Posts Tagged ‘Max Ernst


Exhibition: ‘Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous: Works from the Collections of Roland Penrose, Edward James, Gabrielle Keiller and Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch’ at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 4th June – 11th September 2016

Curator: Keith Hartley



Marcus Bunyan. 'Self-portrait with gryphon and Miro (Head of a Catalan Peasant) tattoo' 1998


Marcus Bunyan
Self-portrait with gryphon and Miró (Head of a Catalan Peasant) tattoo, both by Alex Binnie, London


I have the five elements in tattoos. In the Head of a Catalan Peasant by Miró featured in the posting, the red hat – in the form of a triangle – signifies ‘fire’ in Western occult mythology.



“Surrealism is not a movement. It is a latent state of mind perceivable through the powers of dream and nightmare.”

Salvador Dalí

“As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” 

Comte de Lautréamont

“A constant human error: to believe in an end to one’s fantasies. Our daydreams are the measure of our unreachable truth. The secret of all things lies in the emptiness of the formula that guard them.”

Floriano Martins


Many thankx to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Francis Picabia (1879-1953) 'Fille née sans mère [Girl Born without a Mother]' c. 1916-17


Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
Fille née sans mère [Girl Born without a Mother]
c. 1916-17
Gouache and metallic paint on printed paper
50 x 65 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased 1990


René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Au seuil de la liberté (On the Threshold of Liberty)' 1930


René Magritte (1898-1967)
Au seuil de la liberté (On the Threshold of Liberty)
Oil on canvas
114 x 146 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James), purchased 1966


André Masson (1896-1987) 'Massacre' 1931


André Masson (1896-1987)
Oil on canvas
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Max Ernst (1891–1976) 'La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life]' 1936


Max Ernst (1891-1976)
La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life]
Oil on canvas
73.5 x 92.5 cm
Collection: National Galleries of Scotland
Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995


Max Ernst. 'The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)' 1937


Max Ernst (1891-1976)
The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)
L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme)
Oil on canvas
114 cm x 146 cm


Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [A Little Night Music]' 1943


Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [A Little Night Music]
Oil on canvas
40.7 x 61 cm
Collection: Tate (formerly collection of R. Penrose)
Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 1997



Apart from three weeks she spent at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in 1930, Tanning was a self-taught artist. The surreal imagery of her paintings from the 1940s and her close friendships with artists and writers of the Surrealist Movement have led many to regard Tanning as a Surrealist painter, yet she developed her own individual style over the course of an artistic career that spanned six decades.

Tanning’s early works – paintings such as Birthday and Eine kleine Nachtmusik (1943, Tate Modern, London) – were precise figurative renderings of dream-like situations. Like other Surrealist painters, she was meticulous in her attention to details and in building up surfaces with carefully muted brushstrokes. Through the late 1940s, she continued to paint depictions of unreal scenes, some of which combined erotic subjects with enigmatic symbols and desolate space. During this period she formed enduring friendships with, among others, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, and John Cage; designed sets and costumes for several of George Balanchine’s ballets, including The Night Shadow (1945) at the Metropolitan Opera House; and appeared in two of Hans Richter’s avant-garde films.

Over the next decade, Tanning’s painting evolved, becoming less explicit and more suggestive. Now working in Paris and Huismes, France, she began to move away from Surrealism and develop her own style. During the mid-1950s, her work radically changed and her images became increasingly fragmented and prismatic, exemplified in works such as Insomnias (1957, Moderna Museet, Stockholm). As she explains, “Around 1955 my canvases literally splintered… I broke the mirror, you might say.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) 'La Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase)' 1935–41


Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
La Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase)
Sculpture, leather-covered case containing miniature replicas and photographs of Duchamp’s works
10 x 38 x 40.5 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, presented anonymously 1989


Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) 'L'Appel de la Nuit (The Call of the Night)' 1938


Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
L’Appel de la Nuit (The Call of the Night)
Oil on canvas
110 x 145 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995



Delvaux’s paintings of the late 1920s and early 1930s, which feature nudes in landscapes, are strongly influenced by such Flemish Expressionists as Constant Permeke and Gustave De Smet. A change of style around 1933 reflects the influence of the metaphysical art of Giorgio de Chirico, which he had first encountered in 1926 or 1927. In the early 1930s Delvaux found further inspiration in visits to the Brussels Fair, where the Spitzner Museum, a museum of medical curiosities, maintained a booth in which skeletons and a mechanical Venus figure were displayed in a window with red velvet curtains. This spectacle captivated Delvaux, supplying him with motifs that would appear throughout his subsequent work. In the mid-1930s he also began to adopt some of the motifs of his fellow Belgian René Magritte, as well as that painter’s deadpan style in rendering the most unexpected juxtapositions of otherwise ordinary objects.

Delvaux acknowledged his influences, saying of de Chirico, “with him I realized what was possible, the climate that had to be developed, the climate of silent streets with shadows of people who can’t be seen, I’ve never asked myself if it’s surrealist or not.” Although Delvaux associated for a period with the Belgian surrealist group, he did not consider himself “a Surrealist in the scholastic sense of the word.” As Marc Rombaut has written of the artist: “Delvaux … always maintained an intimate and privileged relationship to his childhood, which is the underlying motivation for his work and always manages to surface there. This ‘childhood,’ existing within him, led him to the poetic dimension in art.”

The paintings Delvaux became famous for usually feature numbers of nude women who stare as if hypnotized, gesturing mysteriously, sometimes reclining incongruously in a train station or wandering through classical buildings. Sometimes they are accompanied by skeletons, men in bowler hats, or puzzled scientists drawn from the stories of Jules Verne. Delvaux would repeat variations on these themes for the rest of his long life… (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936, made 1936 - 1939 Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose

Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936, made 1936 - 1939 Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose


Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936
Made 1936 – 1939
Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose
32.00 x 26.00 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Photo: Antonio Reeve


Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Mae West Lips Sofa' 1937-38


Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Mae West Lips Sofa
Wood, wool
92 x 215 x 66 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam © Fundacion Gala – Salvador Dalí, Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2007.
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015


Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages [Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds]' 1936


Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages [Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds]
Oil on canvas
Left figure: 82.5 x 62.5 cm; right figure: 92.5 x 69.5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt) 1979
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015


Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Impressions d'Afrique (Impressions of Africa)' 1938


Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Impressions d’Afrique (Impressions of Africa)
Oil on canvas
91.5 x 117.5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam and Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1979
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015


Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) 'The House Opposite' 1945


Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)
The House Opposite
Tempera on board
33 x 82 cm
West Dean College, part of the Edward James Foundation


“I painted for myself…I never believed anyone would exhibit or buy my work.”

Leonora Carrington was not interested in the writings of Sigmund Freud, as were other Surrealists in the movement. She instead focused on magical realism and alchemy and used autobiographical detail and symbolism as the subjects of her paintings. Carrington was interested in presenting female sexuality as she experienced it, rather than as that of male surrealists’ characterization of female sexuality. Carrington’s work of the 1940s is focused on the underlying theme of women’s role in the creative process. (Text from the Wikipedia website)



Masterpieces from four of the finest collections of Dada and Surrealist art ever assembled will be brought together in this summer’s major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA). Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous will explore the passions and obsessions that led to the creation of four very different collections, which are bound together by a web of fascinating links and connections, and united by the extraordinary quality of the works they comprise.

Surrealism was one of the most radical movements of the twentieth century, which challenged conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, the world of dreams and the laws of chance. Emerging from the chaotic creativity of Dada (itself a powerful rejection of traditional values triggered by the horrors of the First World War) its influence on our wider culture remains potent almost a century after it first appeared in Paris in the 1920s. World-famous works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Giorgio de Chirico, André Breton, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Yves Tanguy, Leonor Fini, Marcel Duchamp and Paul Delvaux will be among the 400 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, artist books and archival materials, to feature in Surreal Encounters. The exhibition has been jointly organised by the SNGMA, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where it will be shown following its only UK showing in Edinburgh.

Dalí’s The Great Paranoiac (1936), Lobster Telephone (1938) and Impressions of Africa (1938); de Chirico’s Two Sisters (1915); Ernst’s Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923) and Dark Forest and Bird (1927), and Magritte’s The Magician’s Accomplice (1926) and Not to be Reproduced (1937) will be among the highlights of this exceptional overview of Surrealist art. The exhibition will also tell the personal stories of the fascinating individuals who pursued these works with such dedication and discernment.

The first of these – the poet, publisher and patron of the arts, Edward James (1907-84) and the artist, biographer and exhibition organiser, Roland Penrose (1900-84) – acquired the majority of the works in their collections while the Surrealist movement was at its height in the interwar years, their choices informed by close associations and friendships with many of the artists. James was an important supporter of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte in particular, while Penrose was first introduced to Surrealism through a friendship with Max Ernst. The stories behind James’s commissioning of works such as Dalí’s famous Mae West Lips Sofa (1938) and Magritte’s The Red Model III (1937) and the role of Penrose in the production of Ernst’s seminal collage novel Une Semaine de Bonté (1934) will demonstrate how significant these relationships were for both the artists and the collectors. Other celebrated works on show that formed part of these two profoundly important collections include Tanning’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943); Magritte’s On the Threshold of Liberty (1937); Miró’s Head of a Catalan Peasant (1925); and The House Opposite (c. 1945) by Leonora Carrington

While the Penrose and James collections are now largely dispersed, the extraordinary collection of Dada and Surrealist art put together by Gabrielle Keiller (1908-95), was bequeathed in its entirety to the SNGMA on her death in 1995, the largest benefaction in the institution’s history. Keiller devoted herself to this area following a visit to the Venice home of the celebrated American art lover Peggy Guggenheim in 1960, which proved to be a pivotal moment in her life. She went on to acquire outstanding works such as Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-Valise (1935-41), Alberto Giacometti’s Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown Away (1931) and Girl Born without a Mother (c.1916-17) by Francis Picabia. Recognizing the fundamental significance of Surrealism’s literary aspect, Keiller also worked assiduously to create a magnificent library and archive, full of rare books, periodicals, manifestos and manuscripts, which makes the SNGMA one of the world’s foremost centres for the study of the movement.

The exhibition will be brought up to date by the inclusion of works from the collection of Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, who have spent more than 40 years in their quest to build up an historically balanced collection of Surrealism, which they have recently presented to the city of Berlin, where they still live. The collection features many outstanding paintings by Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Leonor Fini, Ernst, Tanguy, Magritte and Miró; sculptures by Hans Arp and Hans Bellmer; and works by André Breton, the leader of the Surrealists. Highlights include Masson’s Massacre (1931), Ernst’s Head of ‘The Fireside Angel’ (c. 1937), Picasso’s Arabesques Woman (1931) and Arp’s sculpture Assis (Seated) (1937).

The exhibition’s curator in Edinburgh, Keith Hartley, who is Deputy Director of the SNGMA, has said, “Surrealist art has captured the public imagination like perhaps no other movement of modern art. The very word ‘surreal’ has become a by-word to describe anything that is wonderfully strange, akin to what André Breton, the chief theorist of Surrealism, called ‘the marvellous’. This exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to enjoy art that is full of ‘the marvellous’. It brings together many important works which have rarely been seen in public, by a wide range of Surrealist artists, and creates some very exciting new juxtapositions.”

Press release from SNGMA


Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) 'Tête [Head]' 1913


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête [Head]
Drawing, papiers collés with black chalk on card
43.5 x 33 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995
Photo: Antonia Reeve
© DACS / Estate of Pablo Picasso


Max Ernst. 'Pieta or Revolution by Night' 1923


Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Pieta or Revolution by Night
Oil on canvas


René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Magician's Accomplice' 1926


René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Magician’s Accomplice
Oil on canvas


René Magritte (1898-1967) 'L’Esprit comique (The Comic Spirit)' 1928


René Magritte (1898-1967)
L’Esprit comique (The Comic Spirit)
Oil on canvas
75 x 60 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) 'Femme aux arabesques (Arabesque Woman)' 1931


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme aux arabesques (Arabesque Woman)
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Max Ernst (1891–1976) 'Jeune homme intrigué par le vol d’une mouche non-euclidienne [Young Man Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly]' 1942–7


Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Jeune homme intrigué par le vol d’une mouche non-euclidienne [Young Man Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly]
Oil and paint on canvas
82 x 66 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Max Ernst (1891-1976) 'Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]' 1934

Max Ernst (1891-1976) 'Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]' 1934


Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]
Collage graphic novel



Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness] is a graphic novel and artist’s book by Max Ernst, first published in 1934. It comprises 182 images created by cutting up and re-organizing illustrations from Victorian encyclopedias and novels.

The 184 collages of Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness] were created during the summer of 1933 while Max Ernst was staying at Vigoleno, in northern Italy. The artist took his inspiration from wood engravings, published in popular illustrated novels, natural science journals or 19th century sales catalogues. With infinite care, he cut out the images that interested him and assembled them with such precision as to bring his collage technique to a level of incomparable perfection. Without seeing the original illustrations, it is difficult to work out where Max Ernst intervened. In the end, each collage forms a series of interlinked images to produce extraordinary creatures which evolve in fascinating scenarios and create visionary worlds defying comprehension and any sense of reality.

After La Femme 100 têtes [The Woman with one Hundred Heads] (1929) and Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel [A Little Girl dreams of taking the Veil] (1930), Une semaine de bonté was Max Ernst’s third collage-novel. Ernst had originally intended to publish it in seven volumes associating each book with a day of the week. Moreover, the title referred to the seven days in Genesis. Yet it was also an allusion to the mutual aid association ‘La semaine de la bonté’ [The Week of Kindness], founded in 1927 to promote social welfare. Paris was flooded with posters from the organisation seeking support from everyone. Like the elements making up the collages, the title was also “borrowed” by Max Ernst.

