Max Ernst in America
The Years in Exile

In New York, Max Ernst embarked on experiments with the oscillation technique, which involves splashing paint through a hole in the bottom of a can suspended by strings above a horizontal canvas [see L’anné 1939 (The Year 1939) from 1943], a method that inspired Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.

Max Ernst.Napoleon in the Wilderness, 1941

Max Ernst

Napoleon in the Wilderness, 1941

© Max Ernst/BUS 2008
The Museum of Modern Art, New York 


Max Ernst also pursued his décalcomanie method, which he had started working on in 1940. A glass sheet or paper is used to flatten the still-wet paint on the canvas. When the glass or paper is removed, it creates a varied surface structure of random blisters, trickles and branches. These inspired the artist’s imagination and were elaborated on with brushes to form dreamlike landscapes, occasionally inhabited by horrifying imaginary characters. One typical example is the painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony from 1945, where tormentors attack Anthony from all sides; they have dug themselves into his groin as though they were his own offspring.

In 1943, he executed Painting for Young People, comprising themes and techniques from his earlier output. In the summer of 1944, he began work on several sculptures out on Long Island, including Jeune homme au coeur battant (Young Man with Beating Heart) and The King Playing with the Queen. Dream and Revolution from 1945-46 is a painting in which Max Ernst, one last time, reflects on his role as a surrealist painter.

Max Ernst.Painting for Young People, 1943

Max Ernst

Painting for Young People, 1943

© Max Ernst/BUS 2008
Samling Ulla & Heiner Pietzsch, Berlin
Foto: Jochen Litkemann  Together with the artist Dorothea Tanning, whom he later married, Max Ernst moved to Sedona, Arizona, in 1946. This is where he created the large figure group Capricorne in 1948. This work has a magical, invocative character, with references to the Zuni and Hopi Indian culture that fascinated the artist. Ever since he came to the USA, Max Ernst had studied Native American art and culture. In Capricorne Max Ernst uses found materials. The male figure’s horns are a covered car bumper, his sceptre is crowned by a mask made of an egg carton and consists of stacked milk bottles.