• 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 120

    Max Ernst (1891-1976)

    La mer et le soleil

    Price Realised  

    Max Ernst (1891-1976)
    La mer et le soleil
    indistinctly signed 'max ernst' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    21 3/8 x 25¾ in. (54.2 x 65.5 cm.)
    Painted circa 1928


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    Werner Spies has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work which will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Max Ernst catalogue raisonné.




    Recalling an abstract construction from the Bauhaus, this untitled painting made in the late 1920s is in fact, one of a rare and important group of landscape paintings depicting the rays of the sun falling on the surface of the sea. It belongs among a group of landscape paintings capturing suns and moons over forests, seas, earthquakes and later petrified cities that all emerged, unconsciously, from his technical experiments with frottage and grattage.

    Using the random formal effects generated by these techniques to stimulate mental pictures in his own mind, Ernst followed their prompts to reveal a sequence of surprising mental landscapes. La mer et le soleil belongs to a small group of paintings begun in the mid-1920s, in which Ernst developed this semi-automatic technique and took it away from its organic origins into the apparently rational realm of geometry, straight lines and clear angular forms used in mathematical diagrams and engineer's blueprints - the pictorial language of that other great movement of the 1920s, International Constructivism.

    As a work like La mer et le soleil shows, however, Ernst was not at all interested in the rationale of such language, but only in the poetics such formal restrictions could evoke. In this work, for example, by paring down his formal methods to a minimum use of straight-line blocks and two circles, he has managed to retain all the evocative mystery of his grattage landscapes of this period and invoke a mystical sense of landscape. In so doing, he also endows the apparently rational language of these simple geometric elements with a strange, magical and perhaps even alien sense of mystery and poetry. Rooted in the dark and fertile imagination of Ernst's unconscious mind, this deeply Romantic sense of mystery is one that not only provokes an irresistible sense of landscape in the picture, but also seems to imbue the whole language of geometric abstraction with a Romanticism akin to the mystical abstractions of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

    Special Notice

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


    Provenance

    Private collection, Switzerland.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION