World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Wolfgang Paalen

Wolfgang Paalen
Paalen, c. 1940
Born (1905-07-22)July 22, 1905
Vienna, Austria
Died September 24, 1959(1959-09-24) (aged 54)
Taxco, Mexico
Nationality Austrian-Mexican
Education Philosophy, art
Known for Painting, sculpture, art theory
Movement Surrealism
Spouse(s) 1. 1934: Alice Phillipot, later Rahon
2. 1947: Luchita del Solar
3. 1957: Isabel Marín

Wolfgang Robert Paalen (July 22, 1905 in Vienna, Austria – September 24, 1959 in Taxco, Mexico) was an Austrian-Mexican painter, sculptor and art philosopher. A member of the Abstraction-Création group from 1934–35, he joined the influential Surrealist movement in 1935 and was one of its prominent exponents until 1942. Whilst in exile in Mexico, he founded his own counter-surrealist art-magazine DYN, in which he tried to reconcile diverging materialist and mystical tendencies in Surrealism with his philosophy of contingency. He rejoined the group between 1951 and 1954, during his sojourn in Paris.


  • Family and childhood 1
  • Early teachers and decline of the family 2
  • Paris and surrealism 3
    • Fumage and first masterpieces 3.1
    • International Exhibition of Surrealism 1938 and surrealist objects 3.2
    • The paintings of 1938–39 and plans for Mexico 3.3
    • The first years of exile in Mexico 3.4
  • The war years 4
    • DYN 4.1
    • The new concept of space in painting 4.2
  • After the war 5
    • Archeological passions 5.1
    • San Francisco, Paris 5.2
    • Last years in Mexico and suicide 5.3
  • Poet and writer 6
  • Legacy 7
  • Art market 8
  • Artworks 9
  • Essays in DYN 10
    • In English 10.1
    • In French 10.2
  • References 11
  • Literature 12
    • Selected biographies 12.1
    • Selected exhibitions and catalogues 12.2
    • Reprint of DYN 12.3
  • External links 13

Family and childhood

Entrance to Paalen's birthplace, Köstlergasse 1, Vienna

Wolfgang Paalen was born in one of the famous Wienzeilenhäuser designed by Otto Wagner in Vienna (Köstlergasse 1 / Linke Wienzeile No. 40), Austria. He was the first of four sons of the Austrian-Jewish merchant and inventor Gustav Robert Paalen, and his German wife, the actress Clothilde Emilie Gunkel. Gustav Robert, who had Polish-Ashkenazi and Spanish-Sephardic origins, converted to Protestantism in 1900 and changed his name from Pollak to Paalen in the same year.[1][2] His considerable wealth was based on modernist inventions and patents such as the vacuum cleaner, the vacuum flask, known under the name Thermos bottle, and the first flow-type heater (for Junkers), amongst others. In a relatively short period Gustav R. Paalen managed to ascend into the distinguished Viennese upper-class of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became also a well known collector of Old Master paintings with masterpieces, like Francisco Goya´s Señora Sabasa Garcia, which he had acquired from the Berlin patron Henri James Simon and is today one of the highlights of the National Gallery, Washington. As a friend of Wilhelm von Bode and member of the Freundeskreis des Kaiser-Friedrich Museums, Berlin, he also financed the acquisition of the famous Titian painting Venus with the Organ-Player.

