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Victor Brauner

/Works and biography

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The Surrealist (Le Surréaliste), January 1947
Oil on canvas, 60 x 45 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection 76.2553 PG 111
© Victor Brauner, by SIAE 2008


In The Surrealist Victor Brauner borrows motifs from the tarot to create a portrait of himself as a young man. The tarot was a subject of widespread interest to Brauner and other Surrealists. One tarot card, the Juggler (the first card in the Marseille tarot deck), provided Brauner with a key prototype for his self-portrait: the Surrealist’s large hat, medieval costume, and the position of his arms all derive from this figure who, like Brauner’s subject, stands behind a table displaying a knife, a goblet, and coins. The tarot Juggler appropriately symbolizes the creativity of the Surrealist poet, for it refers to the capacity of each individual to create his own personality through intelligence, wit, and initiative, and thus to play with his own future, as the juggler manipulates his baton. In the Waite tarot deck, the first card is the Magician. A sign of infinity (the symbol of life) that appears above the Magician’s head is also depicted on the hat of Brauner’s Surrealist. Drawing on the Juggler-Magician prototype, Brauner illustrates the traditional signs of the four suits in the tarot deck. These objects and all natural life are controlled by the Juggler, just as all creative life is at the disposal of the Surrealist poet, who wields his pen as the Juggler brandishes his wand.

credits: Hangar Design Group