The first four publication deliveries did not, however, achieve the success that had been anticipated. The three remaining ‘days’ were therefore put together into a fifth and final book. The books came out between April and December 1934, each having been bound in a different colour: purple, green, red, blue and yellow. In the final version, two works were taken out. The edition therefore consists of only 182 collages. (Text from the Musée D’Orsay website)


Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) 'Sans titre, ou Composition surréaliste (Untitled, or Surrealist Composition)' 1927


Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
Sans titre, ou Composition surréaliste (Untitled, or Surrealist Composition)
Oil on canvas
54.5 x 38 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection



Tanguy’s paintings have a unique, immediately recognizable style of nonrepresentational surrealism. They show vast, abstract landscapes, mostly in a tightly limited palette of colors, only occasionally showing flashes of contrasting color accents. Typically, these alien landscapes are populated with various abstract shapes, sometimes angular and sharp as shards of glass, sometimes with an intriguingly organic look to them, like giant amoebae suddenly turned to stone. (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) 'Voltage' 1942


Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
Oil on canvas
29 x 30.9 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) 'Objet désagréable, à jeter [Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown away]' 1931


Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Objet désagréable, à jeter [Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown away]
19.6 x 31 x 29 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased 1990
© Bridgeman Art Library


Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1996) 'Assis (Seated)' 1937


Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1996)
Assis (Seated)
29.5 x 44.5 x 16 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Joan Miro (1893-1983) 'Peinture (Painting)' 1925


Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture (Painting)
Oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection


Joan Miró. 'Peinture' 1927


Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture [Painting]
Oil on canvas
33 x 24.1 cm
Collection: National Galleries of Scotland
Bequeathed by Gabrielle Keiller 1995


Joan Miró. 'Tête de Paysan Catalan [Head of a Catalan Peasant]' 1925


Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Tête de Paysan Catalan [Head of a Catalan Peasant]
Oil on canvas
92.4 x 73 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased jointly with Tate, with the assistance of the Art Fund 1999


René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Le Modèle rouge III (The Red Model III)' 1937


René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Modèle rouge III (The Red Model III)
Oil on canvas
206 x 158 x 5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Foundation 1979


René Magritte (1898-1967) 'La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced)' 1937


René Magritte (1898-1967)
La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced)
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
© Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2007
Photographer: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015



Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road
Edinburgh EH4 3DR
Tel: 0131 624 6200

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Art and Alchemy. The Mystery of Transformation’ at the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast (SMKP), Düsseldorf, Germany

Exhibition dates: 5th April – 10th August 2014


Since I have 7 alchemy symbols tattooed on my right bicep in a vertical line to represent the 7 chakras, I thought this was a suitable exhibition for a posting. I love anything alchemical, magical, spiritual – in art and in life. I have just had a couple of snowflakes tattooed on my forearms, one blue/green and the red/orange for an ice/fire combination. Each snowflake is unique and ephemeral, here and gone in the blink of an eye, just like we are. That is their, and our, magic.

The photographer Minor White said it is not just the images that matter, but the space between them that causes an ice/fire frisson. When looking at an exhibition I note how images play off of each other – in pairs, sequences and across the gallery space. It is a relatively simple thing for a photographer to take one good image, more difficult to put a pair of images together that actually says something, but when you get to a sequence of images (as in MW) or a body of work, this is were a lot of artists wane. The intertextual narrative, one woven from the imagination of the artist, does not resolve itself into a satisfying, stimulating whole. How many exhibitions do I see that have some good images but do not access the magic of the music.

Further, we must also remember that in Psychology and Alchemy, Volume 12 in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, alchemy is central to Jung’s hypothesis of the collective unconscious. “Jung reminds us of the dual nature of alchemy, comprising both the chemical process and a parallel mystical component. He also discusses the seemingly deliberate mystification of the alchemists. Finally, in using the alchemical process to provide insights into individuation, Jung emphasises the importance of alchemy in relating to us the transcendent nature of the psyche.” (Wikipedia)

Jung sees alchemy as an early form of psychoanalysis. The melting of base metal in a crucible and its reforming into gold can be seen as a form of individuation – the dissolution of the ego and its integration into the whole self. Basically the recasting or reforming of identity into a new Self. As the instructive text on Wikipedia notes,

“For the alchemist trying to understand matter and develop base metals into their purest form, gold, substances are grouped as being alike based on their perceived value. Jung documents as these alchemists collectively come to understand that they themselves must embody the change they hope to effect within their materials: for instance, if they hope to achieve the philosopher’s stone that can redeem ‘base’ or ‘vulgar’ metals, then the alchemist too must become a redeemer figure. It became apparent to the alchemists that they were trying to redeem nature as Christ had redeemed man, hence the identification of the Lapis Philosophorum with Christ the Redeemer. The Opus (work) of alchemy, viewed through this interpretation, becomes a symbolic account of the fundamental process the human psyche undergoes as it re-orients its value system and creates meaning out of chaos. The opus beginning with the nigredo (blackening, akin to depression or nihilistic loss of value) in order to descend back into the manipulable prima materia and proceeding through a process of spiritual purification that must unite seemingly irreconcilable opposites (the coniunctio) to achieve new levels of consciousness.”

Much of my early black and white work was based on an understanding of the magical nature of the (art)work. This is a fascinating area of enquiry for all artists because this is what they do – they see the world differently, reform it through their art and present it as a pathway for the future.



PS The catalogue to this exhibition is excellent with lots of interesting essays.

Many thankx to the Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Marcus new tattoos February 2014


Marcus new tattoos February 2014


Theodor Galle nach Jan van der Straet (Stradanus). 'Destillierlabor' (from the series "Nova reperta") c. 1589 - c. 1593


Theodor Galle nach Jan van der Straet (Stradanus)
Destillierlabor (from the series “Nova reperta”)
c. 1589 – c. 1593
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss


Pieter Brueghel the Younger (after Pieter Brueghel the Elder). 'The Alchemist' c. 1600


Pieter Brueghel the Younger
after Pieter Brueghel the Elder
The Alchemist
c. 1600
Oil on wood
68.8 x 96 cm
Private collection


David Teniers d.J. 'Alchemist in his Workshop' c. 1650


David Teniers d.J.
Alchemist in his Workshop
c. 1650
Courtesy of Roy Eddleman, Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections
Photo: Will Brown


Adriaen van Ostade. 'The Alchemist' 1661


Adriaen van Ostade
The Alchemist
The National Gallery, London, Bought 1871
© The National Gallery, London, 2013


Hendrick Goltzius. 'Allegory of the Arts' 1611


Hendrick Goltzius
Allegory of the Arts
Oil on canvas
181 x 256.6 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel
© Kunstmuseum Basel
Photo: Martin P. Bühler


Johan Moreelse. 'The Alchemist' 1630


Johan Moreelse
The Alchemist
Oil on canvas
90.5 x 107.5 cm
Robilant + Voena, London und Mailand


Giovanni Antonio Grecolini. 'The Education of Cupid by Venus and Vulcan' 1719


Giovanni Antonio Grecolini
The Education of Cupid by Venus and Vulcan
Oil on canvas
48.9 × 64 cm
Museum Kunstpalast
Photo: Horst Kolberg


Neo Rauch. 'Goldgrube' [Goldmine] 2007


Neo Rauch
Goldgrube [Goldmine]
Oil on canvas
80 x 160 cm
Private collection
© Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin



“For the first time in Germany, an exhibition spanning all epochs and genres will be introducing the exciting link between art and alchemy in past and present times. 250 works from antiquity to the present, encompassing Baroque art, Surrealism, through to contemporary art from collections and museums in the USA, Great Britain, France, Mexico and Israel reveal the fascination which alchemy exerted for many visual artists. Artists featured in the exhibition, such as Joseph Beuys, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Max Ernst, Hendrick Goltzius, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Sigmar Polke, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens and David Teniers the Younger invite visitors to explore the mystery of transformation.

Alchemy was invariably practised in secret, but was by no means a rare occurrence until well into the 18th century: Eminent personalities, including Paracelsus, Isaac Newton and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, were alchemists, too. It was not until the Age of the Enlightenment that alchemy was ousted and became intermingled with occultism, sorcery and superstition. In connection with 19th and early 20th-century psychoanalysis alchemy was brought to new life.

The exhibition is divided into two major periods: pre-Enlightenment art, in particular works from the 16th and 17th centuries and the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In the pre-Enlightenment era both artists and alchemists laid claim to the ability to not only imitate nature but to even perfect it. This ambition is illustrated in the exhibition by casts from nature made by Bernard Palissy and Wenzel Jamnitzer. Their lizards and other creatures are extraordinarily life-like and yet have been immortalized in precious metal or ceramic as if petrified. The circumstance that artists and alchemists were ultimately rivals is exemplified by the Dutch artist Adriaen van Ostade with his painting depicting an alchemist in his laboratory, having failed to produce gold.

By contrast, the exhibition also includes works by artists presenting alchemy in a favourable light, such as portraits by Rubens and David Teniers the Younger, allegorical paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hendrick Goltzius, as well as three copies of the “Splendor Solis”, the most richly illuminated manuscript in the history of alchemy. Furthermore, an original manuscript by physicist Isaac Newton, contributed by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, will be presented here for the first time in Europe.

The modern section of the show begins with Surrealism. Max Ernst, for instance, repeatedly took up the theme of the “Chymical Wedding” in his work. A particular highlight is the painting “The Creation of the Birds”, a key work by the Surrealist artist Remedios Varo. The Androgyne is an important theme, for instance, in the exhibits by Rebecca Horn. Joseph Beuys will be represented by a number of sculptures, drawings and collages, as well as a film and photo documentation of his action at the 1982 documenta. Moreover, the exhibition includes works by Anish Kapoor displaying his characteristic use of intensely coloured pigments. Further exhibits include selected works by representatives of contemporary art, such as Anselm Kiefer, Yves Klein, Alicja Kwade, Sigmar Polke, Neo Rauch and Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger.

The exhibition was conceived by Museum Kunstpalast in cooperation with the research group “Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, as well as a group of experts at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, which also provided many pieces on loan. A Wunderkammer of curious and exotic treasures from flora and fauna is offered for visitors to explore. In an extensive accompanying programme the subject of art and alchemy will be expanded upon by means of lectures, talks and guided tours.”

Press release from the SMKP website


Jörg Breu the Elder (attributed) 'Splendor Solis' (Splendor of the Sun) 1531/32


Jörg Breu the Elder (attributed)
Splendor Solis (Splendor of the Sun)
Manuscript; parchment, miniatures in opaque color; calfskin cover
33.1 × 22.8 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett
© bpk – Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Kupferstichkabinett
Photo: Jörg P. Anders


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. 'Sogenannter Faust' [Allegedly Faust] c. 1651‑1653


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Sogenannter Faust [Allegedly Faust]
c. 1651‑1653
21.1 × 16.2 cm
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Sammlung der Kunstakademie (NRW)
Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss


Francois-Marius Granet. 'The Alchemist' 1st half of the 19th century


Francois-Marius Granet
The Alchemist
1st half of the 19th century
Oil on canvas
61 x 48.3 cm
Gift of Roy Eddleman Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections, Philadelphia
Photo: Will Brown


Max Ernst. 'Men Shall Know Nothing of This' 1923


Max Ernst
Men Shall Know Nothing of This
Oil on canvas
80.3 x 63.8 cm
Tate, London
Photo: © Tate, London 2013, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Victor Brauner. 'Le Surréaliste' (“The Surrealist”) 1947


Victor Brauner
Le Surréaliste (“The Surrealist”)
Oil on canvas
60 x 45 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NY)
© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, NY) / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Rebecca Horn. 'Zen of Ara' 2011


Rebecca Horn
Zen of Ara
Springs, motor, brass, electrical
D: 73 cm
Private collection Rebecca Horn
Photo: Karin Weyrich
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Yves Klein. 'Relief éponge bleu (RE 18)' (blue sponge relief [re 18]) 1960


Yves Klein
Relief éponge bleu (RE 18) (blue sponge relief [re 18])
Wood, sponges, pigment dissolved in acetone
230 × 154 cm
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Modern Art
© Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf / ARTOTHEK / Photo: Horst Kolberg, Neuss / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Richard Meitner. 'Reductio ad Absurdum' 1977


Richard Meitner
Reductio ad Absurdum
Glass and gold
25 x 80 cm
Photo: Ron Zijlstra
© Richard Meitner


John Isaacs. 'Thinking about it' 2002


John Isaacs
Thinking about it
Wax, wire, plaster of paris
15 1/2 x 12 x 13 inches
30 x 30 x 50 cm
Olbricht collection, Germany



Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast
Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479
Düsseldorf, Germany
+49 211 56642100

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 6
Thursday 11 – 9
Closed on Monday

Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast website


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Exhibition: ‘Wols Photographer. The Guarded Look’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 22nd June 2014


Wols. 'Untitled [Still life - dining table]' 1937


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Still life – dining table]
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Some familiar images that were also seen in the posting Wols’ Photography: Images Regained are complimented by 5 new ones. The two portraits of the artist Max Ernst are eerie (is that a suitable word for a portrait that is strong and unsettling?) and perceptive, Wols responsive to the status of his sitter as a pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Art Informel

The term Art Informel was originated by the French critic Michel Tapié and popularized in his 1952 book Un Art autre (Another art). A Parisian counterpart of Abstract Expressionism, Art Informel emphasised intuition and spontaneity over the Cubist tradition that had dominated School of Paris painting. The resulting abstractions took a variety of forms. For instance, Pierre Soulages’s black-on-black paintings composed of slashing strokes of velvety paint suggest the nocturnal mood of Europe immediately after the war.



