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

La mariée du vent

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
La mariée du vent
signed 'max ernst' lower right
oil on canvas
28¾ x 36¼in. (73 x 92cm.)
Painted in 1927
Elsa Burckhardt, Küssnacht.
P. Waldberg, Max Ernst, Paris, 1958, p. 220 (illustrated).
Arte Figurativa, VIII, Jan.-Feb. 1960, no. 43 (illustrated p. 53).
J. Russell, Max Ernst, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1966, app. no. 34 (illustrated).
W. Spies, S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, Werke 1925-1929, Cologne, 1976, no. 1090 (illustrated p. 154).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Was ist surrealismus?, Oct.-Nov. 1934, no. 22.
Bern, Kunsthalle, Max Ernst, Aug.-Sept. 1956, no. 22.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Max Ernst, March-April 1963, no. 228.
London, Tate Gallery, Max Ernst, A Retrospective, Feb.-April 1991, no. 115 (illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 155). This exhibition later travelled to Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie and Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.
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Lot Essay

"It is not to be despised, in my opinion, if, after gazing fixedly at the spot on the wall, the coals in the grate, the clouds, the flowing stream, if one remembers some of their aspects; and if you look at them carefully you will discover some quite admirable inventions. Of these the genius of the painter may take full advantage, to compose battles of animals and men, of landscapes or monsters, of devils and other fantastic things which bring you honour. In these confused things genius becomes aware of new inventions" (Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise on Painting).

La mariée du vent (The Bride of the Wind) was a key theme in Ernst's art during the mid-1920s. The first of a number of works on this theme executed in 1927, this painting is the finest of six celebrated frottage paintings where the subject matter of the painting has been determined by the textures of natural forms. Like his other major series of works from this period, the Hordes, the precise nature of the imagery in La mariée du vent originated in the grained patterns of the frottaged background. Following the inventive technique first suggested by Leonardo, Ernst has intuitively followed the forms he found emerging in his mind from the prompt of the patterns in the grain of a series of wood-rubbings as the starting point for his painting. "It is as a spectator that the author assists, indifferent or passionate, at the birth of his work and watches the phases of its development," Ernst maintained of these paintings. "Even as the role of the poet...consists in writing according to the dictates of that which articulates itself in him, so the role of the painter is to pick out and project that which sees itself in him" (On Frottage, 1936, cited in H.B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, 1968 p. 429).

The title of the painting Windsbraut, La mariée du vent refers to a poetic German name for a storm-wind that translates literally as "bride of the wind". Windsbraut was also the title of Oskar Kokoschka's well-known 1914 painting of an erotically charged tempest and has here been similarly used by Ernst as the title for a painting that depicts the struggling forms of horses as a symbol of sexual union. The image of two horses struggling with one another in a mystical landscape that to some extent anticipates the vistas of Arizona where Ernst would settle in the 1940s, is a powerful and archetypal image here used to create an elegant image of turbulent union. Like a tempestuous ying and yang the two horses seem to both oppose and unite with one another in a manner that is reminsicent of Leonardo's celebrated equestrian battle scene, The Battle of the Anghari. This feature is made more explicit in this work through the careful symmetry of the two horses heads, the mirroring of their eyes (correlating to the division of earth and sky), and the mystic atmosphere generated by the cosmic disc (sun/moon) neatly positioned between the horses' two bodies. These elements infuse the work with a strong sense of mysticism that helps to suggest that the horses are mythical manifestations of some powerful and ultimately united cosmic force.

"I was surprised," Ernst later remarked of the images that emerged from his unconscious in such paintings "by the sudden intensification of my visionary capacities and by the hallucinatory succession of contradictory images superimposed, one upon the other, with the persistence and rapidity characteristic of amorous memories. My curiosity awakened and astonished, I began to experiment indifferently and to question, utilizing the same means, all sorts of materials to be found in my visual field; leaves and their veins, the ragged edges of a bit of linen, the brushstrokes of a 'modern painting, the unwound thread of a spool, etc. There my eyes discovered human heads, animals, [and] a battle that ended with a kiss (The Bride of the Wind)" (ibid, pp. 429-31).


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