MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A NEW JERSEY COLLECTION
MAX ERNST (1891-1976)


MAX ERNST (1891-1976)
signed and dated 'max ernst 55' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'max ernst 1955 dormeuse' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 18 1/4 in. (57.7 x 46.4 cm.)
Painted in 1955
Aram D. Mouradian, Paris.
The Mayor Gallery, London.
Private collection, Canada; sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1989, lot 383.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Waldberg, Max Ernst, Paris, 1958, p. 406 (illustrated; titled D. dormant).
W. Spies, S. and G. Metken, Max Ernst: Werke, 1954-1963, Cologne, 1998, p. 24, no. 3089 (illustrated).
New Orleans Museum of Art (on extended loan).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Lot Essay

André Breton, the founding father of the Surrealist movement, in 1925 had characterized Surrealism around the twin poles of automatism and dream. Teetering the line between abstraction and figuration, Dormeuse is a playful exploration of these core Surrealist values, showing Ernst’s commitment to Surrealism well into the post-war period. Simple lines delicately render the face of the titular sleeping figure, who as she leans to the right, morphs into a landscape below her neckline. Ambiguous images surround the figure, simultaneously appearing to be landscapes, clouds, and birds. Birds are further evoked by the scarlet streaks of paint punctuating the cerulean and azure tones of the painting. Ernst’s use of ambiguous images create a visual language in his paintings that allow the artist to transgress boundaries, dualities, and limitations in his art, in turn, allowing for the emergence of multiplicities of meaning, dialogue, and narratives.
Birds were a deeply personal motif in Ernst’s work. His childhood memory of the death of his pet parrot at precisely the same moment his sister was born had a long-lasting impact on him, and they appear consistently throughout his oeuvre, symbolizing a physical manifestation of Ernst’s inner persona, Loplop. This was Max Ernst’s favorite alter ego, first introduced in le Supérieur des oiseaux in 1928, who henceforth took form as a mysterious guide to the underworld of Ernst's unconscious and the realm from where his ever-fertile creativity derived – a telling choice in Dormeuse, with its focus on the dream world of the subconscious mind.
Ernst was fascinated by the role of chance and the unconscious in artistic production, and these double images are partially the result of the intuitive painting process he developed, allowing one image to transform into another as it came to life on his canvas. The celestial blue tones create the atmosphere of night-time; the realm of dreams and the subconscious, and contrast with the planes of white and grey, which in turn allude to the day light of the conscious world; thus engaging even his color palette with the concept of the duality of the conscious and unconscious human mind.
Although, by 1958, Breton had expelled Ernst from the official Surrealist group, having grown suspicious of his commercial success after he had won the Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale in 1954, Dormeuse is a testimony to Ernst’s lifelong dedication Surrealism, as he continued to engage with and explore the values at the heart of the movement.

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