Castle of the Paalen-family in Sagan from 1913-34

The first years of his life Wolfgang Paalen spent between Vienna and Johann Sebastian Bach, who thus became Wolfgang's favourite composer.[3]

Early teachers and decline of the family

In 1919 the family moved to Hans Hofmann in Munich and, in 1928, Saint-Tropez. He then decided to settle in Paris. The year 1928 marks also the beginning of the decline of the family´s splendour, once founded on the patriarchal rules of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. After a homoerotic affair with a mental healer, his younger brother Hans-Peter died unexpectedly in a Berlin insane asylum, presumably of suicide; the parents consequently separated; their mother´s bipolar disposition intensified as a result; the fortune of Gustav Paalen is quashed after the Black Tuesday, 1929. A later tragedy, crucial to Paalen's development, was his beloved brother Rainer's shooting himself in head with a pistol. Wolfgang witnessed the event, although Rainer survived, following treatment in a Berlin hospital and escaped from the city in 1933. He died in a mental hospital in Czechoslovakia in 1942.[4]

Paris and surrealism

Paalen in his studio apartment, rue Pernety, Paris, about 1933
Verbotenes Land ("Forbidden Land"), 1936

In Paris he studied for a short time with fumage (Dictated by a Candle) and the Surrealist Exhibition of Objects in Paris (Galerie Charles Ratton), both in 1936, following his first one-man-show in Surrealism at Galerie Pierre. The contact with Breton deepened during that time and Paalen also participated in the design of Breton´s Galerie Gradiva. There he met and worked with Marcel Duchamp and presented his object Chaise envahie de lierre, acquired in the gallery by Marie-Laure de Noailles, who installed it in her famous bathroom, mentioned and illustrated in Harper's Bazaar in April 1938.[5]

Fumage and first masterpieces

In the course of his association with the Surrealists and their attempts to transform automatic writing into drawing and painting, he created fumage – a technique for generating evocative patterns with the smoke and soot of a lit candle. Between 1936 and 1937 Paalen developed with these visionary-ephemeral forms on canvas, which he then mostly painted over in oil, a number of mature paintings which soon made his international reputation.

In 1936 he discovered the discrete affair of Pablo Picasso with Alice Rahon which had led to an abortion.[6] The deep crisis of the couple and Paalen´s first grave attack of depression led to his first important surrealist masterpiece, Pays interdit ("Forbidden Land"), an apocalyptic landscape dominated by a female goddess and fallen, meteorite-like planets. This was also the first painting, into which he artfully integrated his fumage, in the extremely fine, crystalline execution of the lower section. In 1937 he realized many paintings in this style, including Fata Alaska.

International Exhibition of Surrealism 1938 and surrealist objects

Les étrangers, 1937

Together with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Salvador Dalí, Paalen was among those responsible for the design of the 1938 International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he produced a floor, with dead leaves and mud from the Montparnasse Cemetery, and an installation named Avant La Mare, consisting of an artificial pond with water, real water-lilies and reeds, beneath Duchamp's ceiling of empty coal sacks. The doll Paalen decorated, with her silk scarf, big screaming bat above her head, and eerie leaf dress covered with mushrooms, resembled the scarcely visible, hovering and gliding totemistic fairy creatures of his paintings. He also participated in the editorial of the catalogue, published as Dictionnaire abrégé du Surrealisme to the show, in which his most famous object, Nuage articulé, was discretely announced as a drawing. Recent research suggests that Paalen had a huge influence on the design of the exhibition's Great Hall. Other critics suggest that the entire installation was meant to imply the minatorial situation of the Surrealist group itself, reflected by the approaching war, as well as a huge mother´s womb as vade mecum to fight the causes of the crisis, which were located in the paternalistic fixations of the whole epoch.[7] Paalen´s biographer Andreas Neufert, in particular, suggests the latter reading and sees the installation as a symptom of an ideological shift within Surrealism, away from Freud´s rigid theory of the Oedipus complex to ideas centred on Otto Rank´s theory The Trauma of Birth, with its recognition of the emotional nature of the child and its ties to the mother. This latter theory was represented and defended exclusively by Paalen and his wife Alice Rahon in this period.[8]

The erotic connotations of Nuage articulé, with its umbrella covered with natural Marcel Duchamp who recommended Wolfgang Paalen to Peggy Guggenheim. She gave Paalen two shows, one in March 1939 in her London gallery Guggenheim-Jeune, and another 1945 in The Art of This Century gallery in New York.

