Lot 43
  • 43

Max Ernst

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
1,105,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Max Ernst
  • signed Max Ernst (upper right)
  • oil on canvas


Walter Schwarzenberg (Galerie Le Centaure), Brussels (sold: Galerie Giroux, Brussels, Vente Schwarzenberg, 1st-2nd February 1932, lot 276)
Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London
Alfred Hecht, London (acquired by 1961)
A bequest from the above to the present owner in 1991


London, Tate Gallery, Max Ernst, 1961, no. 69, illustrated in the catalogue
Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, Dean Gallery, Surrealist Works, 2004


Werner Spies, Max Ernst, Œuvre-Katalog, Werke 1925-1929, Cologne, 1976, no. 1180, illustrated p. 201

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1927, Forêt et soleil belongs to one of the most creative and groundbreaking periods in Max Ernst's œuvre, marked by a constant stream of technical experimentation and invention. It was at this time that the artist established his personal mythology, his visual universe of themes and images that were to become central to his entire career. Throughout 1927, Ernst's work was dominated by images of the natural world, such as forests, birds and seashells, and it was in the series of Forêt paintings of the 1920s that Ernst for the first time fully explored his newly developed grattage technique. His experimentations with ways of applying pigment onto the surface resulted in the discovery of frottage in 1925. Fascinated by the rich texture of wooden floorboards, he would place sheets of paper onto their surface and rub over them with graphite, thus arriving at fantastic, unexpected compositions. In the present work the glowing colours of the setting sun penetrate powerfully through the dense forest.


Adapting this practice to the medium of oil painting, Ernst would cover the canvas with layers of paint and place it over an uneven surface or an object. He would then scrape the pigment off the surface, and complex patterns would emerge. Discussing this grattage technique, Werner Spies wrote: 'Max Ernst laid his canvas over various objects with raised textures – pieces of wood and string, grates, textured glass panes – and, drawing the paint over them with a palette knife, brought forth the most vivid effects. In the course of the following years – years which William Rubin has called the 'heroic epoch of Surrealist painting' – this technique, known as grattage, led to astonishingly innovative imagery. The pictures became more abstract in effect, their formats larger. The dramatic force of these paintings, the richness of their scintillating colour, made them high points of imaginative Surrealist art in the late 1920s' (W. Spies, Max Ernst. A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1991, p. 148).