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Art Gallery the Eye and the Hand

André Malraux

André Malraux

André Malraux (3 November 1901 – 23 November 1976) was a French author, adventurer and statesman, and a dominant figure in French politics and culture.


Malraux was born in Paris in 1901. His parents separated in 1905 and eventually divorced. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Berthe and Adrienne Lamy. His father, a stockbroker, committed suicide in 1930. Andre had Tourette's Syndrome during his childhood, resulting in motor and vocal tics. This may have contributed to his animated and memorable oratory style later in life.

At the age of 21, Malraux left for Cambodia with his new wife Clara Goldschmidt. In Cambodia, he undertook an exploratory expedition into the Cambodian jungle. On his return he was arrested by French colonial authorities for removing bas-reliefs from one of the temples he discovered. Banteay Srei. The French government itself had removed large numbers of sculptures and artifacts from already discovered sites such as Angkor Wat around this time. Malraux later incorporated the episode into his second novel La Voie Royale.

Malraux became highly critical of the French colonial authorities in Indochina, and in 1925 helped to organize the Young Annam League and founded a newspaper Indochina in Chains.

On his return to France, he published The Temptation of the West (1926) which was in the form of an exchange of letters between a Westerner and an Asian comparing aspects of the two cultures. This was followed by his first novel The Conquerors (1928), then by The Royal Way (1930) which drew in part on his Cambodian experience, and then by Man's Fate (La Condition Humaine). For La Condition Humaine, a powerful novel about a communist uprising in Shanghai, he won the 1933 Prix Goncourt.

In the 1930s, Malraux was active in the anti-Fascist Popular Front in France. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he joined the Republican forces in Spain, serving in, and helping to organize, their fledgling air force. His squadron, called "Espana", became something of a legend after his claims of nearly annihilating part of the Nationalist army at Medellín. According to Curtis Cate, his biographer, he was lightly wounded twice during efforts to stop the Falangists' takeover of Madrid, but Hugh Tomas denies this. He also toured the United States to raise funds for the Spanish Republicans. A novel drawing on his Spanish war experiences, Man's Hope, (L'Espoir) appeared in 1938.

The types of aircraft sent to Spain by France, through Malraux's contacts, were considered obsolete by the standards of 1936. This decision by the French Ministry of Defense was based on the fear that modern types would have easily fallen into the hands of the Germans fighting for Franco. This has created the impression that Malraux acted actually as an agent of the Popular Front government and in particular, its minister P. Cot who was a strong anti-fascist but whose prime minister Leon Blum has chosen a cautious diplomatic approach to the problem. They were mainly Potez 540 bombers and Dewoitine D.372 fighters. The desperately slow Potez 540 rarely survived three months of air missions, making some 80 knots against enemy fighters running at above 250 knots. Few of the fighters proved to be worthy, some even delivered intentionally without guns or gun-sights. They were surpassed by more modern types introduced by the end of 1936 on both sides. Malraux's efforts were the only attempt of the French government to support the Spanish Republic air force.

It is known that pictures with Malraux standing next to some Potez 540 and even inside one of them in a pilot's costume were circulated widely by the Republic government as proof that France was actually on their side during a moment when France and G. Britain declared officially to be neutral to this conflict. It is known, however, that Malraux was not a pilot himself and has never flown a plane despite carrying the - apparently honorary - title of the Squadron Leader of 'Espana'.

Malraux, it is worth noting, never claimed, at any time in his life, to have piloted an aircraft. The allegation that he did is one of the many myths that has grown up around his life - the result probably of careless, sensationalist journalism. He was, however, a very active participant in the Republican cause - when many other intellectuals stayed home in France and debated 'engagement' as a philosophical issue... His commitment to the Republican cause was, like that of many other foreign volunteers, purely personal: there was never any suggestion that he was there somehow at the behest of the French Government. He was, of course, painfully aware of Republicans' inferior armaments - the outdated aircraft were just one aspect of the problem - and part of his activity included a trip to the U.S. to raise funds.

Malraux's motivations behind his involvement in the Spanish Civil War are questioned by Antony Beevor in The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. Quoting from the Russian State Military Archive, Beevor raises suspicions that "he had recruited the pilots and technicians himself in France. Most of them have come here in order to make good money."[citation needed] In Beevor's own words, "Malraux stands out, not just because he was a mythomaniac in his claims of martial heroism - in Spain and later in the French Resistance - but because he cynically exploited the opportunity for intellectual heroism in the legend of the Spanish Republic."[citation needed]

Other biographical sources, including those who knew Malraux personally in Spain, would however cast serious doubt on these views. Here, as in many other instances, accounts of Malraux's life tend to vary considerably. His active involvement in major historical events brought him determined adversaries as well as strong supporters. The resultant polarization of opinion has unfortunately affected the objectivity and reliability of much that has been written about his life. For example, the Russian Military State Archive would be a very doubtful source for reliable comment about Malraux's activity in Spain since he had been openly critical of some of the policies of the Stalinist regime of the time. Malraux's extremely eventful life, quite unlike that of the stereotype French intellectual whose life is confined principally to study, has tended to draw attention from what is far more important - his achievements as a thinker and writer. While writing biographies of Malraux has become a minor industry, informed analysis of his thought is quite rare.