The paintings of 1938–39 and plans for Mexico

1938 he showed his new

  • Succession Wolfgang Paalen und Eva Sulzer Berlin
  • and contemporary abstractionpossibility spaceInteresting conversation about Paalen´s
  • The Forgotten Surrealist (The Getty Iris): Article by the curator of a recent exhibition featuring Paalen
  • of the Getty Research Centers, Los Angeles)Vivísimo Muerto: Debates on Surrealism in Latin AmericaLecture of Andreas Neufert: The Totem as Sphinx, Wolfgang Paalen´s urgent Illuminations during his Voyage into Exile 1939 (Symposion
  • Discussion with Dawn Ades, Andreas Neufert and Daniel Garza Usabiaga about Wolfgamg Paalen

External links

  • Kloyber, Christian, ed. Wolfgang Paalen's DYN: The Complete Reprint Editor's Note by Christian Kloyber; Introductury essays by Lourdes Andrade, Guy Buchholtzer, Gordon Onslow Ford, André Breton, Octavio Paz (Vienna and New York: Springer, 2000)

Reprint of DYN

  • Wolfgang Paalen, Paris (Galerie Renou et Colle) 1938 (Vorwort André Breton)
  • Wolfgang Paalen, London (Galerie Guggenheim Jeune) 1939
  • Surrealismo, Galería de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City 1940
  • Wolfgang Paalen, New York (Galerie Art of this Century) 1945
  • Dynaton A New Vision, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco 1951
  • Domaine de Paalen, Paris (Galerie Galanis-Hentschel) 1954
  • Hommage à Wolfgang Paalen, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico-City 1967
  • Presencia Viva de Wolfgang Paalen, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Carrillo Gil, Mexico-City 1979
  • Dynaton: Before and Beyond, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu (Pepperdine University) 1992
  • Wolfgang Paalen, Zwischen Surrealismus und Abstraktion, Museum Moderner Kunst Wien (Ritter) 1993
  • Wolfgang Paalen, Retrospectiva, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Carrillo Gil, Mexico-City (Imprenta Madero) 1994

Selected exhibitions and catalogues

  • Andreas Neufert (2014), Auf Liebe und Tod, Das Leben des Surrealisten Wolfgang Paalen (Biography), Berlin: Parthas Verlag, ISBN 978-3869640839. (In German)
  • Gustav Regler (1946), Wolfgang Paalen, New York: Nierendorf.
  • Andreas Neufert (1999), Wolfgang Paalen, Im Inneren des Wals, Wien-New York: Springer, (Monography and Catalogue raisonné), ISBN 3-211-83304-8 (In German)
  • Amy Winter (2002), Wolfgang Paalen. Artist and Theorist of the Avantgarde, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.

