During World War II, Max Ernst sought refuge in the United States, and during the summer of 1943 he visited Sedona, Arizona with Dorothea Tanning. Ernst himself explained his fascination with "The abundance and variety of natural things. In the oasis of Sedona plant and animal life was prolific and diverse. As far as the bipeds were concerned, their variety, which rivaled that of the plants and animals, may have made them seem bizarre to us denizens of the Atlantic Coast, an impression strengthened by their unobtrusive kindness and wholly natural hospitality" (ed. W. Spies, Max Ernst: A Retrospective, Munich, 1991, p. 323). The exoticism of the people and animal and plant life that he discovered would become particularly inspirational for his work. Ernst created two versions of the present piece, Gardenia, developing the bizarre figure from a similarly posed lizard-like creature hidden in the tangled overgrowth of foliage in La Joie de Vivre. Combining his fascination with the foreign wildlife of the region and the welcoming, friendly gestures of the locals, the half-insect, half-bird creature in Gardenia presents a handful of flowers. Waldberg wrote: "En cette mme anne 1945, une des annes fastes de Max, le Gardenia l'oeil frachement cicatris, aigrettes au vent, rpondait par un geste d'offrande de sa main ptale au 'Bonjour Max Ernst' de La Joie de Vivre de 1936" (P. Waldberg, Max Ernst, Paris, 1958, p. 386).