Wols. 'Nicole Bouban' Autumn 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 to 1937


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Nicole Bouban
Autumn 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 to 1937
© Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Untitled [Pavilion de l'Elegance - Creating a home with Alix (Germaine Krebs)]' 1937


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Pavilion de l’Elegance – Creating a home with Alix (Germaine Krebs)]
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Germaine Émilie Krebs

Germaine Émilie Krebs (1903-1993), known as Alix Barton and later as “Madame Grès”, relaunched her design house under the name Grès in Paris in 1942. Prior to this, she worked as “Alix” or “Alix Grès” during the 1930s. Formally trained as a sculptress, she produced haute couture designs for an array of fashionable women, including the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Dolores del Río. Her signature was cut-outs on gowns that made exposed skin part of the design, yet still had a classical, sophisticated feel. She was renowned for being the last of the haute couture houses to establish a ready-to-wear line, which she called a “prostitution”.

The name Grès was a partial anagram of her husband’s first name and alias. He was Serge Czerefkov, a Russian painter, who left her soon after the house’s creation. Grès enjoyed years of critical successes but, after Grès herself sold the business in the 1980s to Yagi Tsucho, a Japanese company, it faltered. In 2012, the last Grès store in Paris was closed.

Text from Wikipedia website


Wols. 'Untitled [Swiss Pavilion - Wire Figure]' 1937


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Swiss Pavilion – Wire Figure]
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Wolfgang Schulze, known as Wols, was born in Berlin in 1913. As a painter and graphic artist he is considered to have been an important trailblazer of Art Informel. For the first time the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin is presenting the largely unknown photographic oeuvre of Wols. These works foreshadow his development in the direction of non-representational art.

Wols grew up in Dresden, where he had an early encounter with photography as a profession through his attendance at a course in the studio of the Dresden photographer Genja Jonas. In 1932, after a brief sojourn in the milieu of the Berlin Bauhaus – then in the process of breaking up – the young Wols set off for Paris to realise his artistic ambitions.

Soon he was involved with the local Surrealists and made the acquaintance of other personalities in the theatrical, literary and art scenes. In this period Wols was mainly active as a photographer. In 1937 his works were exhibited for the first time in the prestigious Parisian Galérie de la Pléiade, which established his reputation as a photographer. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym Wols. One of his commissions was to document the Pavillon de l’Elégance at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris.

At the same time he produced striking multiple black-and-white portraits of personalities such as Max Ernst, Nicole Boubant or Roger Blin. Over the years Wols’ imagery became increasingly radical. The representational motifs gradually acquired a more abstract dimension and forced the viewer to see the objects represented in a new light. In particular, an extraordinary set of photograms confirms his interest in replacing representational motifs with non-representational ones. Transferred to painting, this trend would later make him a pioneer of Art Informel.

Immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War Wols spent over a year in various internment camps in the south of France. In this period he turned more to watercolours, most of which were lost while he was fleeing from the Nazis.

Living in straitened circumstances Wols fought a losing battle with alcoholism and poor health. In 1951, as a result of his weakened physical condition, he died of food poisoning in Paris at the early age of 38. After his death, Wols’ work was displayed at the first three documenta exhibitions in Kassel (1955, 1959, 1964) and, in 1958, at the Venice Biennale. On 27 May 2014 he would have been 101.

The show covers all of his photographic work, including multiple portraits of famous artists, actors and writers, photographs of the “Pavillon de l’Élégance”, numerous still lifes, and many hitherto unknown motifs. The exhibition has been curated by the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, where this unique collection will be kept and systematically catalogued.

Press release from Martin-Gropius-Bau website


Wols. 'Max Ernst' Fall 1932 - October / January 1935 to 1936


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Max Ernst
Fall 1932 – October / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Max Ernst' Fall 1932 - October / January 1935 to 1936


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Max Ernst
Fall 1932 – October / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Wols permanently settled in Paris in 1933, producing his first paintings but also working as a photographer. His photographic work of this period showed the clear influence of Surrealism. In 1936, he received official permission to live in Paris with the help of Fernand Léger; as an army deserter, Schulze had to report to the Paris police on a monthly basis. In 1937, the year in which he adopted his pseudonym WOLS, his photographs began to appear in fashion magazines such as Harper’s BazaarVogueFemina as well as Revue de l’art. Many of these photographs anticipate the displays at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme held in Paris in the following year, in which much use was made of mannequins.

At the outbreak of World War II Wols, as a German citizen, was interned for 14 months in the notorious Les Milles camp – together with some 3500 other artists and intellectuals. He was not released until late 1940. After his release Wols moved for two years to Cassis, near Marseille, where he struggled to earn a living. The occupation of Southern France by the Germans in 1942 forced him to flee to Dieulefit, near Montélimar, where he met the writer Henri-Pierre Roché, one of his earliest collectors. He spent most of the war trying to emigrate to the United States, an unsuccessful and costly enterprise that may have driven him to alcoholism.

After the war Wols returned to Paris where he met Jean-Paul Sartre, Tristan Tzara and Jean Paulhan. He started to paint in oils in 1946 at the suggestion of the dealer René Drouin, who showed 40 of his paintings at his gallery in 1947. The same year Wols began to work on a number of illustrations for books by Paulhan, Sartre, Franz Kafka and Antonin Artaud. He fell ill but lacked the money to go to hospital, and throughout 1948 he worked largely in bed on these illustrations. In 1949 he took part in the exhibition Huit oeuvres nouvelles at the Galerie Drouin, along with Jean Dubuffet, Roberto Matta, Henri Michaux and other artists with whom he had a stylistic affinity.

Undergoing treatment for alcoholism, he moved to the country at Champigny-sur-Marne in June 1951. His early death later that year from food poisoning helped foster the legendary reputation that grew up around him soon afterwards. His paintings helped pioneer Art informel and Tachism, which dominated European art during and after the 1950s as a European counterpart to American Abstract Expressionism. Influenced by the writings of the philosopher Lao Tzu throughout his life, Wols also wrote poems and aphorisms that expressed his aesthetic and philosophical ideas.”

Text from the Weimar blog 2010


Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Flea Market]' Autumn 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 to 1936


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Paris – Flea Market]
Autumn 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Palisade]' Fall 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 - August 1939


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Paris – Palisade]
Fall 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 – August 1939
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Eiffel Tower]' 1937


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Paris – Eiffel Tower]
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Untitled [Still Life - Grapefruit]' 1938 - August 1939


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Untitled [Still Life – Grapefruit]
1938 – August 1939
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Wols. 'Self Portrait with Hat' 1937-38


Wols (German, 1913-1951)
Self Portrait with Hat
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website


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Exhibition: ‘Hermann Landshoff: A Retrospective Photographs 1930-1970’ at the Münchner Stadtmuseum

Exhibition dates: 29th November 2013 – 21st April 2014


Hermann Landshoff. 'The Bicyclers' Published in 'Junior Bazaar' August 1946


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
The Bicyclers
Published in Junior Bazaar August 1946



Another artist who was lucky to escape Europe in the first years of the Second World War. I would like to see the whole exhibition. At the moment I can’t make a judgement on his work for I have not seen enough of it, but on the evidence of the images presented in this posting, I am not entirely convinced. However, the photograph of Lauren Bacall in 1945 is ravishing…


Many thankx to the Münchner Stadtmuseum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Hermann Landshoff. 'Max Ernst at Peggy Guggenheim’s home, New York, fall 1942' 1942


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Max Ernst at Peggy Guggenheim’s home, New York, fall 1942


Hermann Landshoff. 'Photographer Irving Penn' 1948


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Photographer Irving Penn


Hermann Landshoff. 'Children in a Spanish village' 1957


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Children in a Spanish village


Hermann Landshoff. 'Model Cora Hemmet on the Grand Versailles Staircase' 1934-38


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Model Cora Hemmet on the Grand Versailles Staircase



In the spring of 2012, the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s Photography Collection received a sensational addition to its archives. The complete artistic estate of German-American photographer Hermann Landshoff (1905-1986), featuring 3,600 original prints from between 1927 to 1970, were generously donated to the museum on behalf of the family by Andreas Landshoff.

Landshoff grew up in Munich-Solln as the son of a well-to-do Jewish family that was very much involved in the city’s art, literature and music scenes. His father, Ludwig Landshoff, was an internationally acclaimed musicologist and composer who was director and head of Munich’s Bach Society from 1917 to 1928. His mother, Philippine Wiesengrund, was a singer with the Royal Court Opera, while his sister Ruth Landshoff, better known by her married name of Vollmer, would become one of the founders of the conceptual art movement in the United States. In addition, writers such as Thomas Mann, Christian Morgenstern, Joachim Ringelnatz, Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Wolfskehl and Franziska zu Reventlow were frequent visitors to his parents’ home. Another family member, the author Ruth Landshoff-Yorck, was the muse of Otto Umbehr and Paul Citroen and ran an art salon in Berlin that had a reputation as one of the most exciting meeting places for avant-garde artists in the whole of the Weimar Republic.

Other more distant relations of the family included important figures from the world of publishing such as Samuel Fischer, the founder of the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house, and Fritz H. Landshoff, who, from 1933, ran the Querido publishing house in Amsterdam which would become the most important forum for German exile literature, publishing novels by authors including Heinrich Mann, Klaus Mann, Hermann Kesten, Joseph Roth, Alfred Döblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Anna Seghers, Ernst Toller and Arnold Zweig.

Even in his early years, Hermann Landshoff attracted attention with his cartoons and a photo reportage on Albert Einstein that was published in the Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung magazine. After training at Munich’s Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts), he became a member of the circle of well-known typographer and book illustrator Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke. It was here that Landshoff met the Nuremberg illustrator Richard Lindner alongside whom he would subsequently work as part of the creative team at the Knorr & Hirth publishing house. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Landshoff was forced to emigrate, initially settling in Paris where he worked as a fashion photographer. Between 1936 and 1939, his images were published in the popular Femina magazine and in the French edition of Vogue. He was then forced to flee France and, after an eventful journey spanning 1940 and 1941, he eventually pitched up in New York. Landshoff soon became one of the most fascinating fashion photographers to collaborate with legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch for fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Junior Bazaar and latterly also Mademoiselle. He developed his own style as a fashion photographer, portraying the models in life-like everyday situations. American fashion photographer Richard Avedon considered himself to have been profoundly inspired by Landshoff, even being moved to claim that ‘I owe everything to Landshoff’.

There is little doubt that Hermann Landshoff is one of the last great unsung heroes in (the history of) 20th century photography. Having been quite wrongly consigned to oblivion for all these years, the time has now come for him to be rediscovered. His multi-layered works show us various sides to the age in which he lived and the lives of artists who had settled in the United States having been exiled from Europe. The exhibition offers the first chance to see Landshoff’s portraits of European artists such as Max Ernst, Richard Lindner, Leonora Carrington or Frederick Kiessler who found a new artistic home in New York under the auspices of art collector Peggy Guggenheim. It also features a number of stunning group and individual portraits of members of the New York surrealist community centred around André Breton and Marcel Duchamp.

Finally, we also have Hermann Landshoff to thank for a unique cycle of around 70 portraits of different photographers that he created between 1942 and 1960. These striking images feature old masters like Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Andreas Feininger or WeeGee alongside young, up-and-coming photographers still at the start of their careers, such as Robert Frank, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. This pantheon of eminent photographers occupies a unique place in the history of the medium.

Other collections of images tackle the urban architecture and people of New York, focusing particularly on those on the fringes of society. The exhibition also includes several portraits of prominent physicists such as Albert Einstein as well as some of the Los Alamos scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and his cousin Rolf Landshoff involved in building the world’s first nuclear bomb. The exhibition will show a selection of more than 250 of Landshoff’s fascinating photographs for the first time, with subjects drawn from across the entire spectrum of his work, from fashion to portraits and architecture.

Press release from the Münchner Stadtmuseum website


Hermann Landshoff. 'Tennis balls' with models Wanda Delafield and Peggy Lloyd c. 1945


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Tennis balls with models Wanda Delafield and Peggy Lloyd
c. 1945


Hermann Landshoff. 'Model Beth Wilson at Rip Van Winkle Bridge spanning the Hudson River, New York 1946' 1946


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Model Beth Wilson at Rip Van Winkle Bridge spanning the Hudson River, New York 1946


Hermann Landshoff. 'Self-portrait, New York' c. 1942


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Self-portrait, New York
c. 1942


Hermann Landshoff. 'Actress Lauren Bacall, New York, 1945' 1945


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
Actress Lauren Bacall, New York, 1945


Hermann Landshoff. 'On the roof of Saks Fifth Avenue Building, New York, 1942' 1942


Hermann Landshoff (American-German, 1905-1986)
On the roof of Saks Fifth Avenue Building, New York, 1942



Münchner Stadtmuseum
St. Jakobs Platz 1
80331 München
Phone: +49-(0)89-233-22370

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Closed on Mondays

Münchner Stadtmuseum website


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Exhibition: ‘Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th­-Century Art’ at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Exhibition dates: 13th November 2013 – 16th March 2014

Featured artists include Margaret Bourke-White, Constantin Brancusi, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Krull, Fernand Léger, Wyndham Lewis, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, and Charles Sheeler, among others.



Man Ray. 'Untitled (Rayograph)' 1922


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Rayograph)
Gelatin silver print
11 15/16 x 9 3/8 in. (30.32 x 23.81cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase
© Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring. And all men of my age, here and over there, throughout the whole world see these things; all my generation is experiencing these things with me. What would our fathers do if we suddenly stood up and came before them and proffered our account? What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? Through the years our business has been killing; – it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?”

Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929



Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.



