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

L'entrée des fleurs or Fleurs et coquillages

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
L'entrée des fleurs or Fleurs et coquillages
signed 'max ernst' (lower right)
oil on canvas
15 x 18 in. (38.1 x 45.8 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Mr & Mrs J.B. Urvater, Brussels, by 1957.
Loredana Balboni, Venice, by 1975.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the mid-1990s.
L.R. Lippard, 'Ernst and Dubuffet. A study in Like and Unlike', in The Art Journal, no. XXI, Summer 1962, p. 241 (illustrated p. 240).
A. de Ridder, De levende Kunst gezien te Venetié, Brussels, 1958, vol. II, p. 281 (illustrated).
P. Waldberg, Max Ernst, Paris, 1958, p. 237 (illustrated).
W. Spies, S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, Werke 1925-1929, Cologne, 1976, no. 1361, p. 292 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Georges Bernheim, Max Ernst, Ses Oiseaux, Ses Fleurs Nouvelles, Ses Forêts Volantes, Ses Maledictions, Son Santana, December 1928, no. 5.
Venice, Palazzo Centrale, XXVII Biennale, Maestri del surrealismo, 1954.
Otterlo, Museum Kröller-Müller, Les grandes collections belges: Collection Urvater, 1957, no. 35; this exhibition later travelled to Liège, Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Leicester, Museum and Art Gallery, Paintings from the Urvater Collection, September - October 1958, no. 26 (dated '1929'); this exhibition later travelled to York, Art Gallery, October - November and London, Tate Gallery, November - December.
Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, Max Ernst, November - December 1959, no. 42 (illustrated pl. IV).
Turin, Galleria Galatea, Max Ernst, October - November 1966, no. 12 (illustrated).
Bologna, Galleria de' Foscherari, Max Ernst, November - December 1970, no. 20 (illustrated; dated '1927').
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Max Ernst: a Retrospective, February - April 1975, no. 124, p. 138 (illustrated; dated '1927').
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Max Ernst, May - August 1975, no. 153, p. 160 (illustrated p. 72).
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.
Please note the correct dimensions of this work are : 15 x 18 in. (38.1 x 45.8 cm.)


Produced by scraping the painted surface of the canvas with a palette knife to expose grains and patterns that, as in his earlier graphic frottage rubbings, subsequently served as prompts for his ever-fertile imagination and creativity, Ernst’s ‘shell/flower’ paintings of 1928 were one of the first unconscious products of the artist’s new ‘grattage’ technique. The patterns that these scrapings produced suggested strange clam-like flowers to Ernst who duly began to build his paintings around such potent and evocative pictorial flowerings. The overt prettiness of many of these ‘shell/flowers‘, their deliberate and undeniable charm and the innate romanticism of the strange landscapes and gardens that they often generated in his art can also be seen as a reflection of the deep contentment in Ernst’s personal life at this time.

In 1928 Ernst, who had only recently been able to devote himself full-time to his art, had finally settled into a new life with his second wife Marie-Berthe Aurenche. Ernst had met the young Marie-Berthe shortly after she had left her convent tuition the previous year and, in the face of her parents outrage and amidst great controversy, took her off to be his bride. He was of course supported in his actions by his Surrealist friends who were always ready to champion the cause of l’amour against the moral strictures of French society.

Ernst, whose art was often dark and foreboding in its visionary power, seemed as surprised as anyone in the new direction his art had suddenly taken in 1928. His ‘Biographical Notes‘ record for the year 1928 the following description: ‘Flowers appear Shell flowers, feather flowers, crystal flowers, tube flowers, Medusa flowers. All of his friends were transformed into flowers. All flowers metamorphosed into birds, all birds into mountains, all mountains into stars. Every star became a house and every house a city’ (Max Ernst, ‘Biographical Notes: Tissue of Truth, Tissue of Lies’, in Max Ernst, exh. cat., London, 1991, p. 303).

Painted in 1928, L’entrée des fleurs is one of this extraordinary series of ‘shell/flower’ paintings that suddenly sprouted in Ernst’s work in 1928. Depicting a bizarre extra-terrestrial and nocturnal looking landscape, the painting asserts itself as if it were a full-colour rendering of the world that he had first discerned in his early frottages, collated under the name Histoire Naturelle. Like these works, L’entrée des fleurs, with its vibrant and also highly painterly combination of flat, abstract geometric form and grattage scrapings of paint used to form a strangely organic structure reminiscent of shells, flowers and geological rock formations, is a painting that invokes a strange abstract world full of mysterious biological possibility.

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