Rachel Baes (1912 -1983)

Reve Très Ancien

, 1947

The oeuvre of Baes focuses on the destiny of women and therefore predominantly inhabited by female figures. Pursuing an interest in influential women, the artist, even devoted an essay to the empresses of France (in the 1960s, Baes even embarked on an important series of paintings on the theme of historical personages, centring, particularly on Mary Antoinette who is tragic destiny, fascinated her, and with whom she identified). From 1946, her favourite subject became young girls. Strange, mysterious little things, dressed like dolls, they are depicted in airless rooms prey to an angst-ridden atmosphere. In the 1940s, the artist abandoned the flower and landscape pictures that had been widely acclaimed in the upper-middle-class circles from which she became well-known since 1929: “The one and only freedom lies in dreams” she concluded at the time. Her work and universe is similar to that of Dorothea Tanning, Leanora Carrington, or Leonor Fini with one main difference: her girls do not possess the erotic qualities a number of artists have invested in them nor the spontaneous, childlike qualities that beguiled so many of their successors in the 20th century. Juggling with ambiguity, she subverts Breton’s cherished image of the child-woman, whose purity, and candidness he thought would facilitate access to the subconscious. As of heralding the terrible events of the artist’s life, these little girls appear prey to invisible demonic forces and are condemned to a tragic fate. Without the blamelessness of childhood, or as Cocteau put it: ‘Full crimes of innocence’ looking at once perverse, and as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, the destructive nature, certainly evokes childish fears, but even more the artist’s own tournaments. As she informed Lecomte: “All my paintings come from the subconscious, from a slow in the elaboration.” by creating doppelgängers, the artist also toys with the notion of identity. This work presents similar themes to The Philosophy Lesson (1963), and In the Polka (1946) where the tragic nature of these paintings, as suggested by the more bed, unhealthy atmosphere, that reigns, and the confined spaces, compounded by the feeling of claustrophobia, that grips a world caught between the magical on the devilish.

x W65cm
Oil on canvas, Signed

Rachel Baes (1912 -1983)

Rachel Baes (1912-1983) was a Belgian surrealist painter who was the daughter of the artist Émile Baes. She received no formal artistic training but began her career in 1929 when she exhibited works at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris to critical acclaim. Creating dreamlike worlds that evoked surrealism, often depicting lone women in interiors, she quickly became known for her distinctive surrealist style. Baes was of solitary nature. Although her work forms part of the surrealist domain, she refused to commit to the movement: "I am not a surrealist painter, I am a surrealist who paints” she wrote in her diary. A further statement testifies to her freedom- loving disposition: “My art of painting: poetry, rebellion, solitude”. This did not, however, prevent her from frequenting both the surrealist Circle in Brussels, and members of the French group. In the 1930s, she became a member of the surrealist group around René Magritte and counted among her friends André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard but also Max Ernst, Georges Bataille and Irène Hamoir. Between 1936 and 1940, Baes was in a relationship with Joris Van Severen, the leader of the extreme rightist Verdinaso party in Belgium. Van Severen was shot erroneously by French troops in 1940. In 1945, she met Paul Éluard and his wife Nusch, whose portrait she painted. The following year, Éluard published a poem in which he described Baes “As a lonely woman, who draws instead of talking”. She first encountered E.L.T Mesens and René Magritte through the poet, and art dealer Herman Toussaint in 1947. That same year, Magritte painted her portrait as Shéhérazade. An extravagant personality, Baes was also to act as his muse for some amateur films. Baes published a biography - Joris Van Severen, une âme - in 1965. From 1961 she retired from public life and lived alone in Bruges. She was buried at Abbeville, alongside Van Severen. In 2002, the Koninklijk Museum in Antwerp featured Baes alongside Jane Graverol in an exhibition: Voor Schone Kunsten.