Germaine Krull. 'Portrait of Joris Ivens, Amsterdam' c. 1928


Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Portrait of Joris Ivens, Amsterdam
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (18.77 x 15.88cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Simon Lowinsky
© Germaine Krull Estate



Germaine Krull (29 November 1897 – 31 July 1985), was a photographer, political activist, and hotel owner. Her nationality has been categorised as German, Polish, French, and Dutch, but she spent years in Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and India. Described as “an especially outspoken example” of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who “could lead lives free from convention”, she is best known for photographically-illustrated books such as her 1928 portfolio Métal...

Having met Dutch filmmaker and communist Joris Ivens in 1923, she moved to Amsterdam in 1925. After Krull returned to Paris in 1926, Ivens and Krull entered into a marriage of convenience between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a “veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy.”

In Paris between 1926 and 1928, Krull became friends with Sonia DelaunayRobert DelaunayEli LotarAndré MalrauxColetteJean CocteauAndré Gide and others; her commercial work consisted of fashion photography, nudes, and portraits. During this period she published the portfolio Métal (1928) which concerned “the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape.” Krull shot the portfolio’s 64 black-and-white photographs in Paris, Marseille, and Holland during approximately the same period as Ivens was creating his film De Brug (“The Bridge”) in Rotterdam, and the two artists may have influenced each other. The portfolio’s subjects range from bridges, buildings and ships to bicycle wheels; it can be read as either a celebration of machines or a criticism of them. Many of the photographs were taken from dramatic angles, and overall the work has been compared to that of László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko. In 1999-2004 the portfolio was selected as one of the most important photobooks in history.

By 1928 Krull was considered one of the best photographers in Paris, along with André Kertész and Man Ray. Between 1928 and 1933, her photographic work consisted primarily of photojournalism, such as her photographs for Vu, a French magazine. Also in the early 1930s, she also made a pioneering study of employment black spots in Britain for Weekly Illustrated (most of her ground-breaking reportage work from this period remains immured in press archives and she has never received the credit which is her due for this work). Her book Études de Nu (“Studies of Nudes”) published in 1930 is still well-known today.

Text from the Wikipedia website


El Lissitzky. 'Untitled' c. 1923


El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in. (24.13 x 18.42cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of anonymous donors
© Estate of El Lissitzky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (November 23 1890 – December 30, 1941), better known as El Lissitzky, was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. He was an important figure of the Russian avant garde, helping develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designing numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th-century graphic design.

Lissitzky’s entire career was laced with the belief that the artist could be an agent for change, later summarised with his edict, “das zielbewußte Schaffen” (goal-oriented creation). Lissitzky, of Jewish origin, began his career illustrating Yiddish children’s books in an effort to promote Jewish culture in Russia, a country that was undergoing massive change at the time and that had just repealed its antisemitic laws. When only 15 he started teaching; a duty he would stay with for most of his life. Over the years, he taught in a variety of positions, schools, and artistic media, spreading and exchanging ideas. He took this ethic with him when he worked with Malevich in heading the suprematist art groupUNOVIS, when he developed a variant suprematist series of his own, Proun, and further still in 1921, when he took up a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Weimar Germany, working with and influencing important figures of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements during his stay. In his remaining years he brought significant innovation and change to typography, exhibition design, photomontage, and book design, producing critically respected works and winning international acclaim for his exhibition design. This continued until his deathbed, where in 1941 he produced one of his last works – a Soviet propaganda poster rallying the people to construct more tanks for the fight against Nazi Germany. In 2014, the heirs of the artist, in collaboration with Van abbemuseum and the leading worldwide scholars, the Lissitzky foundation was established, to preserve the artist’s legacy and prepare a catalogue raisonné of the artists oeuvre.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pozharnaia lestnitsa' from the series 'Dom na Miasnitskoi' (Fire Escape, from the series House Building on Miasnitskaia Street) 1925


Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pozharnaia lestnitsa from the series Dom na Miasnitskoi (Fire Escape, from the series House Building on Miasnitskaia Street)
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 in. (22.86 x 15.24cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Frances and John Bowes, Evelyn Haas, Mimi and Peter Haas, Pam and Dick Kramlich, and Judy and John Webb
© Estate of Alexander Rodchenko / RAO, Moscow / VAGA, New York


Raoul Ubac. 'Penthésilée' 1937


Raoul Ubac (French, 1910-1985)
Gelatin silver print
15 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (39.37 x 28.58cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Robert Miller
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Raoul Ubac (31 August 1910, Cologne – 24 March 1985, Dieudonne, Oise) was a French painter, sculptor, photographer and engraver. Ubac’s mother’s family ran a tannery and his father was a magistrate. In his early years he traveled through some parts of Europe on foot. He originally intended to become a waterways and forestry inspector. His interest in art was aroused when he made his first visit to Paris in 1928 and met several artists, including Otto Freundlich.

After returning to Malmédy he read the Manifeste du Surréalisme (1924) by André Breton. He met that document’s author André Breton and other leading Surrealists in 1930, and dedicated himself to capturing the movement’s dream aesthetic in photography after settling in Paris, attending the first showing of Luis Buñuel’s film L’Age d’or (1931). He attended the Faculté des Lettres of the Sorbonne briefly but soon left to frequent the studios of Montparnasse. About 1933-34 he attended the Ecole des Arts Appliqués for more than a year, studying mainly drawing and photography. In the course of a visit to Austria and the Dalmatian coast in 1933, he visited the island of Hvar where he made some assemblages of stones, which he drew and photographed, for example Dalmatian Stone (1933). Disillusioned with Surrealism, Ubac abandoned photography after the Second World War in favour of painting and sculpture, and died in France in 1985.

Text from various sources



Co-organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th­-Century Art presents more than 70 artworks that explore a central dynamic of art making in Europe and the Americas between the 1910s and the early 1950s. On view from November 13, 2013 to March 16, 2014 at the Cantor Arts Center, the exhibition includes a rich group of paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, and illustrated books from the collection of SFMOMA. Taken together, the works offer a fresh view of how artists negotiated the terrain between the mechanical and the bodily – two oppositional yet inextricably bound forces – to produce a wide range of imagery responding to the complexity of modern experience.

The exhibition is part of the collaborative museum shows and extensive off-site programming presented by SFMOMA while its building is temporarily closed for expansion construction. From the summer of 2013 to early 2016, SFMOMA is on the go, presenting a dynamic slate of jointly organised and traveling exhibitions, public art displays and site-specific installations, and newly created education programs throughout the Bay Area.

“We are thrilled to pair SFMOMA’s world-class collection with Stanford’s renowned academic resources,” said Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “Cantor curators and the distinguished chair of the Department of Art and Art History guided seminars specifically for this exhibition, with students examining art of the period, investigating themes, studying design and display issues, and developing writing skills. The students gained immeasurably by this amazing experience and added new research and fresh perspectives to the artwork and to the exhibition. We are proud of the results and delighted to present a unique and invaluable partnership that will enrich the Stanford community, our museum members, and our visitors.”

SFMOMA’s Curator of Photography Corey Keller concurred: “The opportunity to work with our colleagues at Stanford has been a remarkable experience both in the galleries and in the classroom. We couldn’t be prouder of the exhibition’s unique perspective on a particularly rich area of SFMOMA’s collection that resulted from our collaboration.”


Exhibition overview

The exhibition is organised into four thematic sections dealing with the human figure, the imagination, the urban landscape, and the object, which together reveal a range of artists’ responses to the conditions of modernity. At the beginning of the 20th century, many hailed the machine as a symbol of progress. “Speed” and “efficiency” entered the vocabularies of art movements such as Futurism (in Italy), Purism (in France), Vorticism (in England), and Constructivism (in Russia), all of which adapted the subject matter and formal characteristics of the machine. Factories and labourers were presented positively as emblems of modernity, and mechanisation became synonymous with mobility and the possibility of social improvement. Countering this utopian position were proponents of the Dada and Surrealist movements (based largely in Germany and France), who found mechanical production problematic. For many of these artists who had lived through the chaos and destruction of World War I, the machine was perceived as a threat not only to the body, but to the uniquely human qualities of the mind as well. These artists embraced chance, accident, dream, and desire as new paths to freedom and creativity, in contrast to their counterparts who maintained their faith in an industrially enhanced future.

Though art from the first half of the 20th century is often viewed as representing an opposition between the rational, impersonal world of the machine and the uncontrollable, often troubling realm of the human psyche, the work in this exhibition suggests a more nuanced tension. In fact, artists regularly perceived these polarities in tandem. The codes of the bodily and the industrial coalesce in Fernand Léger’s machine aesthetic, on view in his 1927 painting Two Women on a Blue Backgound and an untitled collage from 1925. For his “rayographs,” Man Ray made use of mass-produced objects, but deployed them in a lyrical and imaginative manner – placing them on photosensitised paper and exposing it to light. Constantin Brancusi’s The Blond Negress (1927) and Jacques Lipchitz’s Draped Woman (1919) update the tradition of the cast bronze figure by introducing impersonal geometries. And even the seemingly formulaic surfaces of Piet Mondrian’s abstract paintings eventually reveal the artist’s sensitive hand.”

Press release from SFMOMA and the Cantor Arts Center


Hans Bellmer. 'La mitrailleuse en état de grâce' (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace) 1937


Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975)
La mitrailleuse en état de grâce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace)
Gelatin silver print with oil and watercolour
26 x 26 in. (66.04 x 66.04cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Foto Forum
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Hans Bellmer (13 March 1902 – 23 February 1975) was a German artist, best known for the life sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s. Historians of art and photography also consider him a Surrealist photographer.

Bellmer was born in the city of Kattowitz, then part of the German Empire (now Katowice, Poland). Up until 1926, he’d been working as a draftsman for his own advertising company. He initiated his doll project to oppose the fascism of the Nazi Party by declaring that he would make no work that would support the new German state. Represented by mutated forms and unconventional poses, his dolls were directed specifically at the cult of the perfect body then prominent in Germany. Bellmer was influenced in his choice of art form by reading the published letters of Oskar Kokoschka (Der Fetisch, 1925).

Bellmer’s doll project is also said to have been catalysed by a series of events in his personal life. Hans Bellmer takes credit for provoking a physical crisis in his father and brings his own artistic creativity into association with childhood insubordination and resentment toward a severe and humourless paternal authority. Perhaps this is one reason for the nearly universal, unquestioning acceptance in the literature of Bellmer’s promotion of his art as a struggle against his father, the police, and ultimately, fascism and the state. Events of his personal life also including meeting a beautiful teenage cousin in 1932 (and perhaps other unattainable beauties), attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann (in which a man falls tragically in love with an automaton), and receiving a box of his old toys. After these events, he began to actually construct his first dolls. In his works, Bellmer explicitly sexualised the doll as a young girl. The dolls incorporated the principle of “ball joint”, which was inspired by a pair of sixteenth-century articulated wooden dolls in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.

Bellmer produced the first doll in Berlin in 1933. Long since lost, the assemblage can nevertheless be correctly described thanks to approximately two dozen photographs Bellmer took at the time of its construction. Standing about fifty-six inches tall, the doll consisted of a modelled torso made of flax fibre, glue, and plaster; a mask-like head of the same material with glass eyes and a long, unkempt wig; and a pair of legs made from broomsticks or dowel rods. One of these legs terminated in a wooden, club-like foot; the other was encased in a more naturalistic plaster shell, jointed at the knee and ankle. As the project progressed, Bellmer made a second set of hollow plaster legs, with wooden ball joints for the doll’s hips and knees. There were no arms to the first sculpture, but Bellmer did fashion or find a single wooden hand, which appears among the assortment of doll parts the artist documented in an untitled photograph of 1934, as well as in several photographs of later work.

Bellmer’s 1934 anonymous book, The Doll (Die Puppe), produced and published privately in Germany, contains 10 black-and-white photographs of Bellmer’s first doll arranged in a series of “tableaux vivants” (living pictures). The book was not credited to him, as he worked in isolation, and his photographs remained almost unknown in Germany. Yet Bellmer’s work was eventually declared “degenerate” by the Nazi Party, and he was forced to flee Germany to France in 1938. Bellmer’s work was welcomed in the Parisian art culture of the time, especially the Surrealists around André Breton, because of the references to female beauty and the sexualization of the youthful form. His photographs were published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure, 5 December 1934 under the title “Poupée, variations sur le montage d’une mineure articulée” (The Doll, Variations on the Assemblage of an Articulated Minor).

He aided the French Resistance during the war by making fake passports. He was imprisoned in the Camp des Milles prison at Aix-en-Provence, a brickworks camp for German nationals, from September 1939 until the end of the Phoney War in May 1940. After the war, Bellmer lived the rest of his life in Paris. Bellmer gave up doll-making and spent the following decades creating erotic drawings, etchings, sexually explicit photographs, paintings, and prints of pubescent girls… Of his own work, Bellmer said, “What is at stake here is a totally new unity of form, meaning and feeling: language-images that cannot simply be thought up or written up … They constitute new, multifaceted objects, resembling polyplanes made of mirrors … As if the illogical was relaxation, as if laughter was permitted while thinking, as if error was a way and chance, a proof of eternity.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Salvador Dalí. 'Objet Surréaliste à fonctionnement symbolique - le soulier de Gala' (Surrealist object that functions symbolically - Gala's Shoe) 1932/1975


Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
Objet Surréaliste à fonctionnement symbolique – le soulier de Gala (Surrealist object that functions symbolically – Gala’s Shoe)
Shoe, marble, photographs, clay, and mixed media
48 x 28 x 14 in. (121.92 x 71.12 x 35.56 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase, by exchange, through a gift of Norah and Norman Stone
© Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Marcel Jean. 'Le Spectre du Gardenia' (The Specter of the Gardenia) 1936/1972


Marcel Jean (French, 1900-1993)
Le Spectre du Gardenia (The Specter of the Gardenia)
Wool powder over plaster, zippers, celluloid film, and suede over wood
13 1/2 x 7 x 9 in. (34.29 x 17.78 x 22.86 cm)
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Dr. and Mrs. Allan Roos
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



With zippers for eyes and a filmstrip collar around its neck, this figure composes an anxious portrait, but its tactile surface of black cloth, faded red velvet, and zippers is charged with the eroticism of imagined touch. Jean originally called this work Secret of the Gardenia after an old movie reel he discovered, along with the velvet stand, at a Paris flea market. As the artist later recalled, Surrealism’s leader André Breton “always pressed his friends to center their interest on Surrealist objects,” and “he made a certain number himself.” Chance discoveries like the movie reel and velvet stand that inspired this work provided a trove of uncanny items for Surrealists to include, combine, and transform in their works.