At the outbreak of Second World War Malraux joined the French Army. He was captured in 1940 during the Battle of France but escaped and later joined the French Resistance. He was captured by the Gestapo in 1944 and underwent a mock execution. He later led the tank unit Brigade Alsace-Lorraine in defence of Strasbourg and in the attack on German Stuttgart. He was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, the Croix de Guerre, and the British Distinguished Service Order.

During the war he worked on a long novel, The Struggle with the Angel based on the story of the Biblical Jacob. The manuscript was destroyed by the Gestapo after his capture in 1944. A surviving first part titled The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, was published after the war.

Malraux and his first wife divorced in the 1940s. His daughter from this marriage, Florence (b.1933), married the filmmaker Alain Resnais.)

Malraux had two sons by his second wife Josette Clotis: Pierre-Gauthier (1940-1961) and Vincent (1943-1961). In 1944 while Malraux was fighting in Alsace, Josette died when she slipped while boarding a train. His two sons were killed in a 1961 automobile accident.

After the war, General Charles de Gaulle appointed Malraux as his Minister for Information (1945-1946). During this post-war period, Malraux also worked on the first of his books on art, The Psychology of Art which was published in three volumes over the period 1947 to 1949. The work was subsequently re-published in one volume, somewhat revised, as The Voices of Silence (Les Voix du Silence). Malraux became a Minister of State in De Gaulle's 1958-1959 government and France's first Minister of Cultural Affairs from 1959 to 1969, serving during all of De Gaulle's presidency. Among many other initiatives, he created maisons de la culture in a number of provincial cities and worked to preserve France's national heritage. In 1960 Malraux launched, as editor, the series Arts of Mankind, an ambitious survey of world art that spans more than thirty large illustrated volumes.
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Marie-Madeleine Lioux, André Malraux, U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at an unveiling of the Mona Lisa at National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

In 1948, Malraux married Marie-Madeleine Lioux, a concert pianist and the widow of his half-brother, Roland Malraux. They separated in 1966.

During the 1960s, Malraux published the first volume of a trilogy on art entitled The Metamorphosis of the Gods, with the second two volumes (not yet translated into English) appearing shortly before he died. He also began publishing a series of semi-autobiographical works, the first of which was Antimémoires. One of these, Lazarus, is a reflection on death following one of his own final illnesses. Malraux died in Créteil, near Paris, on 23 November 1976, and was buried in the Verrières-le-Buisson (Essonne) cemetery. In honor of his contributions to French culture, his ashes were moved to the Panthéon in Paris in 1996, on the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

An international Malraux Society was founded in the United States in 1968. There is also an active association based in Paris, the Amitiés internationales André Malraux.


From La condition humaine [Man's Fate] (1933)

    * If a man is not ready to risk his life, where is his dignity?

    * The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our own nothingness.

"The art museum is one of the places that give us the highest idea of man.” ("The Voices of Silence")

"There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman."

The quote "What is [a] man? A miserable little pile of secrets" is often falsely attributed to Malraux. The actual quote, "Man is what he hides, a wretched little pile of secrets," is an (until recently) obscure aphorism in the psychiatric community, to which Malraux replied, "Man is what he achieves."

See also

    * André Malraux on Wikiquotes

Selected Biographies of Malraux

    * Andre Malraux (1960) by Geoffrey H. Hartman
    * André malraux: The indochina adventure (1960) by Walter Langlois (New York Praeger).
    * Malraux (1971) by Pierre Galante (SBN 40212441-3)
    * Andre Malraux: A Biography (1997) by Curtis Cate (ISBN 208066795)
    * Malraux ou la Lutte avec l'ange. Art, histoire et religion (2001) by Raphaël Aubert (ISBN 2-8309-1026-5)
    * Malraux : A Life (2005) by Olivier Todd (ISBN 0375407022)
    * Dits et écrits d'André Malraux : Bibliographie commentée (2003) by Jacques Chanussot and Claude Travi (ISBN 2-905965-88-6)
    * The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939 (Second edition 2006) by Anthony Beevor (ISBN 0-2978-4832-1)
    * André Malraux (2003) by Roberta Newnham (ISBN 9781841508542)

Partial bibliography

    * Lunes en Papier, 1923 (Paper Moons, 2005)
    * La Tentation de l'Occident, 1926 (The Temptation of the West, 1926)
    * Royaume-Farfelu, 1928 (The Kingdom of Farfelu, 2005)
    * Les Conquérants, 1928 (The Conquerors, 1928)
    * La Voie royale, 1930 (The Royal Way or The Way of the Kings, 1930)
    * La Condition humaine, 1933 (Man's Fate, 1934)
    * Le Temps du mépris, 1935 (Days of Wrath, 1935)
    * L'Espoir, 1937 (Man's Hope, 1938)
    * Les Noyers de l'Altenburg, 1948. (The Walnut Trees of Altenburg)
    * La Psychologie de l'Art, 1947-1949 (The Psychology of Art)
    * Les Voix du silence, 1951 (The Voices of Silence, 1953)
    * La Métamorphose des dieux (English translation: The Metamorphosis of the Gods, by Stuart Gilbert):
          o Vol 1. Le Surnaturel, 1957
          o Vol 2. L'Irréel, 1974
          o Vol 3. L'Intemporel, 1976
    * Antimémoires, 1967 (Anti-Memoirs, 1968 - autobiography)
    * Les Chênes qu'on abat, 1971 (Felled Oaks or The Fallen Oaks)
    * Lazare, 1974 (Lazarus, 1977)

For a more complete biography see the site of the Amitiés internationales André Malraux


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