Viewing Room

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2/25

Alternate Text

Max ERNST

Meer und Mond

1925
32 x 23 cm (12 ⁵/₈ x 9 inches)
Oil on wood
Signed lower right: max ernst


Provenance:
Mr. and Mrs. Stanley M. Freehling, Highland Park, Illinois 
The Art Institute, Chicago (a gift from the above)
Private collection, Milan
 


Literature:
- The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Bulletin 1961/1962, Chicago 1962, p. 25.
- Werner Spies (ed.), Max Ernst. Œuvre-Katalog, vol. 3, Werke 1925-1929, 
- Bearbeitet von Werner Spies, Sigrid und Günter Metken, DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 1976, no. 982, p. 98 
 


Exhibition:
- New York, Max Ernst, The Museum of Modern Art, March 1st – May 7th 1961; Chicago, The Art Institute, Chicago, June 16th – July 23rd 1961, no. 28, p. 52
- New York, Max Ernst. Paintings & Collages from the 1920s – 70s from a Private European Collection, Lawrence Rubin, Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, February 1st – 26th 2000, no. 11 


Meer und Mond was executed in 1925, a pivotal year in Max Ernst’s career. Amidst a period of personal upheaval, financial anxiety and artistic uncertainty, in August of 1925, Ernst made a radical artistic breakthrough. Le soleil noir is one of the earliest examples of grattage, a process whereby a canvas is placed over a textured surface and then painted over with oil paint. Areas of the imprinted textured paint surface were then scraped or scratched away by the artist revealing different layers of textured paint. The forms and patterns obtained were next enhanced by Ernst to create a variety of diverse, unplanned images. In Meer und Mond, uniform lines of paint in the foreground were scratched into the still wet paint with an object such as a brush. Ernst then added certain compositional details with a brush; so creating an image that was spontaneous in its origin yet finished with the conscious decision of the artist.          

Grattage was derived from Ernst’s initial discovery of frottage, which he had discovered on a rainy day on 10th August, 1925 while on holiday in Pornic, a seaside town on the west coast of France. While in his hotel room, Ernst was struck by the rich and varied texture of the grooves in the wooden floorboards of his hotel room. He took a rubbing of the surface and in so doing, created an unplanned, inadvertent image that amazed him, feeding his curiosity in the search for hallucinatory, automatic images.     

These innovative, semiautomatic Surrealist techniques enabled Ernst to depict a whole new realm of unpremeditated images. Ernst recalled in 1936 the wealth of imagery that the technique of frottage engendered in his work: ‘There my eyes discovered human heads, animals, a battle that ended with a kiss (the bride of the wind), rocks, the sea and the rain, earthquakes, the sphinx in her stable, the little tables around the earth, the palette of Caesar, false positions, a shawl of frost flowers, the pampas...’ (M. Ernst, On Frottage, in H. B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1968, p. 429). Meer und Mond consists of a stylised sun composed of concentric black discs, above a dark sea, the reflection of the moon in the sea in the center of the composition, with orangish waves, and an a silver-coloured rectangle.  while the curved lines represent the waves under the reflection of the moon. 

Meer und Mond is one of a sequence of atmospheric grattage landscapes and seascapes that Ernst began in 1925. Throughout his career Ernst had a great sensibility for the landscape and this was evidenced in his frottage works begun in 1925. In a series of works on paper entitled Histoire Naturelle, Ernst created images of the natural world; water, plant formations and vegetation, as well as the depiction of natural phenomena. He also used frottage to create fantastical, expansive landscapes in which highly textured surfaces evoke a sense of natural terrain or relief, as well as, in some cases, the shaking tremors caused by earthquakes. The simplification of form and bold use of colour in Meer und Mond create an image of dramatic force and visual potency; a poetic an mysterious expression and embrace of a Surrealist technique that makes this work central to the development of Surrealism in the late 1920s.