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Jane Graverol (1905 - 1984)

Les Belles Vacances, 1964

Catalogue essay by Sacha Llewellyn

The title of Les Belles Vacances is inspired by the Surrealist novel, ‘Les vacances d’un enfant’, 1947, by Louis Scutenaire (1905-1987), which recounts the vacation of a young boy and his hallucinatory walks in nature where he has strange daydreams about the sun, monsters and insects.

As a child, Graverol loved wandering through the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, and during the 1950s and 60s, she became fascinated by zooplankton. Having long celebrated the androgyny and hermaphroditism of fantastical creatures in her paintings, such as ‘The School of Vanity’ (1967), Graverol was particularly inspired by the unicellular and non-motile aspect of these aquatic creatures. Les Belles Vacances  depicts two bdelloid rotifers, the larger with its mouth open, the smaller with its mouth closed. These microscopic aquatic animals reproduce exclusively by parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction where embryos grow and develop without the need for fertilization.

In ‘Temps mêlés’, (1953), René Magritte wrote, ‘everything that Madame Jane Graverol wants to paint seems to me to be charged with the symbolic resonance that comes from a variety of romantic and dramatic feelings’.  Typical of Graverols work in particular, and Surrealism in general, Les Belles Vacances is highly charged with symbolism. The form portrayed recalls female reproductive organs – complete with fallopian tubes and ovaries –  while the smaller ovalheaded, long-tailed floating form evokes a spermatozoon. In both forms, colourful eggs are bursting to be released from the fluorescent sacks – complete with girdle-like structures – that contain themThe juxtaposition of translucent forms against a blue-black background, recalling squid ink, imbues the picture with a strong sense of iridescence and luminosity.

x W70cm
Oil on Canvas, Signed
Graverol, Jane

Jane Graverol (1905 - 1984)

Jane Graverol was born in Ixelles, Belgium, on 18 December 1905. Her father was the Symbolist illustrator and writer Alexandre Graverol. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Etterbeek, she attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where she studied under Montald Constant and Jean Delville. She initially made her name in the field of still life and landscape and had her first solo exhibition in 1927, but in the late 1930s, she embraced Surrealism. In a striking departure from her male colleagues’ work, her compositions mainly centred on strong and determined female figures. Blending fairytale with the grotesque, and often depicting the erotic female body, Graverol described her paintings as "waking, conscious dreams". In 1949 she met members of the Belgian Surrealist group and in 1953 helped found the Temps Mêlés group in Verviers, which had leanings toward pataphysics - the absurdist, pseudo-scientific, literary invention of the French writer Alfred Jarry. She was a co-founder of two significant surrealist publications - the Temps Mêlés, and in 1954 along with Mariën and Paul Nougé, the avant-garde review Les Lèvres Nues. In the 1960s, she made the acquaintance of André Breton, and later Marcel Duchamp in New York. Even though she subsequently moved to France, she stayed in close contact with the Belgian surrealist artists and exhibited in Belgium every year. She died in Fontainebleau on 24 April 1984.