of about twenty centimetres sideways. He treated his compositions with an acute sense of meticulousness, like a miniaturist. However, neither the precise treatment nor the small dimensions and the use of a palette with light tints could under any circumstances obscure the complex subjects depicted therein. The human figure, most of the time lost in a setting worthy of Giorgio de Chirico’s works, is abused, sometimes deformed, sometimes hybrid, half-man, half-machine. The eyes, mouths, noses, sexes are prominent, transforming these creatures into dismantled puppets, both gloomy and comical.
In the case of The Man in an Interior, we distinguish many borrowed references from the world of hunting: the creature with a greyish complexion carries a shotgun serving as a headgear, a leather boot and green trousers ideal for camouflage. However, the shadow it casts on the floor is that of a man with perfectly normal proportions. The title of the work, which could not have been more classical, takes on an ambiguity that perfectly befits Brauner and his unleashed imagination.
Brauner’s surrealism, from its early beginnings, claimed to be uncompromising. With his paintbrush gifted with a striking dexterity, he criticized the society in which he lived, the humanity ready to plunge into horror and the importance of imagination as a means to exorcise fear; all rendered with a sarcastic black humour, both rational and metaphysical.
The Man in an interior was probably painted as a tribute to Wolfgang Paalen, a painter of Austrian origin, who rubbed shoulders with the surrealists’ circle at the same time as Brauner did in Paris. What allows us to express this assumption is the work adorning the wall behind the man. The coexistence of the moon and sun, the flames emanating from a dreamlike landscape, the humanlike figure reminding of a flower, seem to have been borrowed from the Austrian painter. Despite their quite different style, both painters express the same interests and the same fears.