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Victor Brauner was born on June 15, 1903, in Piatra-Neamt in Romania. His father was involved in spiritualism and sent Brauner to Evangelical school in Braïla from 1916 to 1918. In 1921 he briefly attended the School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, where he painted Cézannesque landscapes. He exhibited expressionist-style paintings in his first solo show at the Galerie Mozart in Bucharest in 1924. Brauner was one of the founders of the Dadaist 75 HP review in Bucharest. He travelled to Paris in 1925 but returned to Bucharest a year later, where he became associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist review UNU in 1929.
Brauner settled in Paris in 1930 and became a friend of his compatriot Constantin Brancusi. He later met Yves Tanguy, who introduced him to the Surrealists in around 1933. André Breton wrote an enthusiastic introduction to the catalogue for Brauner’s first Parisian solo show at the Galerie Pierre in 1934. The exhibition, however, was not well-received and in 1935 Brauner returned to Bucharest, where he remained until 1938. That year he moved to Paris, lived briefly with Tanguy, and painted a number of works featuring distorted human figures with mutilated eyes. These paintings, which he had started creating as early as 1931, proved gruesomely prophetic when he lost his own eye in a scuffle in 1938. At the outset of World War II Brauner fled to the south of France, where he maintained contact with other Surrealists in Marseilles. He later sought refuge in Switzerland where, unable to obtain suitable materials, he improvised an encaustic from candle wax and developed a graffito technique.
Brauner returned to Paris in 1945. He was included in the Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1947. His postwar painting incorporated forms and symbols based on Tarot cards, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and antique Mexican codices. In the 1950s Brauner traveled to Normandy and Italy, and his work was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and in 1966. He died in Paris on March 12, 1966.