Selected biographies


  1. ^ Neufert, Andreas (2015), Auf Liebe und Tod. Das Leben des Surrealisten Wolfgang Paalen, Berlin: Parthas, ISBN 978-3869640839, p. 35ff.(In German)
  2. ^ Registers of the Protestant Rectory Vienna (Evangelisches Pfarramt Wien), see also Anna Staudacher (2004), Jüdisch-Protestantische Konvertiten in Wien 1782–1914, Vienna, Part 2, p. 234
  3. ^ Neufert, p. 86f.
  4. ^ Neufert (p. 138ff. and 159ff.) found evidence of this story, told by Luchita Hurtado, Paalen´s 2nd wife, in the correspondence of Rainer Paalen with his aunt Fini Gunkel
  5. ^ Harper's Bazaar, April 1938, S. 56, Ghislaine Wood, Surreal things. Making the fantastic real, in: Wood, G. (2007), Surreal Things. Surrealism and Design, London, p.6.
  6. ^ Alice´s love-letters to Picasso, practically unknown to the public, are stored in the Musée Picasso in Paris; see also Neufert, p. 181f. u. 250ff., who discovered the letters and gives ample insight into the affair and its literary output.
  7. ^ Annabelle Görgen, Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme Paris 1938, München 2008, see chapter on Wolfgang Paalen - Verbindung von Ausstellungsgestaltung und Einzelobjekt, p. 113 ff.
  8. ^ Neufert, p. 236, 255f., 308, 312ff. and 335
  9. ^ Andreas Neufert, Conversations with Geo Dupin, Paris 1987, see also Neufert (2015), p. 303ff.
  10. ^ Mesens, E. L. T., (ed), London Bulletin (Feb. 1939), No. 10
  11. ^ Nuage articulé I, (ex Collection Geo Dupin, Paris, now Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and Nuage articulé II, assembled by Paalen for the International Surrealist Exhibition in Mexico City 1940 (ex Collection Ines Amor, Mexico-City, now private collection, Berlin)
  12. ^ According to the correspondence with Kurt Seligmann Paalen had the idea to organize a great international exhibition in Mexico, see Stephan E. Hauser: Kurt Seligmann 1900–1962. Leben und Werk, Basel 1997, p. 168.
  13. ^ Andreas Neufert has reconstructed the exact itinerary of this voayge, see Ten Rolls of 8mm Film Documenting Wolfgang Paalen´s Journey through British Columbia in Summer 1939, Essay, in: Dawn Ades, The Colour of my Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, Exhibition Catalogue, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver 2011, p. 229-235.
  14. ^ Neufert, p. 420
  15. ^ see Neufert, p. 387ff., citing from the letters Paalen wrote to Breton f.e. Wolfgang Paalen to André Breton, Mai 3rd, 1940 (Bibliothèque Doucet, Paris)
  16. ^ see Lionel Abel: The Intellectual Follies. A Memoir of the Literary Venture in New York and Paris, New York 1984, p. 89.
  17. ^ André Breton in his letters to Benjamin Péret, 26 May and 31 May 1944 (Bibliothèque Doucet, Paris)
  18. ^ Neufert, p. 494ff.
  19. ^ Barnett Newman´s notes from the years 1943-45 define also themes like "The nature of this movement, a. The image complex, b. The problem of plastic form, c. The roots in American primitive art", as well as "The role of the artist", themes, Paalen had discussed extensively in DYN. [Barnett Newman Foundation archive 18/103]
  20. ^ Neufert, see chapter Das DYN Projekt 1941-1944, p. 433ff.
  21. ^ in: Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, "Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism", London (Thames & Hudson), p. 292f.
  22. ^ Leddy, Annette. "Getty Voices: The Forgotten Surrealist". The Getty iris. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  23. ^ Gustav Regler, Wolfgang Paalen, New York (Nierendorf) 1946, p. 60f.
  24. ^ Wolfgang Paalen, Le plus ancien visage du Nouveau Monde, in: Cahiers d’art 27 (1952), Nr. 2
  25. ^ Wolfgang Paalen, Metaplastic, Relativity of Measure and Theory of the Dynaton, San Francisco Museum of Art, 1951
  26. ^ André Breton, Wolfgang Paalen, in: Medium. Communication Surréaliste, Nr. 1 (Oct. 1953), p. 1
  27. ^ The Living Idol, Mexico/USA 1956, with Steve Forrest and Liliane Montevecchi
  28. ^ André Pieyre de Mandiargues, La mort volontaire, in: La Nouvelle Revue française (Dec. 1959), No. 84
  29. ^ Octavio Paz, Préface à une exposition, in: Catalogue of the memorial exhibition of Wolfgang Paalens in Librairie Loilée, Paris 1960
  30. ^ Neufert (2015), p. 23, 611
  31. ^ André Breton in a letter to Wolfgang Paalen, 31 July 1941 (Bibliothèque Doucet, Paris).
  32. ^ Amy Winter, Interview of Luchita Mullican, Santa Monica, 1 May 1994 (Archives of American Art, New York)
  33. ^ Paalen, W. (1999), Wolfgang Paalen: Im Inneren des Wals: Monography, and Catalogue Raisonné, Vienna/New York: Springer Science+Business Media.
  34. ^ The Succession Wolfgang Paalen et Eva Sulzer is administrated by their fiduciary Andreas Neufert who also deals with all questions of copyright.
  35. ^ Ara H. Merjian. "Wolfgang Paalen: Implicit Spaces. Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, May 17 - July 12, 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  36. ^ Mark Van Proyen. "Wolfgang Paalen at Frey Norris (San Francisco)". art ltd. magazine. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  37. ^ Wolfgang Paalen, Form and Sense, Meanings and Movements in Twentieth-Century Art, New York (Arcade Publishing/Artists and Art) 2013
  38. ^ "Wolfgang Paalen (1905–1959)".  