Text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 01/03/2014


Max Ernst. 'La famille nombreuse' (The Numerous Family) 1926


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
La famille nombreuse (The Numerous Family)
Oil on canvas
32 1/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81.61 x 65.1cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Peggy Guggenheim
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Giorgio de Chirico. 'Les contrariétés du penseur' (The Vexations of the Thinker) 1915


Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888-1978)
Les contrariétés du penseur (The Vexations of the Thinker)
Oil on canvas
18 1/4 x 15 in. (46.36 x 38.1cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Templeton Crocker Fund purchase
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome


Fernand Léger. 'Deux femmes sur fond bleu' (Two Women on a Blue Background) 1927


Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)
Deux femmes sur fond bleu (Two Women on a Blue Background)
Oil on canvas
36 1/2 x 23 5/8 in. (92.71 x 59.94cm)
Collection SFMOMA, fractional gift of Helen and Charles Schwab
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Constantin Brancusi. 'La Négresse blonde' (The Blond Negress) 1926


Constantin Brancusi (Romanian, 1876-1957)
La Négresse blonde (The Blond Negress)
Bronze with marble and limestone base
70 3/4 x 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 in. (179.71 x 27.31 x 27.31 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
Phone: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Thursday 11am – 8pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website


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Exhibition: ‘Max Ernst’ at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 8th September 2013


Many thankx to the Fondation Beyeler for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.



Max Ernst. The Entire City La ville entière 1935/36


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Entire City
La ville entière
Oil on canvas
60 cm x 81cm
Kunsthaus Zurich
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Kunsthaus Zurich


Max Ernst. Nature at Dawn (Evensong) La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir) 1938


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Nature at Dawn (Evensong)
La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir)

Oil on canvas
81 cm x 100cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich


Max Ernst. 'Painting for Young People' 1943


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Painting for Young People
Oil on canvas
60.5 cm x 76.5cm
The Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, Berlin
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin


Max Ernst. Woman, Old Man, and Flower Weib, Greis und Blume 1924


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Woman, Old Man, and Flower
Weib, Greis und Blume
Oil on canvas
97 cm x 130cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence


Max Ernst. 'Oedipus Rex' 1922


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Oedipus Rex
Oil on canvas
93 cm x 102cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



This work is innately Freudian just in name, let alone in content. The Oedipus complex is one of the most well recognised components of Freudian theory and it is seen in this work names after it in many ways. The first is through the process of condensation. This can be seen as the bird headed man, which shows up in many of Ernst’s images: the association in this image between the man and the bird is the desire of man to be free from the inhibitions imposed upon him by society, and despite the fact that these two still retain their separate identities, they are consistent with Freud’s ideas. In the case of this work, the head is removed from the body, showing a detachment from true feeling and true understanding of life. Another Freudian idea is the use of the joke, which is seen in the treatment of several of the objects in this work. Such as the contrast and juxtaposition of the wall, the over-sized fingers, upside down eyes on the birds, and the balloon in the aft of the painted collage. Several other associations relating this work to Freud can be drawn as well.

This work has intense sexual undercurrents. The nut represents the female and the crack in the nut is a symbol for the vulva. The cracking of the nut by the hands of a male is a metaphor for sexual intercourse and also gender roles in traditional patriarchal cultures. The idea of the treatment of woman and of her place within society is also visible in another piece by Ernst, The Tottering Woman. In this piece, he addresses the constraints in which woman are held in the world and the patriarchy that she must deal with on a daily basis. It also touches upon the objectification of woman as well. Hoffman also theorises that the squeezing of the nut has implications of sadomasochistic roles as the nut is being dominated and crushed, the spike is punishing the hand equally and finally, once forced open, the “nut” could always snap back shut, injuring the index finger and thereby is a signifier of neurotic sexual attachment. The bird head towards the back of the picture plane is tethered by some sort of rope, which could be seen as societal restrictions on deviant sexuality and possibly is a reaction to the taboo associated with incest. Additionally, the arrow as it pierces the shell of the nut could be seen as a phallic signifier or also as a representation for the idea of love and then a refutation of the existence of love within the constraints of sexual desire and sexuality. The imagery in this piece by Ernst is intensely psychosexual in nature and content and can be seen mostly in those terms.

In defence of picking Oedipus Rex to write about in the context of collage, it is true that it is an oil painting, but its imagery was taken from print sources and then was transposed into the work by the act of painting them. The nut squeezing image was taken from an article entitled “Experience sur l’elasticite, faite avec une noix,” from the popular 19th century French Magazine La Nature.

Anonymous. “Ernst: Chance, Collage and the Study of Freud,” on the Center for Biological Computing, Indiana State University Department of Life Sciences website [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism) L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme) 1937


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)
L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme)
Oil on canvas
114 cm x 146cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



This is one of the rare pictures by Max Ernst which refer directly to a political incident. He commented on this: “The Fireside Angel is a picture I painted after the defeat of the Republicans in Spain. This is, of course, an ironical title for a kind of clumsy oaf which destroys everything that gets in the way. That was my impression in those days of the things that might happen in the world. And I was right.” The Fireside Angel is depicted as an avenging character from the Bible. Its destructive potential is stressed by its aggressive colouring. In the figure of the angel, blind traumatising force is expressed, against which mankind is defenceless. Since there is no hope for negotiations with an inhuman force, the blind aggressor seems even more frightening.



With the exhibition of over 160 of his works at the Fondation Beyeler in cooperation with the Albertina, Vienna, the “artist of the century” Max Ernst (1891-1976) will be given the first comprehensive retrospective in Switzerland since his death as well as the first held in a German-speaking country since 1999.

Max Ernst is one of Modernism’s most versatile artists. After his beginnings as a rebellious Dadaist in Cologne, he moved to Paris in 1922, where he soon became one of the pioneers of Surrealism. He was interned twice as an enemy alien during the Second World but was released thanks to the intervention of the poet Paul Éluard, who was his friend. In 1941 Max Ernst fled to the USA, where he found new stimuli for his work as well as providing new impulses for the generation of young American artists. A decade later he returned to a Europe that had been devastated by the war and where the once highly esteemed Max Ernst seemed to have been forgotten, only to be rediscovered as one of the 20th century’s most multifaceted artists. In 1958, having renounced his German nationality in 1948 in order to take US citizenship, Max Ernst eventually became a French citizen.

Ernst was indeed one of the “artists of the century” – not only because of the high quality and wide range of his oeuvre but also because of the length of his creative career, which lasted around 60 years from 1915 to 1975. Active at a time of tremendous artistic, social, political and technical upheaval, he knew how to integrate these changes into his oeuvre, which therefore reflects key characteristics of the 20th century. The pleasure Max Ernst took in experimenting with different techniques made him a pioneer of multimedia expression. With no apparent effort, he combined in his work the themes, styles and techniques that were important to successive generations. His ceaseless quest for new forms of expression, questions and subjects is emblematic of modern man. Max Ernst appears to us as the artist who never wanted to find himself, as he once said: “A painter is lost when he finds himself”.

With his early Dadaist experience, his key position among the Surrealists and his prelude to action painting, Max Ernst travelled between worlds and cultures, moving to Paris from Cologne and from New York back to France. At a time of political unrest, he maintained his critical, creative gaze, seeking refuge in a country, the USA, which he scarcely knew but to which he nonetheless responded with curiosity and which provided him with important impulses for his late work. With exhibitions in New York, projects in Arizona and Touraine, participation in the Venice Biennale and Documenta, Max Ernst was an early 20th century example of the kind of “cultural and artistic nomad” who only later became a customary figure.



As early as 1919, Max Ernst started working with the technique of collage, which he used to design or simulate new pictorial realities. He created his collages from illustrations taken from various novels, textbook catalogues, natural science journals and 19th century sales catalogues. He excised the fragments from wood engravings, using a scalpel in order to achieve cut edges that were perfectly exact and smooth. In around 1929/30 Max Ernst created his most famous collage novels La femme 100 têtes (Hundred-Headed Woman / Headless Woman) and Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (A little Girl dreams of taking the Veil), which are among Surrealism’s most fascinating, enigmatic works.



In around 1925, Max Ernst began his Natural History series, in which he used the technique of frottage for the first time (the French word frotter means “to rub”) as a semi-automatic procedure. He placed objets trouvés he found outdoors, such as leaves and wood, under a sheet of paper and rubbed over them with a pencil. Then he took the structures that emerged and transformed them into fantastic pictures. In his frottages, Ernst breathes new life into lifeless objects, giving them another, to some extent uncustomary, significance. Max Ernst developed frottage while he was staying in Brittany. In his essay Beyond Painting he describes a kind of visionary revelation that caused him to use the wooden floor and other objects in his guest-house room as objects for his frottages.



Grattage is an artistic technique used by Max Ernst in painting that he developed in around 1927 as an extension of frottage. In a first phase, he applied several superimposed layers of paint to a canvas. Underneath the painting ground that he prepared in that way, he placed objects such as metal grids, wooden boards and string, the relief of which could be seen through the canvas. In order to transfer those structures to the picture, he scratched away the top layers of paint (gratter is the French word for “to scratch”). In a subsequent phase, he reworked the patterns that had become visible, transforming them into forests, shellflowers, birds and petrified cities.



Decalcomania is a transfer technique in which the damp pigment on a piece of glass or a sheet of paper is pressed against a canvas, leaving behind fine streaks, bubbles or marbled traces of paint when they are removed. In a subsequent phase, the artist reworks the complex surface structure. This artistic technique had already been developed in the 18th century and was used by other Surrealist artists too. Max Ernst adopted the technique in the late 1930s, using it to represent mysterious landscapes peopled by eery faces, figures and animals hiding in the thickets of nature.



In around 1942, while an exile in the USA, Max Ernst started developing the technique of oscillation. He let paint drip out of a tin perforated with a number of holes, which he attached to a long string and swung to and fro over the canvas. This largely uncontrollable and, once again, semi-automatic procedure created reticulated compositions of circles, lines and points on the surface that were reminiscent of planets’ orbits. Oscillation was an innovative technique that not only extended the range of Surrealism’s artistic repertoire but also heralded Jackson Pollock’s Drip Painting.

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website


Max Ernst. At the First Limpid Word Au premier mot limpide 1923


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
At the First Limpid Word
Au premier mot limpide
Oil on plaster, transferred to canvas
232 cm x 167cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Walter Klein, Düsseldorf



At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. This painting, “an allegory of seduction,” is such a simple composition but is filled with symbolism in colour and subject.


Max Ernst. 'Ubu Imperator' 1923


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Ubu Imperator
Oil on canvas
100 cm x 81cm
Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat



Like many of Ernst’s paintings during his Paris period (1922-1941), Ubu Imperator resembles a collage in painted form. The artist’s knowledge of Freudian theories, familiarity with myth and extreme wit are reflected in this early painting, which is now considered proto-Surrealist due to its strange juxtapositions.

In Ubu Imperator (1923), an anthropomorphic top dances in a vast, empty landscape. Such works captured early on the surrealist notion of estrangement and commitment to the subconscious, but also they seem surprisingly contemporary. The red Ubu Imperator marked the entry of Ernst in the articulated stage of surrealism by his use of a literary narrative that was sometimes personal, sometimes political. In this seminal work a spinning top, a red carcass with iron reinforcement, and human hands express an astonishing image of the Ubu Father, a grotesque symbol of authority invented by Alfred Jarry. Other paintings suggest Ernst’s impressions of ancient Buddhist temples (à la Angkor Wat) as inspired from his trip to Asia following the breakup of his famous ménage à trois with Gala and Paul Eluard. This structure and thickly overgrown plants appear in many of his engravings and grattage [Grattage is a surrealist painting technique that involves laying a canvas prepared with a layer of oil paint over a textured object and then scraping the paint off to create an interesting and unexpected surface (Tate)] oil paintings, such as The Entire City (1935-36) and The Petrified City (1935).

Valery Oisteanu. “Max Ernst: A Retrospective,” on the The Brooklyn Rail website, May 2005 [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades) La puberté proche... (les pléiades) 1921


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades)
La puberté proche… (les pléiades)
Collage, gouache, and oil on paper, mounted on cardboard
24.5 cm x 16.5cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



The Pleiades, companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. The Pleiades were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Bacchus. There is some debate as to the origin of the name Pleiades. Previously, it was accepted the name is derived from the name of their mother, Pleione. However, the name Pleiades may derive from πλεῖν(to sail) because of their importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. (Wikipedia)

For Ernst eroticism was another way of entering the unconscious, of escaping from convention, and possibly of tweaking bourgeois taste. But he was aware that adult sexuality had its limits, as is apparent in the exquisite Approaching Puberty… (1921). A photograph of a nude, faceless girl floats in a blue space stratified by horizontal lines, suggesting water or the sky. A few strangely disparate forms surround the girl, and the short text at the bottom ends, “The gravitation of the undulations does not yet exist.” The title, this line, and the fact that the girl floats in space rather than standing on the ground – as most of Ernst’s figures do – suggests that he sees in pubescence a kind of weightless freedom. In a related but nonsexual image, an Untitled c. 1921 collage, four schoolboys peer out of their classroom (from which a wall is missing) at a vast blue sky in which a hot-air balloon floats. A schoolmaster stands alone and ignored at his desk; next to him one of the boys balances a giant pencil on a pointer. What’s learned in school, Ernst seems to say, is far less important than visions of the sky.

