La Rencontre
Date 1936
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 144.7 x 96.7 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-261
As a teenager in Romania, Hérold refused from an early age to learn to paint in an academic style. Thanks to magazines, he discovered what was happening in France and became interested in the dada movement and in surrealism. The magazine Unu published his first drawings alongside those of his compatriot Victor Brauner. He arrived in Paris at the age of twenty in 1930. His early days there were difficult and he survived by performing various odd jobs, including that of ‘cleaning man’ in his compatriot Contantin Brancusi’s house in Impasse Ronsin. In 1931 the poet Claude Sernet, a fellow Romanian, introduced him to his Montparnasse circle, which included Victor Brauner, Alberto Giacometti, Arthur Adamov, Benjamin Fondane and Yves Tanguy. His first meeting with the latter was to be a decisive moment in his life: Jacques Hérold was fascinated when he first saw one of Tanguy’s paintings, which revealed a strange world to him. The two painters became friends and shared in each other’s misery. In 1934, Tanguy introduced him to André Breton and Hérold started to participate in the activities of the surrealist group, although he did not much appreciate the idea of collective discipline. The first breakthrough with Breton happened in 1935, when he dared to propose a canvas larger than those of Pablo Picasso for an exhibition in London. Over the years, however, and especially after 1938, his participation would become more important and his knack for inventing new games was recognized. One of his series of paintings, Les Écorchés [The Scorched], was inspired by dreams linked to road accidents that he had witnessed during his childhood. His work then evolved, sustained by his obsession with crystals. His paintings were made of pieces of glass and mirrors and ice crystals. When war was declared, Hérold left Paris for Perpignan, where he met Óscar Domínguez and Brauner. He then moved to Marseille and settled in Villa Air-Bel, from where he tried to leave for the United States through the network organized by Varian Fry of the American Committee for Aid to Intellectuals, which helped both artists and intellectuals to flee to the other side of the Atlantic. Together with Breton, André Masson, Max Ernst, René Char, Wifredo Lam, Domínguez and Benjamin Péret, he participated in group activities, such as the creation of a card game inspired by the tarot called the Game of Marseille: his task was to draw two cards, entitled Sade (Génie de Révolution – Roue) [Genius of Revolution – Wheel] and Lamiel (Sirène de Révolution – Roue) [Mermaid Revolution – Wheel]. However, he did not leave France and hid in the Arab quarter of Porte d’Aix until 1942, where he lived from making croquet-fruits [a sweet delicacy made of almonds and dates]. He returned to Paris using false documents that he had forged himself (his identity as a Romanian Jew would have condemned him). His connections to the surrealist group were not broken, despite the occupation. He was a co-signatory to the preface to La Parole est à Péret. He participated in the activities of La Main à Plume, the only surrealist group remaining in France at that time. He then took refuge in the Luberon Massif valley, hiding in the villages of Oppède and Lacoste. At the time of the Liberation, Hérold held a prominent place in the surrealist group and was enthralled by their totems, which were gathered together under the name Grands transparents [Large transparencies], as in the exhibition Le Surréalisme en 1947 at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. All of his own paintings were presented that same year in the Galerie Cahiers d’Art, with a preface written by André Breton. This text, which was republished in Le Surréalisme et la peinture, examined the painter's recent works, in particular his work on the crystallization of forms. It ends as follows: ‘Jacques Hérold, his fingers speckled with phosphorus, over a forest of radiolarians. Jacques Hérold, the woodcutter in every drop of dew’. In 1951, at the time of the Carrouges case, Hérold distanced himself from the group, although he was still invited to various exhibitions and activities, including the Phases group or the journal Neon. In 1949 he illustrated L’Aigle, Madamemoiselle, a collection of letters by the Marquis de Sade that had been brought together by Gilbery Lely as well as La Terre Habitable by Julien Gracq in 1951; and Miroir du merveilleux by Pierre Mabille in 1962. On 1 May 1968, he glued posters onto Parisian walls on which he copied, by hand, subversive texts written by Duprey, Luca, Butor and Sade. AC