MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
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MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
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MAX ERNST (1891-1976)

Landscape with Double Portrait

MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
Landscape with Double Portrait
signed ‘max ernst’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
8 ¾ x 9 7/8 in. (22.2 x 25 cm.)
Painted circa 1952
David Mann, New York (acquired from the artist).
Bodley Gallery, New York (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, January 1968.
W. Spies, S. and G. Metken, Max Ernst: Werke, 1939-1953, Cologne, 1987, p. 339, no. 2977 (illustrated).
New York, Bodley Gallery, Max Ernst, October-November 1961 (dated circa 1950).

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Lot Essay

Max Ernst’s Landscape with Double Portrait stands as a poignant reflection of a pivotal period in the artist’s life. Painted against the backdrop of the untamed American landscape which served as his home for over a decade, it embodies the techniques and themes which captivated Ernst throughout his celebrated and prolific career.
Fleeing the tumult of war-torn Europe at the outbreak of World War II, Ernst spent time in New York, where he fueled his persisting fascination with the realms of spirituality and the natural world through frequent visits to the city’s Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. The artist’s marriage to the illustrious collector Peggy Guggenheim rapidly unraveled soon after his arrival in the city, and it wasn’t long before he became involved with fellow artist Dorothea Tanning. The two were inspired during a visit to Arizona early in their relationship, and in 1946, now married, the couple permanently settled in Sedona, a small and remote town in the desert surrounded by staggering red sandstone formations. The desert reappears as a motif throughout Ernst’s oeuvre, serving as a blank canvas upon which he could project his subconscious, and its remarkable textures and colors would continue to inspire his work in the post-war years.
Two years prior to painting Landscape with Double Portrait, Ernst and Tanning embarked on a pivotal trip to Europe—their first together, and Ernst’s first return to France since his escape the decade before. By this time, Ernst was already internationally acclaimed as a pioneer of both the Dada movement and Surrealism, and he was keen to re-establish contact with his avant-garde circle and to gauge the possibility of a permanent return to the country. Instead, their visit offered the two a glimpse into a Europe scarred by the ravages of war and profoundly disillusioned with the artistic currents which prevailed earlier. The Paris School now treated the Surreal movement with coldness and hostility, and the leading aesthetic embraced the more bleak aspects of the absurd, giving preference to the Art Brut of Dubuffet and the Art Informel of Fautrier.
Despite his disenchantment, Ernst’s artistic evolution continued unabated, and he persisted with the steadfast poetic quality which characterized his work. The summer before the creation of the present work, Ernst and Tanning spent time in Honolulu, where Ernst led a course of nearly thirty lectures on modern art at the University of Hawaii. Landscape with Double Portrait, with its sun-drenched palettes of rich blues and warm yellows, is perhaps influenced as much by their trip as it is by the dreamlike Arizona desert. Ernst’s unique treatment of the painting lends the work a palpable complexity and a subtle abstraction. The ambiguity of the otherworldly landscape is emphasized through planes of luminous color and simplified enigmatic forms which recall his coquillage series of the 1920s. These strange creatures, which pour forth from spontaneous patterns, are conjured by passages of frottage and given shape by subtle touches of Ernst’s brush. They are defined not by any basis in reality but by their emergence from an imaginary landscape both mountainous and marine, lending the work an mysterious and playful quality.

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