Fred Camper. “Max Ernst’s Theater of Reveries,” on the Chicago Reader website, November 1993 [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. 'Napoleon in the Wilderness' 1941


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Napoleon in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas
46.3 cm x 38cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence



In Max Ernst’s painting Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941), a strange whimsical trumpet appears in the hand of a female figure that seems to have sprung from the sinister rock and coral formations of a world in ruin. This painting formed part of suite of decalcomania [A transfer technique, developed in the 18th century, in which ink, paint, or another medium is spread onto a surface and, while still wet, covered with material such as paper, glass, or aluminium foil, which, when removed, transfers a pattern that may be further embellished upon. The technique was adopted by the Surrealists to create imagery by chance rather than through conscious control (MoMA)] works, in which Carrington’s semi-naked figure haunts a series of eerie landscapes, richly textured and abundant with mythological hybrid forms. Between periods of internment during the war, Ernst had managed to continue painting, producing haunting images of his abandoned lover in works that evoke his own sense of loss and grief in macabre scenes that promise both decay and renewal.

Text from Natalya Lusty, Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Ashgate Publishing, 2007.



The exhibition is a chronological presentation of all the major creative phases and groups of themes in Max Ernst’s work, opening with Capricorn, his most important sculpture. Max Ernst, who was born on 2 April 1891 in Brühl (Germany), first learnt about painting from his father. He had a conservative, middle-class upbringing, against which he soon rebelled. Starting in 1910, he studied art history as well as psychology, Romance languages and philosophy. Initially influenced by Expressionism and Futurism, he soon came in contact with other artists and art movements.

His early work City with Animals demonstrates this unique combination of different styles, displaying both Cubist and Futurist features. His encounter with Hans Arp (also represented in the Beyeler Collection along with the Surrealists Dalí, Giacometti and Miró) came at a time full of turmoil. Dada is born; the years after the First World War are a time of radical change, protest and experimentation.

Dada brings Max Ernst into contact with Surrealist artists. He ceases to be just a German artist and becomes a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement in Paris. There his works begin to acquire enigmatic qualities, for the unconscious and dreams are important elements of Surrealism, which it took over from psychoanalysis. Max Ernst remains an innovator, experimenting with frottage from the mid-1920s onwards. Hybrid creatures are created from different natural species; his interest in the natural sciences finds expression in his works.

At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus is an equally spectacular work, a scandal-provoking painting with blasphemous elements that deconstructs the traditional sacred image of the Madonna, representing a radical liberation from Ernst’s middle class roots. One whole room in the exhibition is developed to the theme of the forest, with a number of masterpieces from that series. Considerable importance is also attached to the series of Horde paintings from the late 1920s; the metamorphosed figures convey the theme of transformation. With the Flowers and Cities series (which focus on the antitheses of nature and culture), other important groups of themes are also presented.

Room 11 will contain a number of key works with the jungle paintings from the second half of the 1930s including Nature at Dawn with its dark, sinister character. Different traditions are echoed here, ranging from borrowings from Henri Rousseau to the Romanticism of a painter like Caspar David Friedrich. With The Robing of the Bride there is not only an obvious reference to Renaissance art but also a more differentiated context. The transformation of a woman into an animal and vice versa is an erotic motif that the painting conveys through a number of details. The Fireside Angel, on the other hand, thematises the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, with which many artists and intellectuals concerned themselves. With the brightly coloured, mask-like, terrifying dimension of its figure, which seems to fly towards the viewer as an unstoppable whirlwind between aggression and mockery, Max Ernst prefigures the political catastrophe that was to befall Europe.

Ernst’s late work displays thematic caesura – on the one hand, a poetical and sensuous contemplation using over-painting in the refined, technically innovative work The Garden of France and, on the other, Birth of a Galaxy, a splendid late work in which air, water, earth and light all rise into a starry firmament. As a free spirit – ironical, elegant and rebellious – and a man of many different facets, Max Ernst today remains an artist whose work is both accessible and complex. His works speak to us, evoking uncharted depths and hidden mysteries, as well as prompting reflection. Like mercury – which continuously changes shape in a fascinating way, hence being impossible to grasp – Max Ernst is still an exceptional artist almost forty years after his death, exemplary in his artistic independence and possessing an urge for freedom and a bold readiness for innovation in his work and life that preserve his oeuvre from stylistic opportunism and conventionality.

Max Ernst’s creativity in handling sources of imagery and inspiration, the breaks between his many phases and types of subject matter, are still capable of astonishing viewers today. Like a revolutionary of vision, he rearranged images and elements, and as a Surrealist established links between pictures and the viewer’s unconscious mind. What remained a constant was the persistence of Ernst’s rebellion. Like his life, he once said, his work was “not harmonious in the sense of classical composers.” A master of metamorphosis, Ernst was a searcher and discoverer, an honorary doctor of philosophy who increasingly expanded his range of investigation to include astronomy, ethnology, ornithology, mathematics and psychoanalysis, following up his love of the natural sciences and creative chance.

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website


Max Ernst. The Robing of the Bride L'habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée 1940


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Robing of the Bride
L’habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée
Oil on canvas
129.6 cm x 96.3cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)


The Robing of the Bride (1939-41; Venice, Guggenheim) employs Renaissance perspective devices and Cranach-like figures to represent a pagan marriage.


Max Ernst. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre 1926


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist
La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre
Oil on canvas
196 cm x 130cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peter Willi / ARTOTHEK


Max Ernst. The Immaculate Conception L'immaculée conception 1929


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Immaculate Conception
L’immaculée conception
Master illustration for La femme 100 têtes, chapter 1, plate 12
Collage on paper
14.2 cm x 14.5cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



Max Ernst La femme 100 têtes (1967) pt1


This is a ‘free’ adaptation of Max Ernst’s collage book La femme 100 têtes, originally published in 1929. directed by Eric Duvivier. The book consisted of a surrealist picture per page, with a little legend. But the story depended on the ability of the reader to interpret the collages, and was not relying that much on the legends. The book was about a woman who was living among ghosts and ants, and was an allegory of the immaculate conception.

Thus, even if that movie is in french, with no subs, it is possible, and even encouraged, to view it as a collage in motion.


'Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona' 1948


Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Documentation, Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris / John Kasnetsis



Dorothea Margaret Tanning (August 25, 1910 – January 31, 2012) was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor and writer. She created ballet sets and costumes for George Balanchine’s Night Shadow, at the Metropolitan Opera House and others. She also appeared in Hans Richter’s avant-garde films. As an artist she was influenced by Dada and Surrealism and married fellow Surrealist Max Ernst.

As she recounts in her memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, when Ernst visited her studio in 1942, they played chess, fell in love, and embarked on a life together that soon took them to Sedona, Arizona, and later to France. They met at a party in 1942 and after he would drop by Dorothea’s studio where she painted for a Surrealist movement exhibition of art by women for Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century. In that exhibition, Tanning’s work showed along with the work of Louise Nevelson and Gypsy Rose Lee. Soon after this encounter Ernst moved in with her.

They married in 1946, in a double wedding with Man Ray and Juliet Browner in Hollywood, after Ernst’s divorce from Peggy Guggenheim. They remained married for 30 years until his death. In 1949, Tanning and Ernst moved to France, where they divided their time between Paris, Touraine and later Provence. They would often host guest such as Balanchine, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Duchamp, Pavel Tchelitchew and Dylan Thomas. In 1957 Tanning and Ernst moved to France again because Max Ernst was denied citizenship as a German during the McCarthy era. When speaking on her relationship with Ernst in an interview, Tanning said: “I was a loner, am a loner, good Lord, it’s the only way I can imagine working. And then when I hooked up with Max Ernst, he was clearly the only person I needed and, I assure you, we never, never talked art. Never.”

After Max Ernst died in 1979 Dorothea Tanning returned to the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website


'Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris' 1938


Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Stiftung Max Ernst



Fondation Beyeler
Beyeler Museum AG
Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125
Riehen, Switzerland

Opening hours:
10 am – 6 pm daily, Wednesdays until 8 pm

Fondation Beyeler website


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Exhibition: ‘A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 16th June – 4th August 2013


Frederick Sommer. 'Moon Culmination' 1951


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Moon Culmination
gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.2cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Gift of Frederick Sommer



Frederick Sommer is not as well known as others in the famous quintet (the others being Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White and Paul Strand). He is the (slightly) forgotten master. But for those that know his work, Frederick Sommer is the photographer’s photographer.

There is a visual and intellectual alchemy transmitted through his work. It is as if he was a magician, producing images out of thin air: paper cuts, smoke on glass, collage, found objects, rites, passages, cleavages, heroes, occultism (Paracelsus was a Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist). From the few photographs I have seen in the flesh his prints, like his thinking, have a volume to them that few other photographers can match. Here I must cede to the knowledge of my friend and photographer Ian Lobb who visited Sommer at his home in Prescott, Arizona.

“You will notice with FS prints that the only date given is the date of the negative. This is not unusual of course, but one of FS strengths is being interested in returning to a negative and print it with enthusiasm after looking at other versions for a very long time.

Another strength is a really simple strong way of working – according to Les Walkling, FS had a block of wood the same size as an 8 x 10 contact print. By placing the print on this base as he spotted, the print was always raised above his work environment and the chance of an accident was reduced. So simple – so elegant. I see this state of mind repeated – eg when he was out photographing with Siskind and he found a pile of X-rays and said that this was his work for the day.

Caponigro and Sommer are the ones that make their technical skill communicate in very unique ways. By chronology, Sommer is the first one who found that something beyond the f/64 Group vocabulary could be said. Whereas Edward Weston and Paul Strand are working at about 3/10 for their prints, Sommer is working at 9/10. He doesn’t always get there in every print but when he succeeds the results are beyond what any other classical photographer ever achieved in the physical presence of the photograph.

Venus, Jupiter and Mars was the first extended viewing of Sommer that arrived here (in Australia). It would have been at the Printed Image (bookshop) in 1981.”

Ian Lobb

Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Frederick Sommer. 'Venus, Jupiter and Mars' 1949


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Venus, Jupiter and Mars
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 19.1cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'Valise d'Adam' 1949


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Valise d’Adam
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 18.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer



Against a backdrop of rusting metal, Frederick Sommer arranged a grouping of found objects. A clipboard clamp represents a head and shoulders while dirty, cracking doll’s arms and legs provide more literal context, defining the object as a human body. Within that fragmented body, Sommer places a complete doll with its head pointed downward, as if ready to be born.  The photograph’s French title, Valise d’Adam, or as Sommer translated it, Adam’s Traveling Case, is a sly reference to the idea that man travels through woman into the world, and perhaps, woman even carries man through life.


Aaron Siskind. 'Manzanillo, Mexico' 1955


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Manzanillo, Mexico
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 27.8cm (14 x 10 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, René Huyghe Collection
Image courtesy of the Aaron Siskind Foundation


Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.1cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'The Anatomy of a Chicken' 1939


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
The Anatomy of a Chicken
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
24.1 x 19cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'Paracelsus' 1957


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 25.6cm (13 1/2 x 10 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer



Paracelsus (1493/1494 – 24 September 1541), born Theophrastus von Hohenheim (full name Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim), was a Swiss physician, alchemist, lay theologian, and philosopher of the German Renaissance.

He was a pioneer in several aspects of the “medical revolution” of the Renaissance, emphasising the value of observation in combination with received wisdom. He is credited as the “father of toxicology”. Paracelsus also had a substantial impact as a prophet or diviner, his “Prognostications” being studied by Rosicrucians in the 1600s. Paracelsianism is the early modern medical movement inspired by the study of his works.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Frederick Sommer. 'Cut Paper' 1980


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Cut Paper
gelatin silver print
24.2 x 18.7cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer



The National Gallery of Art explores the continuities in Frederick Sommer’s varied body of work and demonstrates the influence of his friendships with fellow artists in the exhibition A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships, on view in the East Building from June 16 to August 4, 2013. Drawn from the Gallery’s significant holdings, which include a major 1995 gift from the artist himself, the exhibition showcases 27 works by Sommer, Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Aaron Siskind, and Charles Sheeler, including three pieces on loan from other museums and private collections.

“The Gallery is privileged to display this influential body of work, which illuminates Frederick Sommer’s interactions with his fellow artists,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “In addition to photographs drawn from our permanent collection, we are grateful to the lenders who have assisted us in revealing the continuities in Sommer’s broad range of work, as well as The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation for its generous support.”


About the exhibition

The exhibition showcases the beauty and diversity of Sommer’s striking images and places them in the context of his formative friendships with such prominent contemporaries as Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and Aaron Siskind.

As an artist, Frederick Sommer notoriously defies classification. Over the span of more than 60 years, he created paintings, drawings, and photographs, as well as collages, musical scores, poetry, and theoretical texts. Today, Sommer is best known for his photography, the medium in which he produced his most inventive visual experiments and which best suited the breadth of his visual interests. These ranged from disorienting desert landscapes to surrealistic arrangements of found objects, and to abstractions that brought together drawing and photography.

