Landscape (Arizona Mountains)

Landscape (Arizona Mountains)
Oil on paper
15.2 x 21 cm
Signed Max Ernst lower right
Sale: Loudmer, Paris, December 9, 1996, lot 44
Sale: Christie’s New York, May 15, 1997, lot 287
Private Collection, Belgium (acquired at the above sale)
VKS Art, purchased Sotheby’s New York, November 5, 2009, lot 181

Late one afternoon we got out of the car to look at a gigantic rattle snake that crossed Route 66 shortly before Flagstaff, Arizona. When Max looked up towards the nearby San Francisco Peaks, he turned pale […] The green line of the mountain’s peak was abruptly interrupted by the band of light-red rock under the pure magenta-red mound of the peak. He was staring at exactly the same fantastic landscape which he had repeatedly painted in Ardèche, France, not at all long before, without suspecting that it really existed … This one view would alter the future of his life in America.” 

Jimmy Ernst, the artist’s son 

Lee Miller

Max Ernst, Arizona, 1946

After his divorce from infamous American collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim, with whom he had resided in a large mansion and maintained a comfortable studio in New York City, Max Ernst settled in Sedona, Arizona from 1946-53 with American artist Dorothea Tanning. The couple, who had married shortly before in a double ceremony with Man Ray and Juliet P. Browner, was captivated by the remote desert landscape with its monumental red rock formations. Ernst recalled some of his earlier Surrealist imagery in Sedona’s dramatic scenery and light. With his own hands, he built a quaint cottage in the desert, where he and Tanning frequently accommodated their artist friends, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Yves Tanguy and Lee Miller. Max Ernst wrote his book Beyond Painting in Sedona and completed one of his masterworks there, the sculpture Capricorn

John Kasnetsis

Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with his sculpture, Capricorn, 1947

Ernst composed the present work using a technique called decalcomania, in which paint is spread over some parts of the canvas, and a glass panel, aluminum foil, or a sheet of paper is pressed onto it. Lifting it would produce interesting surface patterns through air bubbles and rivulets of paint that he would sometimes further embellish and turn into landscapes or mythical creatures. Decalcomania appealed to Ernst as a method to create imagery by chance rather than through conscious control. Linking fantasy and reality was a central characteristic of Max Ernst’s oeuvre. 

 “The joy in every successful metamorphosis conforms . . . with the intellect’s age-old energetic need to liberate itself from the deceptive and boring paradise of fixed memories and to investigate a new, incomparably expansive areas of experience, in which the boundaries between the so-called inner world and the outer world become increasingly blurred and will probably one day disappear entirely.”