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

Trois jeunes filles en de belles poses

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Trois jeunes filles en de belles poses
signed 'max ernst' (lower right)
oil on canvas
16 1/8 x 13 in. (41 x 33 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Galleria del Secolo, Rome (no. 11/8).
Private collection, Rome; sale, Christie's, London, 26 June 2001, lot 262.
Acquired at the above sale; sale, Germann Auktionshaus, Zurich, 25 November 2002, lot 22.
Acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's, London, 7 February 2005, lot 79.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Ernst, Beyond Painting and Other Writings by the Artist and his Friends, New York, 1948 (illustrated p. 60).
W. Spies, S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, Werke 1925-1929, Cologne, 1976, no. 1112. p. 165 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Van Leer, Exposition Max Ernst, March - April 1927, no. 22.
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An early work employing the grattage technique, Trois jeunes filles en de belles poses is a lighter and more charming example that belongs to the sinister and menacing group of Hordes that emerged from the murky forest of Ernst’s mind in 1927. Applying the logic of frottage to oil painting, Ernst developed the technique of scraping layers of paint over a canvas pressed from the back by textured reliefs to generate a myriad patterning of colour and form. This labyrinthine tangle of fluid form and colour would subsequently serve as a prompt for the creation of new forms and creatures that would spark in Ernst’s unconscious mind and which he would subsequently attempt to define, fix and render in intelligible visual order in his painting.

This technique, to which Ernst gave the name grattage, prompted the awakening of several demons from his unconscious mind clearly related to his nightmarish recollections of the Great War. These emerged in his art as threatening anthropomorphic or mythological figures - the Horde - a collective group of thugs resurrecting themselves from the Flanders mud - a figurative allegory for the rise of Nationalists in Germany if ever there was one.

Trois jeunes filles en de belles poses (Three Young girls in Beautiful Poses) belongs to the same series and was created in the same way, yet the figures that emerged in this work serve as an antidote to the ugly Horde. Mimicking the Three Graces of classical mythology, the figures seem to signify that all is not lost. The menacing and fearful creatures are not the only demonic forces at work in Ernst’s unconscious but as the bird-like central-figure (perhaps anticipating the arrival of Ernst’s avian spiritual guardian and alter-ego Loplop), suggests, fascinating and seductive goddesses also populated these dense forests and swamps of the underworld.

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