Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale 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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Max Ernst created the painting named Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale in 1924 when Surrealism began. The work of art was the last piece of his collage masterpieces. It was a farewell to the genre.

The painting symbolizes two critical moments in Ernst's life, which marked his existence. The first moment was the death of his sister, Maria, in 1897. The second episode was when the artist suffered from measles in his childhood, which provoked various hallucinations.

Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale comprises both oil and collage elements. The artwork comprises a wooden gate, pieces of a toy-house, and a blue knob. The wooden gate is the entrance to a dreamlike world. The landscape is green and the skies are clear blue. A nightingale is hovering above two girls. One of the young girls is holding a knife. She's chasing the nightingale above. The other girl is lying on the green grass. She has fainted.

The house features wooden elements, which are represented in red. Above the house, is a character which is tip-toeing towards the blue knob, reaching out to it with his hands. He is holding a child in his arms. The character is the artist who is trying the escape this dark scene. He is trying to return to the real world, where he feels safe.

The combination of flat and volumetric elements extends the systematic displacement of the collage genre. Ernst links this irrational combination to memories of his childhood. His dream was inspired by the mahogany panel, which was set opposite his bed. Only in dreams can a small bird scare you away. Only in dreams can a button be an exit or an eye, which is watching the artist. The alarm button, the open gate, and the house are volumetric constructions, which represent physical objects in the real world. The viewer is both out and in the painting. He is a participant in the scene and a supervisor.

Depending on the accepted role, he can experience different feelings. Traditional paintings deny the unification of irrational elements. But Ernst overcomes the limits of tradition, and breaks the standards in Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale. Everything is irrational in the painting. Like the artist's hallucinations, the painting is a gateway, a form of expression. But the experience is meaningful. Ernst manages to capture an experience and sensations, which is familiar to everyone. The feeling, which you have when you wake up from a nightmare. You're relieved that you've returned to the real world, where you have full control over your life.

Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale by Max Ernst is an oil on canvas, which combines volumetric and flat elements of wood. The work of art is housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the United States. The painting is a collage of oil on canvas and wooden elements. The masterpiece is 69.8 cm tall and 57.1 cm wide.