Camille Goemans

Camille Goemans was an important promoter of surrealism in both Belgium and Paris. He organized the first exhibit by Salvador Dali in Paris in 1929 and was an avid promoter and patron of Rene Magritte.

In 1927 when Magritte moved to Paris Goemans had just recently moved his operations there but not yet set up a gallery. Magritte met artist Joan Miro through Goemans and the two artists had lunch together at Goeman's office every Thursday. It was through Goemans that Magritte met Joan Arp and Max Ernst and later on Salvador Dali. In 1929 he finally opened the gallery Goemans (la galerie Goemans) in Paris, then put under contract Jean Arp, and Yves Tanguy. Rene Magritte was still under contract with Van Hecke in Brussels but Goemans managed to sell a portion Magritte's work that he reserved the rights (and others secretly). ELT Mesens, who worked for Van Hecke, criticized Magritte for betraying Van Hecke's contract to sell paintings with Goemans.

Goemans tried to arrange a meeting with surrealist leader Andre Breton and eventually became accepted into the group. It was Goemans and Nouge that finally led to Magritte's acceptance in 1928 and Breton's acknowledgement of his work. In 1928 Goemans and Nouge launched the review, "Distances" and Magritte illustrated some the surrealist writing of Goemans. In March 1929 he published with Magritte a series of five leaflets, Le Sens Propre (The proper Meaning), with poems by Goemans based on the paintings and illustrations of Magritte. Goemans and Nouge helped Magritte title namy of his paintings.

By July 1929 magritte had broken his contract agreement with Van Hecke and was waiting on Goeman's new gallery to open. Goemans had a backer and was signing up artists. That summer Camille Goemans and a friend, Yvonne Bernard, as well as René Magritte and his wife, Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and the couple’s daughter Cécile headed south to Cadaqués for a month long vacation.

Salvadore Dali was in residence at his family's summer house a few miles away in Figuras. The Magrittes had become acquainted with Dali at Goemans' apartment while Dali stayed in Paris. During an outing, Eluard and Goemans teased Magritte about his strong Walloon accent and tried to persuade him to change it. This became a sore spot for Magritte and led to his later rejection of the Parisian art world and his 1948 "vache" period.  Magritte painted Threatening Weather while in Cadaqués. Gala Eluard stayed with Dali after the others returned to Paris.

In 1930 Goemans was having marital problems and issues with his business partner, Rott. It was shortly after the Wall Street crash and money for art was drying up. Magritte was waiting for a solo exhibit at Goemans gallery, in fact one was planned for March. instead on March 28, 1930 Goemans organized with the help of Aragon, an exhibition at his gallery entirely devoted to collages. The Goemans Gallery closed forever on April 12, 1930. Magritte's chance for a solo exhibit disappeared.

Goemans, now homeless, stayed with the Magrittes until he left in Mid-May for Brussels with this new love, Sacha Chigirinsky.

Biography of Camille Ghislain Goemans
(Born in Louvain, Belgium on january 23, 1900. Died in Brussels on June 4, 1960) Translated by Richard Matteson

He studied medicine in 1919 at the Université Libre de Bruxelles but changed to study law at the Université de Louvain.  In 1922 he collaborated on the review (magazine) Le Disque with Franz Hellens, where he became editor. He was introduced to classmate Henri Michaux and became friends with the writer, Herman Closson. He published in 1924 Périples aux Éditions du Disque and "Correspondence" with Paul Nougé and Marcel Lecomte.

In 1925, Camille Goemans settled Paris and participated in surrealist activities. In the spring of 1926 he left the civil service to enter the art tradein Brussels with Geert van Bruaene. They opened the "Galerie La Vierge" in Brussels and signed Max Ernst. They then exhibited Ernst's  "Series of Natural History" collages. The "Galerie La Vierge" catalog was illustrated  by Rene Magritte. With Paul Nougé, Goemans founded in 1928, the magazine Distances (No. 3) with contributions by Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Louis Scutenaire, Marc Eemans, E. L. T. Mesens and André Souris.

In 1929 he opened the gallery Goemans (la galerie Goemans) in Paris, with put under contract Jean Arp, Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy. There were also exhibitions by Salvador Dali (his first exhibition in Paris), Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Man Ray. In March he published with Magritte a series of five leaflets, Le Sens Propre (The proper Meaning), with poems by Goemans based on the paintings and illustrations of Magritte. On March 28, 1930 he organized an exhibition at his gallery with a section entirely devoted to collages organized with the help of Aragon. Because of personal problems and the economy Goemans Gallery would close forever on April 12, 1930.

In 1931, Goemans was appointed Deputy Director of Tourism Belgo-Luxemburger. In 1933, he obtained his doctorate in law. He became the Editor of the journal Hermès in 1936, which he first contributed to in 1933. In 1942 he opened in Brussels with Lou Cosyn a gallery that exhibited regularly the paintings of  Rene Magritte. He founded the magazine Response (No. 1) in 1944 and in 1949 held a conference, titled the Experience of Surrealism that exhibited works by the sculptor Pol Bury. He was named public relations manager of the group Philips in Brussels. In 1956 he gave a lecture on Rene Magritte in Charleroi.

Books
Périples, éditions du Disque vert, Paris-Bruxelles, 1924.
Poèmes pour la guerre, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1968.
Grand comme une image, avec un dessin de René Magritte, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1968.
Arsène, avec un dessin de Francis Picabia, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1969.
Le Bonheur des rois ou quelques précisions pour un adolescent, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1969.
La Fille perdue, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1970.
Interrogeons notre destin, Les Lèvres nues, Bruxelles, 1969.
Œuvre 1922-1957, couverture de René Magritte, André De Rache, Bruxelles, 1970.
Écrits. Fragments, Labor, Bruxelles, 1992.

On Camille Goemans
Christian Bussy, Anthologie du surréalisme en Belgique, Gallimard, Paris, 1972.
Marcel Mariën, L'Activité surréaliste en Belgique (1924-1950), Lebeer-Hossmann, Bruxelles, 1979.
René Magritte et le surréalisme en Belgique, catalogue d'exposition, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles, 1982.
Le Mouvement surréaliste à Bruxelles et en Wallonie. (1924-1947), catalogue d'exposition, Centre Culturel Wallonie Bruxelles, Paris, 1988.
Irène, Scut, Magritte & C°, catalogue d'exposition, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, 1996. 
Les Surréalistes belges, Europe n° 912, Paris, avril 2005.
 


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