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Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A SWISS PRIVATE COLLECTION
Max Ernst (1891-1976)

Paysage-effet d'attouchement

Details
Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Paysage-effet d'attouchement
signed 'max ernst' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'paysage effet d'attouchement 1934-35 Max Ernst MADE IN FRANCE' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1934-1935
Provenance
The artist, until at least 1941.
James Johnson Sweeney, New York, until at least 1968.
Byron Gallery [Charles Byron], New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1970s.
Literature
C. Zervos, ed., 'Max Ernst, Œuvres de 1919 à 1936', in Cahiers d’Art, Paris, 1937, n.p. (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Max Ernst, Gemälde und Graphik 1920-1950, Brühl, 1951, p. 81 (illustrated; titled 'Landschaft mit Getreidekorn').
L’Œil, no. 10, October 1955 (illustrated on the cover).
H. Demisch, Vision und Mythos in der modernen Kunst, Stuttgart, 1959, no. 29, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Landschaft mit dem Getreidekorn').
J. Gállego, 'Crónica de Paris', in Goya, no. 35, Madrid, 1960, p. 310 (illustrated; titled 'Paisaje').
E. Petrová, Max Ernst, Prague, 1965, no. 40 (illustrated).
J. Russell, Max Ernst, Life and Work, London, 1967, no. 66, p. 346 (illustrated; titled 'Paysage au germe de blé'; with incorrect dimensions and provenance).
U. M. Schneede, The Essential Max Ernst, London, 1972, no. 284, p. 211 (illustrated p. 143; titled 'Landscape with Wheatgerm' and with incorrect dimensions).
E. Quinn, Max Ernst, London, 1977, no. 221, n.p. (illustrated).
W. Spies & S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, Werke 1929-1938, Cologne, 1979, no. 2148, p. 299 (illustrated).
C. Stokes, 'The Scientific Methods of Max Ernst. His Use of Scientific Subjects from La Nature', in The Art Bulletin, vol. 62, no. 3, 1980, p. 462 (under note 29).
G. & S. Metken, 'Max Ernst', in exh. cat, Classics of Modern Art, Andros, 1999, p. 127 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Copenhagen, Den Frie Udstilling Bygning, International Kunstudstilling, Kubisme = Surrealisme, January 1935, no. 11, p. 16.
London, New Burlington Galleries, The International Surrealist Exhibition, June - July 1936, no. 83.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, December 1936 - January 1937, no. 368, p. 224; this exhibition later travelled to Philadelphia, Museum of Art, January - March 1937; Boston, Museum of Modern Art, March - April 1937; Springfield, Museum of Fine Arts, April - May 1937; Milwaukee, Art Institute, May - June 1937; Minneapolis, University Art Gallery, University of Minnesota, June - July 1937; and San Francisco, Museum of Art, August - September 1937.
Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Max Ernst, November - December 1959, no. 49, n.p.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage, March - June 1968, no. 107, p. 233 (illustrated fig. 186, p. 129).
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Max Ernst, October - November 1969, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Landscape with Poetical Effects').
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Max Ernst: A Retrospective, February - April 1975, no. 165, p. 169 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand-Palais, Max Ernst, May - August 1975, no. 204, p. 162 (illustrated p. 89).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu

Lot Essay


‘The last superstition and final sad vestige of the myth of Creation remaining to western culture was the legend of artistic creativity. It was one of the first revolutionary acts of Surrealism to have attacked this myth with straightforward means and in the sharpest manner, and presumably to have destroyed it forever, by absolutely insisting on the purely passive role of the "author" in the mechanics of poetic inspiration and by exposing every type of "active" control through reason, morality or aesthetic considerations as inimical to inspiration’
Max Ernst

In 1934, the same year that he published this forceful acclamation of automatism in art, Max Ernst undertook a series of profoundly inventive paintings (Spies, nos. 2416-2151) that have their basis in photographs and illustrations documenting experiments with the flow of air and water around various objects, which caused the current to deviate from its straight course into dynamic, wave-like patterns. In these scientific images of physical forces at work – of energy visualised – Ernst found a fresh way of seeing, unencumbered by conventional artistic meanings and bearing tantalizing associations with his own passions and inner states. During the preceding years, he had frequently incorporated ‘found’ images from various scientific journals and encyclopedias into his radical collage practice; now, instead, he recreated and adapted his source material in oils, using the language of physical energy to picture the unconscious and deeply personal phenomena of sexual generation, biological growth, and creative revelation.

