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)


MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
signed 'max ernst' (lower right); signed again, titled and dated 'max ernst CALME 58' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
10 5/8 x 13 7/8 in. (27 x 35.2 cm.)
Painted in 1958
Edouard Loeb, Paris.
Herman C. Goldsmith, New York.
Private collection, New York (acquired from the above, November 1959).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
W. Spies, Max Ernst: Oeuvre-Katalog, Werke 1954-1963, Cologne, 1998, p. 36, no. 3112 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Having spent much of the 1930s dreaming of Arizona, Ernst was finally able to settle there in 1946 with his third wife, the artist Dorothea Tanning. The couple chose to live in Sedona, a small city located in the remote Arizona desert, surrounded by dramatic red sandstone formations which inspired their art during this period. This extraordinary landscape would continue to deeply inspire Ernst long after his return to Europe in the 1950s, as he would continue to draw upon it in his post-war work.
Arizona reappears as a motif throughout Ernst’s oeuvre, serving as blank canvas upon which the artist was able to project his psychological frame of mind. His grattages from the interwar period had depicted an imaginary Arizona landscape that appeared bleak and ravaged, reflecting Ernst’s traumatized state of mind after having served in World War I. Conversely, Calme, painted several decades later in 1958, invokes the tranquility and peace Ernst had encountered in the Arizona desert. Executed several years after his move to the France, Ernst was in a new phase of life, developing a deep interest in spirituality and cosmology. Once again opting for a secluded location, the couple had taken up residence in Huisnes in the Loire Valley, and in a letter, Ernst described how ‘it is beautiful and gentle and calm here’ (quoted in W. Spies, Max Ernst Retrospective, exh. cat., Ostfildern, 2013, p. 279). This feeling of serenity can be felt in Calme, as a sense of stillness permeates the painting, with gentle ripples in the water lapping the mountainside edge. The mysticism Ernst associated with the Arizona landscape is conveyed by the white rays of light, which radiate from an enigmatic source. Rather than being emitted from the vermillion sun in the sky, they appear to both simultaneously emanate from and light up the mountainous landscape.
The motif of double sun is more than just a reflection in the water – the positioning of each sun evokes Ernst’s fascination with the cycles and patterns of nature. He was deeply interested in the major developments happening in the field of astronomy during the post-war period, and pictures of the earth and the heavens dominate his work from this period. This interest would later culminate in the publishing of his visually scintillating book, Maximiliana, The Illegal Practice of Astronomy in 1964. He remained fascinated by his dual idea of nature as both a lost arcadia and a cartography of the unconscious mind. As Ernst wrote: "The world throws off its cloak of darkness, it offers to our horrified and enchanted eyes the dramatic spectacle of its nudity, and we mortals have no choice but to cast off our blindness and greet the rising suns, moons and sea levels" (quoted in Histoire naturelle, Cologne, 1965).

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