The Wavering Woman 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, a Surrealist artist, painted The Wavering Woman in 1923, in Paris. The protagonist, a fashion victim of the Machine Age, moves down a catwalk, which is really an abyss.

The title of the painting suggests the pain and suffering of the woman. She is held hostage by the mechanical contraption and her arms are stretched out in an attempt to find her balance. The machine holds her tight and hides her eyes with one of its arms.

The painting comprises two distinct subjects, namely the artist's freedom and his struggle. He aims to live in a free world, where peace governs. He wants to free himself of his "first death," which he suffered once he served in the First World War. The artist wants to become a magician and highlight to the world how everything has gone wrong. Through strong awareness, the artist hopes to eradicate fear, terror, and war. He hopes that once humanity clearly sees the negative effects of war and captivity, they will no longer exist. Through a collective effort, all wrongs will be destroyed.

The woman who is trapped by the machine is suffering. Her emotion is suggested by the open-mouthed expression. She's alarmed by what's happening to her. Fear and pain govern the painting. The machinery, which has imprisoned her, seems to be naturally advancing. It's an automated process. Although the mechanism is humanized and emulates a human capturer, its automation suggests that it's beyond human control. Ernst is trying to show that only a concentrated and collective effort can overcome and destroy the automation of war. One soul cannot fight by itself. The woman is a symbol of how war can hold you hostage if you don't have the help of the community. War destabilizes human nature. It brings out the darkest and worst features of humans and leaves only pain and suffering.

The artist uses a few colors. The woman is wearing a short, white skirt, beige top and white sandals. The chromatic of the woman's clothing suggests the desire for peace and harmony. White is the color of surrender and peace. The mechanism, which is holding her captive, is painted in dark colors. The iron "legs" of the contraption are painted in black and the copper "arms" are of a dark brown. The dark shades suggest death and imprisonment. They're an allegory for battle and destruction. The background of the painting is light. It's a symbol of the artist's hope.

He hopes that once humanity realizes the destruction and evil of war, they'll come together and fight for peace. The Wavering Woman by Max Ernst is oil on canvas and housed at the Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The painting dates to the 20th century and it's a representation of the artist's second birth.