“All rare things should be lent away / and I have borrowed very freely,” Sommer wrote of his art. He also asserted that “the world is not a world of cleavages, it is a world of bonds.” This exhibition examines both claims, offering a glimpse into the ways in which Sommer shared ideas with his contemporaries while simultaneously creating a body of work uniquely his own.


About the artist

Just as he defied the bounds of medium and genre, Sommer, who lived in the small town of Prescott, Arizona, also never fully belonged to any artistic group or movement. His work reflects both wide-ranging personal interests and a broad scope of artistic affinities with artists as divergent as the surrealists and the members of the f/64 group of West Coast photographers.

Sommer’s circle of close artist-friends and mentors helps explain his idiosyncratic sensibilities. This circle included the photographer Edward Weston, whose precise attention to the details of the natural world inspired Sommer’s turn to photography. Equally important to Sommer, however, was his friendship with Max Ernst, the surrealist whose automatic painting techniques and uncanny imagery encouraged Sommer to reconfigure familiar objects into strange new creations. Aaron Siskind was yet another close friend and peer with whom Sommer shared a fascination with the abstract textures of everyday materials. Other artists represented in the exhibition who influenced Sommer’s approach to photographing assemblages and his exploration of photographic abstraction include Man Ray and Charles Sheeler.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website


Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1945


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
19 x 24.2cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


John Cato. 'Man tracks #9R' from the 'Mantracks' series 1978-83


John Cato
Man tracks #9R
from the Mantracks series 1978-83
Gelatin silver photograph
42.9 x 35.2cm


Frederick Sommer. 'Ondine' 1950


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
19.2 x 24.3cm (7 9/16 x 9 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer



The nymph Ondine was an immortal water spirit who became human after falling in love for a man, marrying him, and having a baby. In one of the versions of the tale, when she caught her husband sleeping with another woman, she cursed him to remain awake in order to control his own breathing.


Frederick Sommer. 'Taylor, Arizona' 1945


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Taylor, Arizona
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 24.2cm (7 9/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Max Ernst
Gelatin silver print
19.05 x 24.13cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
Collection of Susan and Peter MacGill
Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation


Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24cm (7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1941


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 24.1cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Les Walkling (Australia born 1953) 'Flypaper' 1980


Les Walkling (Australia, b. 1953)
Gelatin silver photograph
19.1 x 24.3cm
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Les Walkling


Frederick Sommer. 'Lacryma' 1992


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Collage of photomechanical reproductions of lithographic, relief and intaglio prints on
heavyweight wove paper
36 x 42.4 cm (14 3/16 x 16 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Lacryma, alternative form of lacrima – a tear (drop of liquid from crying)


Frederick Sommer. 'Drawing' 1948


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Tempera on black wove paper
30.4 x 46.9 cm (11 15/16 x 18 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Frederick Sommer. 'The Queen of Sheba' 1992


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
The Queen of Sheba
Collage of photomechanical reproductions of relief and intaglio prints on heavyweight wove
21.8 x 31.8cm (8 9/16 x 12 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer


Fiona Hall. 'Envy, Seven Deadly Sins' 1985


Fiona Hall (Australian, b. 1953)
Envy, Seven Deadly Sins
Polaroid photograph
61 × 50.8cm
© Fiona Hall



National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000am – 5.00pm
Sunday 11.00am – 6.00pm

National Gallery of Art website

Frederick Sommer website


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Exhibition: ‘Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop’ at The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 17th February – 5th May 2013


Unknown photographer (American). 'He Lost His Head' Nd


Unknown photographer (American)
He Lost His Head



Further images from this impressive exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery from its second stop, at The National Gallery of Art, Washington.


Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Edward Steichen. 
'The Pond - Moonrise' 1904


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)

The Pond – Moonrise
Platinum print with applied colour
39.7 x 48.2cm (15 5/8 x 19 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Permission Estate of Edward Steichen. All rights reserved



Using a painstaking technique of multiple printing, Steichen achieved prints of such painterly seductiveness they have never been equaled. This view of a pond in the woods at Mamaroneck, New York is subtly coloured as Whistler’s Nocturnes, and like them, is a tone poem of twilight, in-distinction, and suggestiveness. Commenting on such pictures in 1910, Charles Caffin wrote in Camera Work: “It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction into darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realised, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter to envelop it with a mystery of soul-suggestion.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'She Never Told Her Love' 1857


Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
She Never Told Her Love
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18 x 23.2cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/8in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005



Consumed by the passion of unrequited love, a young woman lies suspended in the dark space of her unrealised dreams in Henry Peach Robinson’s illustration of the Shakespearean verse “She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, / Feed on her damask cheek” (Twelfth Night II,iv,111-13). Although this picture was exhibited by Robinson as a discrete work, it also served as a study for the central figure in his most famous photograph, Fading Away, of 1858.

Purportedly showing a young consumptive surrounded by family in her final moments, Fading Away was hotly debated for years. On the one hand, Robinson was criticised for the presumed indelicacy of having invaded the death chamber at the most private of moments. On the other, those who recognised the scene as having been staged and who understood that Robinson had created the picture through combination printing (a technique that utilised several negatives to create a single printed image) accused him of dishonestly using a medium whose chief virtue was its truthfulness.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Max Ernst
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 23.97cm (7 9/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation


Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L'Africain, William Notman. 'Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia' c. 1888


Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L’Africain, William Notman
Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia
c. 1888
Collage of albumen prints with applied media
71.1 x 83.8cm (28 x 33 in.)
McCord Museum, Montreal



Notman established his first photography studio in Montreal in 1856 and relentlessly expanded his operations over the next two decades. At its peak, his company had twenty-four branches throughout Canada and New England, making it the most successful photographic enterprise in North America at the time. Notman specialised in composite portraits of large groups, including sporting clubs, trade associations, family gatherings, clergymen, and college graduates, some featuring more than four hundred figures. Each figure in a group was photographed separately in the studio then printed at the proper scale and pasted onto a painted background, as in this portrait of a Nova Scotia snowshoe club. The entire collage was then re-photographed. The final, relatively seamless tableau could then be printed and sold in a variety of sizes and formats.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website



The National Gallery of Art presents the first major exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery. Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop will be on view in the West Building’s Ground Floor galleries from February 17 through May 5, 2013, following its debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (from October 11, 2012, through January 27, 2013). In June it travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Following in its tradition of exhibiting and collecting the finest examples of photography, the Gallery is pleased to present some 200 photographs from the 1840s through the 1980s demonstrating the medium’s complicated relationship to truth in representation,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are grateful to the many lenders, both public and private, who have generously shared works from their collections – especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest lender and the organiser of this fascinating exhibition.”


The Exhibition

This is the first major exhibition devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age. While the widespread use of Adobe® Photoshop® software has brought about an increased awareness of the degree to which photographs can be doctored, photographers – including such major artists as Gustave Le Gray, Edward Steichen, Weegee, and Richard Avedon – have been fabricating, modifying, and otherwise manipulating camera images since the medium was first invented. This exhibition demonstrates that today’s digitally manipulated images are part of a continuum that extends back to photography’s first decades. Through visually captivating pictures created in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, and commerce, Faking It not only traces the medium’s complex and changing relationship to visual truth, but also significantly revises our understanding of photographic history.

Organised thematically, the exhibition begins with some of the earliest instances of photographic manipulation – those attempting to compensate for the new medium’s technical limitations. In the 19th century, many photographers hand tinted portraits to make them appear more vivid and lifelike. Others composed large group portraits by photographing individuals separately in the studio and creating a collage by pasting them onto painted backgrounds depicting outdoor scenes. As the art and craft of photography grew increasingly sophisticated, photographers devised a staggering array of techniques with which to manipulate their images, including combination printing, photomontage, overpainting, ink and airbrush retouching, sandwiched negatives, multiple exposures, and other darkroom magic.

The exhibition presents a superb selection of manually altered photographs created under the mantle of art, including 19th-century genre scenes composed of multiple negatives, stunning Pictorialist landscapes from the turn of the 19th century, and the pre-digital dreamscapes of surrealist photographers in the 1920s and 1930s. A section of doctored images made for political or ideological ends includes faked composite photographs of the 1871 Paris Commune massacres, anti-Nazi photomontages by John Heartfield, and falsified images from Stalin-era Soviet Russia. The show also explores popular uses of photographic manipulation such as spirit photography, tall-tale and fantasy postcards, advertising and fashion spreads, and doctored news images.

The final section features the work of contemporary artists – including Duane Michals, Jerry Uelsmann, and Yves Klein – who have reclaimed earlier techniques of image manipulation to creatively question photography’s presumed objectivity. By tracing the history of photographic manipulation from the 1840s to the present, Faking It vividly demonstrates that photography is – and always has been – a medium of fabricated truths and artful lies.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website


Arthur Felig - Weegee (American, born Hungary, 1899-1968) 'Times Square, New York' 1952-59


Arthur Felig – Weegee (American, born Hungary, 1899-1968)
Times Square, New York
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 17.8cm (8 x 7 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993



Famous for his gritty tabloid crime photographs, Weegee devoted the last twenty years of his life to what he called his “creative work.” He experimented prolifically with distorting lenses and comparable darkroom techniques, producing photo caricatures of politicians and Hollywood celebrities, novel variations on the man-in-the-bottle motif, and uncanny doublings and reflections, such as this striking image, which he described as “Times Square under 10 feet of water on a sunny afternoon.”


Kathy Grove (American, b. 1948) 'The Other Series (After Kertész)' 1989-90


Kathy Grove (American, born 1948)
The Other Series (After Kertész)
Gelatin silver print
19.7 x 15.2cm (7 3/4 x 6 in.)
Purchase, Charina Foundation Inc. Gift, 2010
© Kathy Grove



In the late 1980s Grove, an artist who supports herself as a professional photo retoucher, began seamlessly altering images of famous works of art, using bleach, dyes, and airbrush to remove the female figure from each image and leaving the rest of the scene intact. Her cunning excisions mimic the process by which art historians, echoing the culture at large, have erased the achievements of actual women while enshrining Woman as a blank screen upon which the ideas and desires of both artist and viewer are projected. If photographs are presumed to represent the truth, Grove’s pictures remind us to ask: Whose truth?


Unknown, American. '[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]' c. 1865


Unknown (American)
[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]
Tintype with applied color
8.4 x 6cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/8 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Gift of Steven Kasher and Susan Spungen Kasher, 2008


Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867


Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867, printed 1880-1890
Albumen silver print from glass negatives
52.3 x 40.4cm (20 9/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
© George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester



Watkins, the consummate photographer of the American West, combined a virtuoso mastery of the difficult wet plate negative process with a rigorous sense of pictorial structure. For large-format landscape work such as Watkins produced along the Columbia River in Oregon, the physical demands were great. Since there was as yet no practical means of enlarging, Watkins’s glass negatives had to be as large as he wished the prints to be, and his camera large enough to accommodate them. Furthermore, the glass negatives had to be coated, exposed, and developed while the collodion remained tacky, requiring the photographer to transport a traveling darkroom as he explored the rugged virgin terrain of the American West. The crystalline clarity of Watkins’s remarkable “mammoth” prints is unmatched in the work of any of his contemporaries and is approached by few artists working today. (Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website). Here the clouds have been printed in (compare to the work on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website)


Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) 'The Simulator' 1936


Dora Maar (French 1907-1997)
Le simulateur
Gelatin silver print
29.2 x 22.9cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Collection of The Sack Photographic Trust for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art



Maar’s haunting photomontages of the mid-1930s evoke a mood of oneiric ambiguity. Here, the world is turned literally upside-down: a boy bends sharply backward, echoing the curve of the vaulted ceiling on which he stands. On the print, Maar scratched out the figure’s eyes, exploiting Surrealism’s strong association of blindness with inner sight.


