Solitary Tree and Married Trees Max Ernst Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Solitary Tree and Married Trees is a striking surrealist work of art by Max Ernst, created in 1940 and is an oil on canvas with the dimensions of 81.5 x 100.5 cm. The painting is housed in Madrid, in the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The painting was created in France during the second world war, while the artist was imprisoned due to his German Nationality, before he fled to the United States. The painting, at first glance, appears to be a landscape with vague but definitely recognizable shapes of tall, Cyprus-like trees. But there is a lot more to the paining, it has a truly psychedelic quality.

In the foreground you have a mass, of ruined wall and tree, possibly, with a path leading out to the distance through the paining. In the centre you have grass and space, with the tall trees reaching up, not defined but vague, then the background to the top of the painting is a plain light blue sky with light cloud. As well as the trees, there is a tall iron pole, possibly a light pole with the light missing.

What is remarkable is the imagery woven into the trees themselves. There are many images hidden in the painting. The sole dark green Cypress tree in the foreground has the suggested faces of animals in it, for example, a dog, a bird, and possibly a cat, or it may be a skull. The images are suggested, and it is essential to look closely and interpret them. In the wreckage of tree and wall debris in the foreground, the image of a naked woman battles with a beast, while the whole debris area is suggestive of bones. The trees to the center are golden in colour, and appear to be hybrid with pillars or fences.

The closer one especially, and within the closer one, the image of a knowing faces stares out with a hand beside it, while lower down, a clenched fist is raised. Vague figures and faces climb the tree, a vase,a baby, a lizard, an owl, and other suggestions of features and beings. The other trees in the middle and background cannot be distinguished well, but in the green grass, there is the image of a head, while further up, a dog's head and possibly a cat's head as well, are images in the grass. The painting commands a close look and some positive attention in order to see all the images within the landscape, and it has a spooky and sad air to it, the feelings and thoughts of suffering turned into art maybe.