Wolfgang Paalen

1907-1959

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Status, price and estimate of the artist Wolfgang Paalen

Price of a painting: 8,000 – 291,000 €.

Price of a drawing: €1,200 – €15,600

Estimate for a sculpture: €10,000

Estimate of a print: 200 – 940 €.

Wolfgang Paalen’s artistic training

Wolfgang Paalen was an Austrian painter, sculptor and philosopher born on 22 July 1905 in Vienna and died on 24 September 1959 in Taco, Mexico.

The Paalen family moved to Rome in 1919, where the young artist studied Greco-Roman art and painting with the German painter and member of the Berlin Secession Leo von Köning. When he arrived in Berlin in 1924, his work was influenced by Impressionism and the paintings of Cézanne.

Wolfgang Paalen and surrealism

In 1929, Wolfgang Paael moved to Paris, where he worked with Jean Hélion, among others, and became acquainted with various personalities involved in Surrealism. In 1934, he took part in the “Abstraction-Création” collective led by André Breton and joined the Surrealist group.

André Breton invited him to London to exhibit at the International Surrealist Exhibition, where he presented a drawing made entirely with candles. It was also in the 1930s that he began to create surrealist objects and invented a technique called ‘smoking’, which consisted of passing the flame of a candle over fresh paint. This leaves traces of smoke that are open to interpretation.

Paalen continued to take part in Surrealist exhibitions, met artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Frida Kahlo, travelled to Berlin, Prague and Bohemia, and once again took part in the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition, where he was responsible for the plant and water installations. On this occasion, he created a real pond, laid out leaves from the Montparnasse cemetery on the ground, and also presented his surrealist paintings and objects.

Wolfgang Paalen and Mexico

The following year, Paalen left Europe and travelled to the American continent via New York and Canada; he visited the remains of the totem civilisation and settled in Mexico for a time in the autumn of that year. He wrote his reflections on the trip he had just made in a book entitled Totemic Landscape. He says he is fascinated by “death constantly more present than life” in this country. He organises the International Exhibition of Surrealism in Mexico City in 1940.

In 1941 he founded the magazine Dyn, for which he wrote about his vision of the cosmos and his interest in the art of the American Indians. The American painter, printmaker and publisher Robert Motherwell worked alongside him. Later, together with Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, they discussed the creation of a new art school in the United States, but he refused to teach there.

In the 1950s, he continued his travels in South America, visiting the Yucatan and publishing an essay on Olmec culture in 1952. He also continued to participate in surrealist exhibitions, which were held mainly in Paris. He took his own life in 1959.

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