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Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Qui est ce grande malade...?

Details
Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Qui est ce grande malade...?
signed 'max ernst' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25½ x 19¾in. (64.6 x 50cm.)
Painted circa 1923
Provenance
Man Ray, Paris.
Lennart G. Erickson, Hillsborough, California.
New York, Museum of Modern Art (on loan).
Siegfried Adler, Montagnola, by whom acquired for the present owner.
Literature
P. Eluard, 'Premières vues anciennes', Minotaure, no. 10, Winter, 1937, p. 58 (illustrated).
P. Waldberg, Max Ernst, Paris, 1958, p. 138 (illustrated).
J. Russell, Max Ernst, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1966, no. 30 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage, March-June 1968, no. 131, p. 97 (illustrated). 'Hommage à Max Ernst', Numéro spécial de la revue XXe siècle, Paris, 1971, p. 81 (illustrated).
U. Schneede, Max Ernst, Stuttgart, 1972, no. 117, p. 69 (illustrated).
R. W. Spiess, S. Metken & G. Metken, Max Ernst Werke 1906-1925, Cologne, 1975, no. 657, p. 341 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Max Ernst, 1975, no. 83 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst, Mnchen, Max Ernst, 1979, no. 77 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Max Ernst. Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism, ed. William A. Camfield, New York, 1993, no. 170 (illustrated).
Exhibited
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Max Ernst, Feb.-Apr.1975, no.83 (illustrated).
Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Max Ernst, May-Aug. 1975, no. 106.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, 1978, no. 9J 15.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Max Ernst, 1979, no. 77.
London, Tate Gallery, Max Ernst, 1991, no. 79.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Max Ernst. Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism, 1993, no. 170. This exhibition later travelled to the Menil Collection, Houston and The Art Institute of Chicago.

Lot Essay

"Qui est ce grand malade dont parlent les fous
Qui est ce grand amoureux dont chantent les frères
Un papillon sur lequel s'étalent des trous
Un enfant reu a Paris et partout ailleurs
Une oreille prêtée un ventriloque sans air
Sinon un chevalier sans cadeaux et sans peur"

Ernst moved to Paris in the autumn of 1922, joining his friends Eluard, Tzara and Breton. Two years later the Surrealist movement was officially launched by Breton with his Manifeste du Surréalisme, published in 1924. Various members of the Dada group, such as Tzara, Eluard, Man Ray and Arp joined the Surrealist movement, bringing with the strong influence of Dada. Surrealism, like Dada, became focused on the irrational.

Breton defined Surrealism in his manifesto, as "purely psychic automatism through which we undertake to express in words, writing or any other activity, the actual functioning of thoughts dictated apart from any control by reason and any moral or aesthetic consideration."
Ernst, also previously a member of the Dada movement, who had been fascinated by the art of psychotics during his studies of philosophy and psychology, was naturally inclined to work with the Surrealists.

The present picture, painted in the crucial years between 1923 and 1924, perfectly illustrates Breton's definition of Surrealism. The undefined figures and location relates it to the world of dreams. Moreover, Ernst composed a poem and included it randomly through the canvas. The irrational and whimsical poem created by Ernst is the result of the juxtaposition of unrelated words written down as they apparently surfaced in his mind. This 'automatic writing' is related to the theories of Freud, whom Breton had met in Vienna in 1921.

There is only one other Tableau-poème by Ernst, now housed in a Private Collection in Paris (fig. 2).
The picture was owned for a long time by Man Ray, an equally important and respected proponent of the Surrealist movement (fig. 2).
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