In English

  • "The New Image", No. 1, April–May 1942
  • Suggestion for an Objective Morality, in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942
  • Seeing and Showing, in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942
  • Surprise and Inspiration', in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942
  • About the Origins of the Doric Column and the Guitar-woman, in: Dyn, n° 2, July–August 1942
  • The Dialectical Gospel, in: Dyn, n° 2, July–August 1942
  • Art and Science, in: Dyn, n° 3, autumn 1942
  • Book-Reviews
  • Totem Art, in: Dyn, n° 4-5, 1943
  • Birth of Fire, in: Dyn, n° 4-5, 1943
  • On the Meaning of Cubism Today, in: Dyn, n° 6, November 1944

In French

  • "Farewell au surréalisme", No. 1, April–May 1942
  • L'Image nouvelle, in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942
  • Aperçu pour une morale objective, in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942
  • Paysage totémique (3 articles), in: Dyn, n° 1, April–May 1942, n° 2, July–August 1942, n° 3, autumn 1942
  • Surprise et inspiration, in: Dyn, n° 2, July–August 1942
  • L'Évangile dialectique, in: DYN, n° 3, autumn 1942
  • Le Grand Malentendu (trad. of Art and Science), in: DYN, n° 3, autumn 1942
  • Rencontre totémique in: DYN, n° 4-5, 1943
  • Actualité du cubisme, in: Dyn, n° 6, November 1944
  • Pendant l'éclipse, interview of Paalen with Carter Stone, in: Dyn, n° 6, November 1944

Essays in DYN

  • Personnages dans une grotte, 1933
  • Hommes possibles 1934
  • Avertissement 1935
  • L´heure exacte object, 1936
  • Pays interdit 1936–37
  • Rencontre sur une plage, 1936
  • L'Homme possible, 1936
  • Toison d'or, 1937
  • La Balance, 1937
  • Le Débarcadère, 1937
  • Paysage totémique de mon enfance, 1937
  • Nuage articulé I, objet, 1937
  • Paysage totémique, 1937
  • Fata Alaska, 1937
  • Les Étrangers, 1937
  • La Housse Mannequin 1938
  • Autophage, 1938
  • Orages magnétiques, 1938
  • Combat des princes saturniens I and II, 1938
  • Vol de moustiques, 1938
  • Paysage médusé, 1938
  • Les Guetteurs, 1938
  • Ciel de pieuvre, 1938
  • Taches solaires, 1938
  • Plumages, 1938
  • Le genie de l´espèce (object, 1938)
  • Combats des princes saturniens, III, 1939
  • Nuage articulé II (object, 1940)
  • Polarités chromatiques, 1940
  • Espace sans limite, 1941
  • Les premieres spaciales tryptich, 1941–44
  • Les Cosmogonies, 1943
  • La Tempête, 1945
  • Gyra, 1945
  • L'Or du temps, 1945
  • Selam Trilogy, 1947
  • Hamnur Trilogy, 1947
  • Nuit tropicale, 1947
  • Ancêtres à venir, 1949
  • Messagers, 1949
  • Fête mexicaine, 1949
  • Le Messager des trois Pôles, 1949
  • La Clé de Duchamp, Hommage à Marcel Duchamp, 1950
  • L'enclume, 1952
  • Sur les hauts plateaux, 1952
  • Lumière fossile, 1953
  • Le Scarabée d'or, 1953
  • Béatrice perdue, 1953
  • Banistas (1958)
  • Asi es la vida, 1958
  • Isla Mujeres, 1958
  • Matutine, 1959