Albert Sands Southworth, Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window' 1850s


Albert Sands Southworth, Josiah Johnson Hawes
Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window
21.6 x 16.5cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The Isenburg Collection at AMC Toronto


J.C. Higgins and Son. 'Man in bottle' c. 1888


J.C. Higgins and Son
Man in bottle
c. 1888
Albumen print
13.5 x 10cm (5 5/16 x 3 15/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Susan and Thomas Dunn Gift, 2011


Jerry N. Uelsmann. 'Untitled' 1976


Jerry N. Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Gelatin silver print
49.3 x 36cm (19 7/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1981
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ © Jerry N. Uelsmann


Unknown Photographer, German. 'Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)' 1914


Unknown Photographer (German)
Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)
Gelatin silver print
8.7 x 13.7cm (3 7/16 x 5 3/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010



National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday 11.00am – 6.00pm

National Gallery of Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Dark Romanticism. From Goya to Max Ernst’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 26th September 2012 – 20th January, 2013


Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the reproductions of the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



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Installation photographs of Dark Romanticism. From Goya to Max Ernstat the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Photos: Norbert Miguletz


Arnold Böcklin. 'Villa by the Sea' 1871-1874


Arnold Böcklin (Swiss, 1827-1901)
Villa by the Sea
Oil on canvas
108 x 154cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main


Caspar David Friedrich. 'Kügelgen's Tomb' 1821-22


Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774-1840)
Kügelgen’s Tomb
Oil on canvas
41.5 x 55.5cm
Die Lübecker Museen, Museum Behnhaus Drägerhaus, on loan from private collection


Ernst Ferdinand Oehme. 'Procession in the Fog' 1828


Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (German, 1797-1855)
Procession in the Fog
Oil on canvas
81.5 x 105.5cm
Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden


Samuel Colman. 'The Edge of Doom' 1836-1838


Samuel Colman (American, 1780-1845)
The Edge of Doom
Oil on canvas
137.2 x 199.4cm
Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Laura L. Barnes


Salvador Dalí. 'Dream caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening' 1944


Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
Dream caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening
Oil on wood
51 x 41cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012



The Städel Museum’s major special exhibition Dark Romanticism. From Goya to Max Ernst will be on view from September 26th, 2012 until January 20th, 2013. It is the first German exhibition to focus on the dark aspect of Romanticism and its legacy, mainly evident in Symbolism and Surrealism. In the museum’s exhibition house this important exhibition, comprising over 200 paintings, sculptures, graphic works, photographs and films, will present the fascination that many artists felt for the gloomy, the secretive and the evil. Using outstanding works in the museum’s collection on the subject by Francisco de Goya, Eugène Delacroix, Franz von Stuck or Max Ernst as a starting point, the exhibition is also presenting important loans from internationally renowned collections, such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée du Louvre, both in Paris, the Museo del Prado in Madrid and the Art Institute of Chicago. The works on display by Goya, Johann Heinrich Fuseli and William Blake, Théodore Géricault and Delacroix, as well as Caspar David Friedrich, convey a Romantic spirit which by the end of the 18th century had taken hold all over Europe. In the 20th century artists such as Salvador Dalí, René Magritte or Paul Klee and Max Ernst continued to think in this vein. The art works speak of loneliness and melancholy, passion and death, of the fascination with horror and the irrationality of dreams. After Frankfurt the exhibition, conceived by the Städel Museum, will travel to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The exhibition’s take on the subject is geographically and chronologically comprehensive, thereby shedding light on the links between different centres of Romanticism, and thus retracing complex iconographic developments of the time. It is conceived to stimulate interest in the sombre aspects of Romanticism and to expand understanding of this movement. Many of the artistic developments and positions presented here emerge from a shattered trust in enlightened and progressive thought, which took hold soon after the French Revolution – initially celebrated as the dawn of a new age – at the end of the 18th century. Bloodstained terror and war brought suffering and eventually caused the social order in large parts of Europe to break down. The disillusionment was as great as the original enthusiasm when the dark aspects of the Enlightenment were revealed in all their harshness. Young literary figures and artists turned to the reverse side of Reason. The horrific, the miraculous and the grotesque challenged the supremacy of the beautiful and the immaculate. The appeal of legends and fairy tales and the fascination with the Middle Ages competed with the ideal of Antiquity. The local countryside became increasingly attractive and was a favoured subject for artists. The bright light of day encountered the fog and mysterious darkness of the night.

The exhibition is divided into seven chapters. It begins with a group of outstanding works by Johann Heinrich Fuseli. The artist had initially studied to be an evangelical preacher in Switzerland. With his painting The Nightmare (Frankfurt Goethe-Museum) he created an icon of dark Romanticism. This work opens the presentation, which extends over two levels of the temporary exhibition space. Fuseli’s contemporaries were deeply disturbed by the presence of the incubus (daemon) and the lecherous horse – elements of popular superstition – enriching a scene set in the present. In addition, the erotic-compulsive and daemonic content, as well as the depressed atmosphere, catered to the needs of the voyeur. The other six works by Fuseli – loans from the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Royal Academy London and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart – represent the characteristics of his art: the competition between good and evil, suffering and lust, light and darkness. Fuseli’s innovative pictorial language influenced a number of artists – among them William Blake, whose famous water colour The Great Red Dragon from the Brooklyn Museum will be on view in Europe for the first time in ten years.

The second room of the exhibition is dedicated to the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. The Städel will display six of his works – including masterpieces such as The Witches’ Flight from the Prado in Madrid and the representations of cannibals from Besançon. A large group of works on paper from the Städel’s own collection will be shown, too. The Spaniard blurs the distinction between the real and the imaginary. Perpetrator and victim repeatedly exchange roles. Good and evil, sense and nonsense – much remains enigmatic. Goya’s cryptic pictorial worlds influenced numerous artists in France and Belgium, including Delacroix, Géricault, Victor Hugo and Antoine Wiertz, whose works will be presented in the following room. Atmosphere and passion were more important to these artists than anatomical accuracy.

Among the German artists – who are the focus of the next section of the exhibition – it is Carl Blechen who is especially close to Goya and Delacroix. His paintings are a testimony to his lust for gloom. His soft spot for the controversial author E. T. A. Hoffmann – also known as “Ghost-Hoffmann” in Germany – led Blechen to paint works such as Pater Medardus (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin) – a portrait of the mad protagonist in The Devil’s Elixirs. The artist was not alone in Germany when it came to a penchant for dark and disturbing subjects. Caspar David Friedrich’s works, too, contain gruesome elements: cemeteries, open graves, abandoned ruins, ships steered by an invisible hand, lonely gorges and forests are pervasive in his oeuvre. One does not only need to look at the scenes of mourning in the sketchbook at the Kunsthalle Mannheim for the omnipresent theme of death. Friedrich is prominently represented in the exhibition with his paintings Moon Behind Clouds above the Seashore from the Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kügelgen’s Grave from the Lübecker Museums, as well as with one of his last privately owned works, Ship at Deep Sea with full Sails.

Friedrich’s paintings are steeped in oppressive silence. This uncompromising attitude anticipates the ideas of Symbolism, which will be considered in the next chapter of the exhibition. These ‘Neo-Romantics’ stylised speechlessness as the ideal mode of human communication, which would lead to fundamental and seminal insights. Odilon Redon’s masterpiece Closed Eyes, a loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, impressively encapsulates this notion. Paintings by Arnold Böcklin, James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff or Edvard Munch also embody this idea. However, as with the Romantics, these restrained works are face to face with works where anxiety and repressed passions are brought unrestrainedly to the surface; works that are unsettling in their radicalism even today. While Gustave Moreau, Max Klinger, Franz von Stuck and Alfred Kubin belong to the art historical canon, here the exhibition presents artists who are still to be discovered in Germany: Jean-Joseph Carriès, Paul Dardé, Jean Delville, Julien-Adolphe Duvocelle, Léon Frédéric, Eugène Laermans and Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer.

The presentation concludes with the Surrealist movement, founded by André Breton. He inspired artists such as Ernst, Brassaϊ or Dalí, to create their wondrous pictorial realms from the reservoir of the subconscious and celebrated them as fantasy’s victory over the “factual world”. Max Ernst vehemently called for “the borders between the so-called inner and outer world” to be blurred. He demonstrated this most clearly in his forest paintings, four of which have been assembled for this exhibition, one of them the major work Vision Provoked by the Nocturnal Aspect of the Porte Saint-Denis (private collection). The art historian Carl Einstein considered the Surrealists to be the Romantics’ successors and coined the phrase ‘the Romantic generation’. In spite of this historical link the Surrealists were far from retrospective. On the contrary: no other movement was so open to new media; photography and film were seen as equal to traditional media. Alongside literature, film established itself as the main arena for dark Romanticism in the 20th century. This is where evil, the thrill of fear and the lust for horror and gloom found a new home. In cooperation with the Deutsches Filmmuseum the Städel will for the first time present extracts from classics such as Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), Faust (1926), Vampyr (1931-32) and The Phantom Carriage (1921) within an exhibition.

The exhibition, which presents the Romantic as a mindset that prevailed throughout Europe and remained influential beyond the 19th century, is accompanied by a substantial catalogue. As is true for any designation of an epoch, Romanticism too is nothing more than an auxiliary construction, defined less by the exterior characteristics of an artwork than by the inner sentiment of the artist. The term “dark Romanticism” cannot be traced to its origins, but – as is also valid for Romanticism per se – comes from literary studies. The German term is closely linked to the professor of English Studies Mario Praz and his publication La carne, la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica of 1930, which was published in German in 1963 as Liebe, Tod und Teufel. Die schwarze Romantik (literally: Love, Death and Devil. Dark Romanticism).

Press release from the Städel Museum website


Francisco de Goya. 'Flying Folly (Disparate Volante)' 1816-1819


Francisco de Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Flying Folly (Disparate Volante)
from “The proverbs (Los proverbios)”, plate 5, 1816-1819, 1.
Edition, 1864
Etching and aquatint
21.7 x 32.6cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main


Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. 'Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror' Germany 1922


Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (German, 1888-1931)
Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror
Germany 1922
Silent film
© Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung


Edvard Munch. 'Vampire' 1916-1918


Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Oil on canvas
85 x 110cm
Collection Würth
Photo: Archiv Würth
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012


René Magritte. 'Sentimental Conversation' 1945


René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967)
Sentimental Conversation
Oil on canvas
54 x 65cm
Private Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012


Paul Hippolyte Delaroche. 'Louise Vernet, the artist's wife, on her Deathbed' 1845-46


Paul Hippolyte Delaroche (French, 1797-1856)
Louise Vernet, the artist’s wife, on her Deathbed
Oil on canvas
62 x 74.5cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes


Gabriel von Max. 'The White Woman' 1900


Gabriel von Max (Austrian, 1840-1915)
The White Woman
Oil on canvas
100 x 72cm
Private Collection


William Blake (1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun' c.1803-1805


William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun
c. 1803-1805
Watercolour, graphite and incised lines
43.7 x 34.8cm
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William Augustus White


Roger Parry (1905-1977) 'Untitled' 1929


Roger Parry (French, 1905-1977)
Illustration from Léon-Paul Fargue’s “Banalité” (Paris 1930)
Gelatin silver print
21.8 x 16.5cm
Collection Dietmar Siegert
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012



Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie
Schaumainkai 63, 60596 Frankfurt
Phone: +49(0)69-605098-170

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Wednesday, Saturday – Sunday 10-18 h
Thursday – Friday 10-21 h
Monday closed

Städel Museum website


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Text: Minkowski retentir / Photos: Rosemary Laing ‘groundspeed’ series

October 2012


Rosemary Liang. 'groundspeed (Red Piazza) #04' 2001


Rosemary Liang (Australian, b. 1959)
groundspeed (Red Piazza) #04
110 x 219 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program
© Rosemary Laing



“If, having fixed the original form in our mind’s eye, we ask ourselves how that form comes alive and fills with life, we discover a new dynamic and vital category, a new property of the universe: reverberation (retentir). It is as though a well-spring existed in a sealed vase and its waves, repeatedly echoing against the sides of this vase, filled it with their sonority. Or again, it’s as though the sound of a hunting horn, reverberating everywhere through its echo, made the tiniest leaf, the tiniest wisp of moss shudder in a common movement and transformed the whole forest, filling it to its limits, into a vibrating, sonorous world.”

Eugene Minkowski. ‘Vers une Cosmologie’ (translated by Maria Jolas) quoted on Michael Ormerod. “Minkowski’s Reverberating Forest,” on the ‘The Spirit of the Mass’ blog 23rd April 2012 [Online] Cited 24th October 2012 and again on 3rd September 2020



Rosemary Liang. 'groundspeed (Red Piazza) #05' 2001


Rosemary Liang (Australian, b. 1959)
groundspeed (Red Piazza) #05
106 x 163 cm
Courtesy the artist; DZ Bank Kunstsammlung
© Rosemary Laing; Galerie CONRADS, Düsseldorf



The Australian artist Rosemary Laing moves between different genres in her work, drawing upon installation, performance and photography at the same time. The groundspeed series is the result of a sort of “field trip” to the eucalyptus forests of southern Australia. Together with a team of assistants, Laing produced a series of images of landscapes in which reality and fiction combine through the insertion of ordinary industrially produced carpets in practically unspoilt natural settings. Her work thus weds the open landscape of the image in the background with an element in the foreground that instead recalls an interior, an inhabited human environment. But where is the reality or where is the fiction? Are we sure we can believe in the reality of pure and idyllic nature?

The artist’s working method is comparable to filmmaking. A team of professionals goes to the selected location and creates a set that meets all of the artist’s requirements and is therefore ready to be photographed. This procedure enables Laing to achieve results that would be impossible through digital manipulation of the images alone. The flower-patterned carpets Laing uses belong to a European tradition that was very popular and widespread in Australia when she was young. She thus “grafts” a piece of European culture onto the Australian landscape. She intervenes in nature and alters it. Reverberating in her works is an explicit criticism of the appropriation of the Australian continent by European colonisers, a process underway for at least 200 years. In the light of these considerations, Laing’s apparently idyllic and fantastic images suddenly take on a bitter and dramatic aftertaste. The artistic representation thus succeeds in arriving at a higher level of truth than that of the concrete visual reality it uses.”

Text from the Manipulating Reality: How Images Redefine the World website [Online] Cited 24th October 2012 and again on 3rd September 2020


“groundspeed (Red Piazza) #4 is from the series groundspeed, in which patterned Feltex carpet is laid on the forest floor or on the edge of a rocky coastal setting. This particular image uses retro Red Piazza carpet in the forest at the George Boyd Lookout in southern New South Wales. The carpet is obviously incongruous to the forest, even though its floral pattern is inspired by nature. The lush saturated colours are typical of Laing’s work. Here, red and green – opposites on the colour spectrum – are placed in combination, heightening the tone and conceptual vigour of the union. In each photograph from the series, nature is shown as living and abundant; from the fecund, green forest to, in other images, the ferocity of waves breaking against the coast.

The title is an amalgamation of Laing’s concerns: ‘ground’ refers to land and solidity, and ‘speed’ references flight and impermanence. Placed together these terms conceptually summarise the visual considerations at work. In a reversal of accepted norms in which nature is distanced from domestic living and where nature is historically sidelined by cultural pursuits, Laing figuratively brings the inside out. In so doing groundspeed makes concrete the unstable and provocative rapport between habitation and inhabitation, stillness and movement, growth and decay. Laing’s vibrant images subsume the visual in a historical, social and cultural dialogue where the ground keeps shifting.”

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website


Max Ernst (French, born Germany, 1891-1976) 'Forest and Sun' 1927


Max Ernst (French, born Germany, 1891-1976)
Forest and Sun




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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