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Victor Brauner

/Works and biography

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Consciousness of Shock, April 1951
Encaustic on board, 64 x 80 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 113
© Victor Brauner, by SIAE 2008


A symbolic struggle is expressed between the human and bird halves of the hybrid form in Consciousness of Shock, in which Victor Brauner portrays a complex boat-shaped figure in the course of battling for control of itself. Drawn in the schematic profile style of Egyptian hieroglyphs, a large androgynous head unites with the raised prow of a boat elaborated with breasts. The body of the vessel, directed by rudderlike legs and feet, merges at the stern with the upright body of a bird. Two powerful hands, at the ends of crossed arms, suppress the internal battle by restraining the limbs of the bird, while a third hand doggedly forges progress along the river by paddling. Thus, in keeping with the nature of much psychic conflict, a difficult internal struggle is self-contained, while the vessel-self continues along a predetermined route. While a generalized Egyptian style undoubtedly influenced Brauner’s imagery, it seems more likely that the artist derived this fantastic visual vocabulary from his own imagination, rather from specific art-historical sources.

credits: Hangar Design Group