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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 this painting in the year 1943 to mark a pivotal milestone in his career, while incorporating the Native American influences that he had newly discovered. The painting is largely interpreted as a manifesto of the European type of art in exile. This was a depiction of the life that Max had chosen to leave behind.

This creative masterpiece is a multi-part type of composition where Max Ernst made use of four canvases that he eventually divided into 51 rectangles separately. According to Parisian Spies, they time this art medium to the belief that Max Ernst was going to live for 51 years. The painting forms an index of the artist's works leading up to the year 1943 and the painting becomes a form of record for Max Ernst's own life as he moved across borders both as an exile and a traveler.

As a Surrealist painter, Max Ernst utilised brushworks that were influenced by fantasies as clearly depicted in the painting. He backed up his brushworks with a stimulating flow of imagery from the unconscious part of his mind by using his frottage and decalcomania, which is the transference of paint from one medium to another by pressing the two media together. He was able to clearly achieve free association of the different images he used in the painting by contemplating on the accidental textures and patterns that were as a resulting of combining frottage and decalcomania techniques.

Even though Max Ernst is less known in the general public, his name remains critical to art historians especially for the pivotal role he played in the direction in which the mid-century American art took, especially in Abstract Expressionism. His influence in Abstract Expressionism was especially felt by the likes of Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock among other noteworthy names in the history of art.

His arrival in New York electrified a generation of artists in America who were mostly captivated by his unique grattage, collage and frottage painting techniques. Some of the great names that played a pivotal role in shaping his artistic career included the likes of Arnold Bocklin, Max Stirner and Giorgio de Chirico among other great artists. Max Ernst had a lot to learn from these artists as he grew up shaping his artistic career.