Painted in 1966, Sortons: L’instant et la durée illustrates Max Ernst’s enduring passion for the semi-automatic techniques, which had fuelled his creative energies since he first discovered them in the 1920s and 30s. Such processes added an unplanned element to Ernst’s compositions, feeding his curiosity for automatic images and aiding his ‘meditative and hallucinatory faculties,’ (‘Beyond Painting,’ in M. Caws, ed., Surrealism, London & New York, 2004, p. 215). In Sortons: L’instant et la durée, the artist plays with the effects of delcalcomania, generating unexpected, spontaneous patterns by pressing two sheets of paper together, one prepared with richly pigmented oil paint, and then peeling them apart to reveal an unmediated image. Here, almost the entire composition is taken over by the intricate, variegated pattern of magenta paint, which rises like a mountain before us, drawing our eye to the mystical sun or moon hovering in the deep blue sky above. This celestial star stands out from the rest of the composition through its rich layers of impastoed white paint, a contrast in textures that is repeated in the small white form which appears in the middle of the field of red paint. Simultaneously evoking the red sandstone landscapes of Arizona, where the artist had lived during his years in America, and suggesting the alien terrain of another world, in this work Ernst generates an enigmatic landscape painting that appears at once deeply familiar and yet completely otherworldly and unsettling.