Paalen´s relatively small oeuvre of roughly 300 canvases, a few objects and some sculptures was mostly traded privately and through specialized galleries in the past. Only minor works appear from time to time in public auctions, as most of the major works are in museums or well-established private collections. In 2009 however, Christie's auctioned Paalen's important 1938 surrealist fumage painting Paysage (Pays) médusé (oil and smoke on canvas).[38] Estimated at US$40–50,000, the realised price was US$561,000, setting a new record for the highest price paid at auction for this artist.

Art market

Paalen´s collected essays on art from DYN, Form and Sense, were re-published in 2013 by Deborah Rosenthal with a foreword by Martica Sawin.[37]

Between May and July 2007 a collection of his work was exhibited at the Frey Norris gallery in San Francisco.[35][36] In 2014 the Wendi Norris Gallery, also in San Francisco, exhibited major works in the solo-retrospective Wolfgang Paalen, Philosopher of the Possible.

The complete works of Paalen, canvases, objects and sculptures, were catalogued by art historian Andreas Neufert in his 1999 book Wolfgang Paalen: Im Inneren des Wals: Monography, and Catalogue Raisonné.[33] Paalen´s estate in Mexico, including papers and photographs, was donated by the heirs of Isabel Marin de Paalen to the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City. The estate which Paalen left in the care of his close friend, the surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford, is administrated by the Lucid Art Foundation in Inverness, California, which recently restituted Paalen´s rich archive of papers, photographs and manuscripts to the heirs of Eva Sulzer, Paalen´s only heir and executor.[34]


Although Paalen is known chiefly as a visual artist, he also wrote poetry in French and German, which he shared with Valentine Penrose, Alice Rahon, André Breton and Paul Eluard. 1941 Breton reacted euphorically to Paalen´s poetical diary of his voyage to British Columbia in the summer of 1939: "I have read Paysage totémique, re-read, read in a loud voice, nothing is more adorable, indubitably genial".[31] Paysage totémique was partly published in his magazine DYN. He also wrote three theatre plays and various unpublished stories, such as Der Axolotl, Paloma Palomita; his play The Beam of the Balance, a tragic-comedy, reflects the unbroken power of Stalin´s totalitarian terror-regime, the release of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the danger of the unbalanced scientific human mind in general. It was first read publicly in the house of Robert Motherwell in East Hampton in 1946.[32] His play Elorn, A Ballad from Brittany reflects his lifelong passion with pre-Celtic matrilinear cultures.

Poet and writer

Paalen´s last years in Mexico are characterized by increasing health problems, mainly originated in his bipolar (manic-depressive) disposition. With the help of his friends and patrons Eva Sulzer and Gordon Onslow Ford he acquired an old house with studio in the small town Tepoztlán in Morelos, where he mainly lived and worked during the last years of his life. Paradoxically Paalen produced a number of masterly works towards the end of this last period, as well as theatre plays and short stories, which reflect ironically his ambivalent state of mind and growing depressions. His passion for Olmec sculpture and artefacts implicated him into adventurous expeditions into the wilderness of Yucatán, collecting and trading pre-Columbian art to an always growing US market. Rumours of Paalen having been involved in illegal looting of archeological sites in Yucatán inspired the American author and theologian Arthur A. Cohen to his novel Acts of Theft (1980). As expert and inspirator Wolfgang Paalen assisted the American filmmaker Albert Lewin for his film The Living Idol.[27] 1958 he received André Pieyre de Mandiargues and Octavio Paz in Tepoztlán, who both wrote texts on Paalen after his suicide.[28][29] In the night of 25 September 1959 Paalen left his hotel room in the Hacienda San Francisco Cuadra in Taxco, where he sometimes stayed during his depressions, and walked up the hill. The following day he was found dead with a gunshot to his head.[30]

Last years in Mexico and suicide

In 1948 one of the two children, Luchita had brought from her former marriage into the household Paalen´s, died in Mexico of Polio. Paalen decided to move to San Francisco with his new family, where he worked with Kurt Seligmann´s atelier-building in the Impasse Villa Seurat in Paris, built by André Lurçat. He reconciled with Breton, spent most of the summers in Breton´s house in Saint Cirq La Popie, participated at the invention of various surrealist games, like Ouvrez-Vous? and L’un dans l’autre and painted a considerable corpus of lyrical-abstract paintings, which were exhibited at Galerie Pierre (1953) and Galerie Galanis-Hentschel (1954). One of the four numbers of Breton´s magazine Medium - Communication Surréaliste is dedicated to Paalen.[26] After travelling through Germany in the summer of 1954 he went back again to Mexico.

San Francisco, Paris

1946 he divorced from Alice and married the Venezuelan designer and artist Luchita Hurtado, whom he had met in New York through his friend Isamu Noguchi. Hurtado moved to Mexico in 1947 to live with Paalen and together they explored the ancient culture of the Olmec, about which Paalen later published a widely respected article in the French art magazine Cahiers d'art.[24] Paalen radicalizes the assumption of his friend and colleague Miguel Covarrubias, that the Olmecs were a culture succumbed and (after hundreds of war-years) finally wiped out by the aggressive Maya civilization, comparing the Olmecs to the ancient European matrilinear civilizations, which underlay invasive and more aggressive patriarchal civilizations some 3000 years ago. Paalen´s thesis about the matrilinear social-structure of the ancient societies of Mesoamerica, which he documented with considerable support from his own research, was never substantially challenged and strongly influenced such artists as Alice Rahon, Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington in their archaist and feminist themes. His ideas still live on in the archaeological and artistic discourses, the most prominent popular example of recent times being Mel Gibson´s cinematic opus Apocalypto).

Archeological passions

After the war

Paalen understood his picture beings as a kind of pictorial version of the ancient choros tragicos, the tragic chorus effect, conceived in Nietzsche's writing on The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music. It is the deep existential foundation of reality, what he is interested in. Although it becomes common practice after 1947, until this time, nobody had placed so much responsibility on the viewer as Paalen did with his rhetoric and pictorial language.

It was in the 1940s that Paalen's art particularly played a major role in changing the conception of abstract art. Due to his magazine DYN, his presence and exhibitions in New York City, 1940 Julien Levy, 1945 Peggy Guggenheim´s The Art of This Century gallery and 1946 Galerie Nierendorf, he influenced significantly the genesis of Abstract Expressionism. Paintings such as Les premiers spaciales of 1941 set entirely on the new pictorial space because they concentrate on pictorially immanent means: Rhythm, light and colour.[22] Important is that they transform the rhythmical appearance of the fumage imprints into a neo-cubist rhythm, which Paalen then compares with the fugue and jazz, through a mosaic-like fracture and complementary contrasts. He wants to create the atmosphere of a deeply moving, gripping encounter with beings that themselves remain silent. There is no action, no metamorphosis in them and nothing happens with them in the space. The picture itself is the being, or a frozen resonance of it. Precisely because of this total silence, every topical expectation put to them is reflected as a question. In a cartoon published by Ad Reinhardt in the fifties, Paalen's suggestion from Form and Sense is repeated: "Paintings no longer represent; it is no longer the task of art to answer naive questions. Today it has become the role of the painting to look at the spectator and ask him: what do you represent?" Gustav Regler wrote 1946 about this groundbreaking idea:

