- Max Ernst
- Ohne Titel (Untitled)
- Signed max ernst (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
- 13 1/8 by 15 in.
- 33.2 by 38.1 cm
Acquired at the above sale
In this richly colorful composition, Ernst employed the technique of grattage that he had created during the early days of the Surrealist movement. This process is most evident near the sharp edges delineating where the palette knife had smoothed and scraped the wet paint, sometimes revealing a darker color beneath the top layer of pigment. As is the case for the present work, Ernst's paintings of the post-war era exhibited a stylistic duality of composition and disintegration—a suitable metaphor for the times. According to Werner Spies, his mood during this period "was an ambivalent one, which [Ernst] paraphrased as follows: 'From "The Age of Anxiety" to "The Childhood of Art" only half a rotation of the orthochromatic wheel is required. Between the "Massacre of the Innocents" and "Stepping Through the Looking-Glass" lies an interval merely of one luminous night’... Ernst remained true to his early decision to strive for a symbolic painting in which open questions, and hence the unfathomable obscurity of existence, took precedence over simplistic positivist explanations and definitive stylistic results" (Werner Spies, Max Ernst, A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1991, p. 252).
As Gisela Fischer further notes: “Like aquatic worlds, these fantastic unreal landscapes seem to bring deceased life to light. Are the anthropomorphic cypresses and gnarled vegetation offering hiding places to the exotic figures and animal heads, or are the latter in fact growing, metamorphosis-like, from out of the plants? It seems we are observing the decay of life while at the same time witnessing the emergence of a new world peeling itself out to the past. Ernst’s European pictures concentrate on destruction and violence, and the works he made in exile likewise exude discomfort and uncertainty, but they are nevertheless utopian: mysterious landscapes extending off into the distance, illuminating the hope for a better future” (Werner Spies & Julia Drost, eds., Ernst Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Albertina, Vienna & Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2013, p. 259).