Jacques Hérold, a singular surrealist

Paris. Specializing in the artistic avant-gardes of the early 20th century, many of whose representatives come from Central and Eastern Europe – which is the case of Jacques Hérold (1910-1987), born in Romania – the gallery remains faithful to its credo: to bring to the forefront important artists who have been somewhat sidelined by history. “Despite his membership in the surrealist movement since the 1930s, Hérold often remained in the shadows, if only of his compatriots Tristan Tzara or Victor Brauner,” explain Benoît Sapiro, the founder of the gallery, and Maria Tyl, responsible for exhibitions and publications. The artist, who will remain within the scope of surrealism until the end of his career, has always been exhibited at the gallery and had already been the subject of an exhibition in 2018. This time, the twenty works offered, for prices ranging from 3,000 to 65,000 euros, focuses on the post-war period.

Jacques Hérold arrived in Paris at the age of 20. Very quickly, he succeeded in integrating the avant-garde environment thanks to his compatriot Constantin Brancusi, whose assistant he would become. Brancusi introduced him to Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Victor Brauner, Yves Tanguy. He met André Breton in 1934, participating the same year in his first “exquisite corpse” (collective game invented by the surrealists in 1925), but it was not until 1938 that he joined the group, of which he remained a member until in 1951. In 1939, he participated for the first time in a group exhibition at the Contemporary Gallery. Then came those of the Galerie Maeght in 1947, of La Dragonne the following two years, then of the Daniel Cordier gallery in 1959-1960.

Germination… or the skinned

His unique artistic vocabulary asserted itself at the beginning of the 1930s and would evolve throughout his career; his painting is also divided into six periods. His universe “is populated with organic and biomorphic forms, sometimes reminiscent of insects or hybrid beings prevalent within surrealism, and draws on the artist’s unconscious, as in the events that marked his youth”, explains Maria Tyl.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, the artist developed two cycles of paintings exploring the theme of germination (hatching, rebirth, emergence of a body) and the skinned – he proceeded to tear away the surface of beings and things (The looks, 1937). Then came the “Crystallizations”, between 1938 and 1948. There, his canvases were covered with objects made of needles, broken glass, sharp blades and crystals. Then comes the fragmentation of the mineral world, from 1948 to 1958. Crystal is still the central theme, but its treatment undergoes a shattering and the material emerges on the painted surface (The Catalyst, 1958). From crystals, Hérold moved on, in 1961, to flames, feathers and petals, motifs which can also be combined: this is the period covered by the exhibition. Its unique style will thus remain constant: an organization of touches applied in a crescent, as with a trowel, revealing a creamy paste, touches often arranged by overlapping like a roof or bird feathers, on a background dark. One of the most beautiful representative works of this era is The Pushesfrom 1964 (which seems straight out of a fairy tale), but also Body and property (1966) or From evening to morning (1962). Not to be missed either, Portrait of Van Gogh (1970), in the humorous vein of Magritte.

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