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    Sale 7543

    The Art of the Surreal (immediately following the Impressionist and Modern Art, Evening Sale)

    4 February 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 163

    Max Ernst (1891-1976)


    Price Realised  

    Max Ernst (1891-1976)
    signed 'max ernst' (lower right); titled 'paysage' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    12¾ x 18¼ in. (32.4 x 46.4 cm.)
    Painted circa 1923

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    An early 'Surreal' landscape, Paysage is one of Ernst's first great series of paintings made between 1921 and 1923, to transfer the technique of collage into the medium of paint. Among the earliest of Ernst's paintings to make use of the disjunctive effect he had discovered in collage to reveal strange and troubling distortions of reality, Paysage is a work that, like Ernst collages, seems to articulate a hidden order or language of poetic association underlying the apparently deceptive world of surface appearances.

    Formerly in the collection of Paul Eluard, Paysage was painted while Ernst was staying with Eluard and his wife Gala in Paris in the early 1920s. In its style it bears a close resemblance to the extraordinary and bizarre paintings with which Ernst decorated Eluard's house in Eaubonne. These works too, like other masterpieces from this period such as Celebes, Oedipus Rex or Saint Cecilia (le piano invisible) whose rocks with eye-like indents greatly resemble those that appear in this work, all drew on the disassociation of the collage technique to bring about strange and startling new realities.

    More deceptive than many of these works, at first glance, Paysage seems to be apparently a normal landscape scene at twilight. Hidden within this picture, however, is the sense that, with the coming of dusk strange creatures will emerge. The rocks, as mentioned above, appear to be growing eyes, the strange plant-like form in the foreground appears to have something anthropomorphic about it and even the clouds seem on the point of metamorphosising into one of Ernst's later hordes.

    Ernst's purpose in creating such images was to deliberately undermine the conventions with which the world is both perceived and understood. Through the pictorial language of collage Ernst had found not only a way to attack the conventions and hierarchies of modern 'civilization', which he, like many other artists, blamed for the First World War, but also a means of creating a new and disturbing reality that seemed to provoke and prick the conscience of modern man. With strange forms and creatures beginning to emerge in his work with increasing regularity, and speaking like hallucinations of a new world beyond the looking glass of crystallised reason and order, this practice led ultimately to Ernst's own mock-pioneering work of 'Natural History' in 1925. Paysage is a precedent of this work of pseudo-natural science, being one of the first of Ernst's paintings to move beyond the disjunctive association of collage and to convert the landscape tradition in art into a new and potent topography of the mind.

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    Paul Eluard, Paris.
    Anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 2 July 1924, lot 83.
    Yehuda Neimann.
    Obelisk Gallery, London.
    Brook Street Gallery, London.
    Frederic N. Aladjem, Geneva, by 1975.
    Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 6 December 1983, lot 345c.
    Private collection, Austria.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 19 November 1986, lot 202.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    W. Spies, S. & G. Metkin, Max Ernst: Oeuvre Katalog, Werke 1906-1925, Cologne, 1975, no. 629 (illustrated p. 326).


    Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture George Pompidou, Galeries nationales du Grand-Palais, Exposition Max Ernst, May - August 1975, no. 84 (illustrated p. 53).