Interior of Paalen´s studio in San Ángel, with his painting Les Cosmogones

The new concept of space in painting

The German art historian Andreas Neufert, who has extensively explored Paalen´s life and work, suggested in his 2015 biography on the artist, that DYN and the New York surrealist journal VVV were widely inspired by each other and can be seen partly as a hidden correspondence between Breton and Paalen.[20] This assumption has been already denoted (but not fully explored) by Yve-Alain Bois in 2004 in his contribution "1942a - The depoliticization of the American avant-garde..."[21]

In a note with the title America has a new art movement (the first authentic art movement here) Barnett Newman listed Paalen together with Pollock, Rothko, Hoffman, Gorky, Baziotes and Motherwell as "The men in the new art movement"; Motherwell appears with a question mark, while Paalen is listed twice, once with the adding "New" (probably dividing Paalen´s surrealist from his DYN-works).[19]

In seven large essays and countless smaller articles and reviews he discussed in detail the topical concerns of the young New York artists and, in response, received their full attention. Also his long article Totem Art had considerable influence on such artists, as Martha Graham, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, mainly because of the new conception of considering totemistic art as part of ecstatic action and ritual with its psychic links to generic memory and matrilinear ancestor-worship.[18] With the exception of Totem Art, all essays are republished under the title Form and Sense by Robert Motherwell in New York as the first issue of the series of writings titled Problems of Contemporary Art in which also the first papers of the later Abstract Expressionists, like Possibilities, were published. Paalen's short sojourns in New York and the two solo exhibitions made him known as a painter in artist's circles, however his predominant absence from the New York art scene and the wide reception of DYN and Form and Sense fostered his image as a kind of intellectual secret agent primarily exerting indirect influence on the events through his intensely discussed ideas.

[17], and so on. By means of his journal, with a total of five issues published in Mexico between 1942 and 1944, he temporarily advanced to be one of the most influential art theorists in the wartime period. Even Breton admitted in 1944 that Paalen´s criticism of Surrealism was justified and that "we (the Surrealists) have left the whole licence to Paalen, who could say whatever he liked, without having the means to say something against or at least put something at his level. Paalen is winning on the whole line."cave painting theory, with his criticisms of dialectical materialism and western dualistic concepts, with his analysis of gestalt, totemism, with his own concept of quantum theory In DYN Paalen theoretically hedged his concept of possibility on various levels, with [16] In the spring of 1942 the New York art world witnessed the result of Paalen's intense work in the first years of exile in Mexico – the art journal

First issue of the magazine, Mexico, 1942


The war years

In autumn 1939 he organized the International Surrealist Exhibition in the Julien Levy. During his first period of exile, Paalen concentrated on the verbalization of his ideas on art and, apart from occasional visits to New York, experimented secretly, in his studio in San Ángel, in a new style on pictorial space.

The second version of Nuage articulé, executed for the International Surrealist Exhibition in Mexico-City at the Galería de Arte Mexicano, 1940 (originally executed in 1937 for the International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris, 1938)

The first years of exile in Mexico

(The Blue House), which they had rented for him. Casa Azul, next to Kahlo´s Coyoacán accompanied him to a house in Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera In September, he arrived in Mexico, where [13], later published in his magazine DYN, originates in the travel-notebooks, films and photographs of this voyage.Paysage totémique where he collected a major totem house-screen with the representation of a bear-woman, accessible through a hole in the womb (now in the Denver Art Museum). His literary text British Columbia After his one-man-show at the Guggenheim Jeune Gallery in Cork Street, London, as the first of the surrealists he decided to leave Europe and travelled first to New York in May 1939 together with his wife Alice and Eva Sulzer. The same year he traveled through [12]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.