In Paysage-effet d’attouchement, one of the largest and most elaborate compositions in this series, the rhythmic waves can be construed as both eddies of water and strata of earth deposited over time. A white, wedge-shaped object slices into the landscape at the left, possibly derived from a diagram of an aircraft wing in transverse section, showing airflow over its surface. Here, the encroaching form has become the nageur aveugle (blind swimmer), as Ernst titled a related painting – a proxy for the artist who feels his way forward according to an inner vision, freeing his mind from the constraints of external reality so that the layers of the subconscious can become visible. ‘Before he goes into water,’ Ernst explained, ‘a diver cannot know what he will bring back. A painter does not choose his subject. Imposing one upon himself, be it ever so subversive and exciting, and treating it in an academic manner, would mean producing a work of weak revolutionary effect’ (Ernst, quoted in J. Pech, Max Ernst: Sculptures, Milan, 1996, p. 69).

The swelling, undulant forms of the present landscape also invoke the contours of the female body or the inner layers of the flesh, like a topographical map to its most secret, buried regions. ‘They can be seen as human anatomies’, John Russell has written, ‘in which the blind explorer, groping this way and that, has stumbled upon the crevice that leads to the source of creation’ (J. Russell, Max Ernst, Life and Work, London, 1967, p. 113). The white rod functions as a phallic emblem, penetrating the channel of parallel folds and impelling its unseen seed toward the waiting egg at the epicentre of the image. The hill at the top of the landscape takes the form of a human breast, appended to which is a hybrid organism connoting propagation – at once a plant that sprouts from the fertile terrain, its stem bowed in a breeze and its seeds about to scatter, and a hummingbird that appears to drink from the pollen-dusted nipple.

Sailing above this imaginative vision is a larger, more brilliantly coloured bird, this one constituting an alter-ego for the artist himself. Since 1930, Ernst had featured in his work a hallucinatory, avian surrogate known as Loplop, Superior of Birds – ‘a private phantom very much attached and devoted to me’, he explained. Birds, with their ability to pass between the realms of earth and sky, have long served in religious lore as messengers and prophets; Loplop, likewise, functioned as a shamanic guide to Ernst’s imagination and creative process. ‘In identifying the bird with his “self”, while at the same time casting it as a kind of disconnected superego,’ Gisela Fischer has written, ‘Ernst was able not only to evoke the automatic creative process but also to attain something that was always of great importance for him—to merge passivity and activity into a creative principle’ (G. Fischer, Max Ernst: Retrospective, exh. cat., Vienna, 2013, p. 163).

The paintings that Ernst developed from scientific studies of flow patterns served him during the ensuing years as a creative wellspring in their own right. In the summer of 1934, as a guest of Giacometti at his home in Maloja, Switzerland, Ernst collected smooth, rounded rocks from the moraine of the Forno glacier and transformed them into painted or carved egg-shaped sculptures, representing the forces of water and time as undulating waves and biomorphic shapes that envelop the surface of the stone. During 1935-1936, Ernst painted a series of variations on the original theme in which the striated forms are more dense and tangled – the maze of the human consciousness increasingly impenetrable and unknowable – evoking the artist’s apocalyptic forest imagery of these years (Spies, nos. 2172-2175, 2252).

During the same period, Ernst selected Paysage-effet d’attouchement for inclusion in a pair of momentous exhibitions, which marked a zenith for Surrealism in the global limelight. In summer 1936, the painting was featured in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, at which Dalí memorably delivered a lecture while wearing a deep-sea diving suit. Later the same year, it traveled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York for Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, organized by founding director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., which put Surrealism on the map for American audiences. In 1937, the canvas was included in a special issue of Cahiers d’Art devoted entirely to Ernst and his work – in effect, a retrospective exhibition in print. ‘It remains a capital document’, Russell has written, ‘and it would be difficult to better either the choice of works for reproduction or the quality of the éloges’ (J. Russell, op. cit., 1967, p. 124).

The first recorded owner of Paysage-effet d’attouchement was the curator and critic James Johnson Sweeney, an impassioned advocate for innovative and experimental art. Sweeney led the prestigious Department of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA following the Second World War and subsequently, from 1952 until 1959, served as director of the Guggenheim Museum. The painting passed to the present owner in the 1970s and has never since changed hands on the market.

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