Brauner spent his youth in Bucharest, first as a student at the School of Fine Arts and then as an active member of the artistic avant-garde. With his friend, the poet Ilarie Voronca, he founded the review 75 HP, where he expounded on a personal concept he called "pictopoetry," which advocated a synthesis of drawing and writing. His exhibition in 1925, at Galerie Mozart, shocked the public with its resolute modernism. Brauner also illustrated the collected poems of Stefan Roll and Sasa Pana, and was one of the leading collaborators on the review UNU.
He arrived in Paris in 1930, and with the support of his fellow countryman Constantin Brancusi, began a series of paintings that were both satirical and fantastic (Morphologie de l'Homme, 1933; L'Étrange cas de monsieur K, 1933). After Yves Tanguy—whose atelier was nearby—introduced him to the surrealist group, Brauner had an exhibition, in 1934, at the Galerie Pierre, with a catalog preface by André Breton. He returned to Bucharest from 1935 to 1938, promoting surrealism and influencing the poets Gellu Naum and Gherasim Luca. Back in Paris, on August 27, 1938, Brauner lost an eye while trying to separate two companions about to come to blows during a turbulent meeting, when he was struck by a bottle thrown by Óscar Domínguez, one of the combatants. It was soon discovered that Brauner had predicted this injury in his paintings. Seven years earlier he'd painted a self-portrait with an enucleated eye, along with many canvases evoking scenes of being blinded in one eye. The doctor who treated him, Dr. Pierre Mabille, offered a psychoanalytic interpretation of these premonitions in "L'CEil du peintre," an article published in a 1939 issue of Minotaure. As soon as Brauner was able to resume painting, he radically changed his manner and began his "chimeras," or twilight period, creating apparitions of hallucinatory creatures that inhabited spaces steeped in dusky darkness. During the Second World War, while taking shelter in a village in the Basses-Alpes, he evolved toward his magic period, with hieratic scenes composed from symbols of the Hermetic thinkers (Stable Instable,1942,Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris), executing paintings that incorporated wax on cardboard (Strigoi la Somnambule, 1946; Progression Pantaculaire, 1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York). After playing an active role in organizing the exhibition, Surrealism in 1947, at Galerie Maeght, he broke with the surrealists, in 1948, and had an important retrospective at the Galerie Drouin. Brauner began a cycle of autobiographic paintings, expressing an egocentric mythology, beginning with his large painting La Rencontre avec moi-mêrne. In 1951 he embarked on a series called Rétractés, which depicted extremely powerful images of anguish. As he grew more serene, Brauner entered his outils spirituels period. In his last two exhibitions, at the Galerie lolas in Paris, in 1964 and 1966, he thoroughly renewed the technique and content of his work. His traveling retrospective, organized in 1965 by Vienna's Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, boosted his prestige in Europe. Between his studio in Montmartre and his estate in Varengeville, he gave himself over to philosophical-lyrical musings on nature and man that often went beyond surrealism proper. At the request of his widow, Jacqueline, France was bequeathed Brauner's oeuvre, resulting in the 1996 exhibition Victor Brauner dans les collections du MNAM-CCI (catalog ed. Didier Semin), at the Centre Georges-Pompidou, and published the comprehensive volume, Victor Brauner, Écrits et Correspondances 7938-7948 (2005), which presents a portion of the artist's archival holdings.
Born 1903 in Piatra-Neamtz, Romania; died 1966 in Paris.