Lot 54
  • 54

Max Ernst

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Max Ernst
  • Moon II
  • Signed max ernst and dated 44 (lower right); inscribed Made in France (canceled) NY on the reverse and titled Moon II on the stretcher 
  • Oil on canvas
  • 26 by 31 1/2 in.
  • 66 by 80 cm


Hans Richter, New York (gift from the artist)

Private Collection (by descent from the above and sold: Christie's, New York, May 12, 1988, lot 334)

Private Collection, London

Private Collection, Paris


Werner Spies, Max Ernst, Oeuvre-Katalog, Werke 1939-1953, Cologne, 1987, no. 2458, illustrated p. 82 (catalogued as Untitled and with incorrect measurements 61 by 101.6 cm; listed as location unknown)

Catalogue Note

Moon II belongs to a series of nocturnal landscapes that Ernst executed in 1944, inspired by his stay in Arizona the previous summer.  The fantastic quality and the opulence of color he witnessed in the mountains and deserts of the American West made a strong impression on the artist, and are beautifully rendered in the present work in a richly layered composition and a kaleidoscopic coloration.  Whilst Ernst executed a number of paintings showing the landscape bathed in bright sunshine, it was in his nocturnal pictures, such as Moon II, that he managed to capture the sublime magic of his surroundings.


Ernst and Dorothea Tanning spent the summer of 1943 in Arizona, and Werner Spies described the ranch where they stayed as "... a marvellous spot on the bank of a creek that, fed by the glaciers of the San Francisco Mountains, came rushing down through a canyon (a kind of replica of the Grand Canyon on a human scale) to lose itself in the burning deserts to the south.  The first fascinating thing about the place was its abundance of colour [...]  Then there were the rock formations, which resembled a great variety of things" (W. Spies, Max Ernst, A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1991, p. 323).


Discussing Ernst's works inspired by these surroundings, John Russell wrote: "Arizona offered isolation, a celestial climate, a way of life that was both economical and free from suburban constraints. It offered the inspiration of supreme, natural beauty [...]  Few things are more stirring than the fantastic forms and the irrational colouring of the mountains around Sedona.  In the mid-1940s life and landscape in that region had an uncorrupted quality which made of Arizona a Promised Land in which a new life could be begun and an old one discarded [...] and although Max Ernst had never been a landscape painter, in the ordinary sense, it was deeply moving for him to come upon a landscape which had precisely the visionary quality that he had sought for on canvas" (J. Russell, Max Ernst: Life and Work, New York, 1967, p. 140).


Fig. 1, Rock formations near Sedona, Arizona