• The Art of the Surreal Evening auction at Christies

    Sale 7903

    The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale

    2 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 117

    Max Ernst (1891-1976)

    Barbares marchant vers l'ouest

    Price Realised  


    Max Ernst (1891-1976)
    Barbares marchant vers l'ouest
    signed 'max ernst' (lower right)
    oil on paper laid down on the artist's painted board
    image size: 9 1/8 x 12¼ in. (23.3 x 31 cm.)
    board size: 9½ x 13 in. (24.2 x 33.2 cm.)
    Painted in 1935

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    The experiments that Ernst made by impressing in a frottage-like way various patterns onto the wet oil paint of his canvases led to the reappearance in his art of the Horde that had first manifested themselves in his grattage paintings of 1927. The Horde was a band of mysterious and frightening creatures that had emerged from the murky undergrowth of Ernst's grattage landscapes and forests like Goya's flight of monsters, forming out of the darkness of sleep in his famous etching El Sueño de la razon produce monstruos. Monstrous archetypal creatures of the imagination, this Horde was clearly a nightmarish apparition of figures, who lived in the labyrinthine depths of Ernst's troubled unconscious and in his haunted memories of the Great War.
    The synchronicity of the reappearance of these figures in Ernst's art and the reappearance of the spectre of war that accompanied the rise of Nazism in Ernst's native Germany in the 1930s is clearly no accident. Many artists who had lived through the furnace of the Great War saw in Hitler's rise the awful prospect of another European war and were prompted enough by it to create works aimed at reminding their fellow men of war's horror and devastation. In 1933 Ernst had responded directly to Hitler's accession of power with his large painting Europe After the Rain - a panorama of the European continent that showed it devastated and distorted by the ravages of war. Devastated forest-like cities also began to reappear in his work at this time as did the Horde - now titled by Ernst as 'Barbarians'- always looking and marching westwards.
    Emerging from the forest-like matrix of impressed patterns made by chance in the wet paint, Ernst's 'Barbarians' take form as a landscape of demons brought to life. Like the Horde before them, these creatures, born of the land and its arbitrary myriad patterns, seem to bubble on the edge of recognisability. Half figuration, half abstraction, they are of an altogether darker, more menacing and demonic nature than the creatures of the Horde, who seemed to be ritualistically dancing on the edge of consciousness. These barbarians of the 1930s appear more like invocations that have been magically conjured and awoken. Ominously there seems to be more purpose and direction to their actions, a feature born out by the title that Ernst gives them. These barbarians do not dance, they march.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Walter Kern, by whom acquired from the artist on 12 November 1935.
    Anonymous sale, Klipstein & Kornfeld, Bern, 9-11 May 1963, lot 295.
    Otto van de Loo, Munich, by 1974.
    Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 7 February 2005, lot 92.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1935, vol. 10, nos. 5-6, p. 104 (illustrated).
    'Max Ernst, oeuvres de 1919 à 1936', in Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1937, p. 98.
    U.M. Schneede, Max Ernst, Hatje Bild-Monographie, Stuttgart, 1972, no. 286 (illustrated p. 145).
    Galerie van de Loo, Dokumentation und Lagerkatalog II, Munich, 1974, no. 19 (illustrated).
    W. Spies, Max Ernst, Werke 1929-1938, Cologne, 1979, no. 2226 (illustrated p. 344).


    Munich, Haus der Kunst, Max Ernst, Retrospektive, February - April 1979, no. 235 (illustrated p. 304); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, May - July 1979.