Victor Brauner (1903-1966)

Victor Brauner (1903–1966)

Victor Brauner is the second of the museum’s leading figures, alongside Gaston Chaissac. Brauner’s testamentary series Mythologie et La Fête des Mères (Mythology and Mothers’ Day, 1965) is on permanent display in a room devoted to the artist. Of Romanian descent, he settled in Paris in the 1930s. In 1931 this visionary artist had painted a premonitory portrait of the loss of his left eye, which subsequently came to pass in 1938 during a violent argument between two of his peers. Drawing on references he shared with the surrealists, a penchant for tribal art, the occult sciences and psychoanalysis, Victor Brauner developed his own artistic idiom extending towards a quintessential, stylised and hieratic portrayal of figures, universal women, chimera or hybrid creatures.

Brauner’s interest in psychoanalysis is condensed in the cycle Onomatomanies (Onomatomania). With the exceptional acquisition of two new paintings at public auction, the MASC now holds nineteen of the thirty-seven pieces that make up this series.

The Onomatomanies were painted in a single sitting in spring 1949. The cycle represents a unique, imaginative and exhilarating experience. When excluded from the surrealist movement, the artist made a significant shift away from cabalistic and esoteric themes to focus on the study of himself.

The striking term “Onomatomania” is a playful combination of “onoma” (Greek for “word”) and “mania”, similar to monomania, a fixed idea or obsession. The paintings bear the signature “Victor ∞”  [infinity], thereby asserting a pantheistic vision close to Kabbalah and a distancing from individual creation. The artist sees himself as a demiurge, contextualising the problems he faces as a man and artist, rejecting the world in general in order to attain the universal realm.


Lecture (in French) by Didier Semin, professor at the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (ENSBA): “Réinventer la pensée sauvage : Victor Brauner” (Reinventing untamed thought: Victor Brauner), 13 December at 6.45 pm.