Created in 1947, ‘Claire de lune’ refers back to Ernst’s ‘forest’ series from some twenty years earlier. Many of the paintings from the series are now in major public collections such as ‘Petrified Forest’ (National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo), Forest and Sun (Art Institute of Chicago) and ‘Forest and Dove’ (Tate, London).
The forest, alongside birds, was an enduring fascination for Ernst sparked by his interest in German Romanticism and his childhood spent by woods south of Cologne. The subject matter evoked a sense of unease and allowed the artist to explore what he described as the dualities of “enchantment and terror”. Forests also held an important place within Surrealist painting, acting as a metaphor for the imagination. In ‘Claire de lune’ Ernst presents a mystical landscape formed from an array of iridescent colours scattered by the moonlight. The web of trees cut across the page, both drawing the viewer in and trapping them within the scene.
In 1941 Ernst fled war torn Europe to America with his soon to wife Peggy Guggenheim. The couple divorced in 1946, with Ernst then beginning a relationship with fellow surrealist painter Dorothea Tanning who he was married to until his death in 1976. ‘Claire de lune’ remained with Tanning after Ernst’s death before entering the collection of Ernst’s friend the renowned film director Peter Schamoni. Ernst and Schamoni collaborated on many occasions including the 1966 short film ‘Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astromomie’.
Tanning, New York
Galerie Ernst Beyeler, Basel
Peter Schamoni (acquired from the above)
Galerie Schöninger; Munich, Art Select; New York, Cavaliero Fine Arts, Max
Ernst. Gemälde - Collagen - Frottagen -Zeichnungen - Grafiken, c. 1982-84,
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Max Ernst. Landschaften, June - September 1985,
Apolda, Kunsthaus Apolda Avantgarde; Hamburg, Ernst Barlach Haus - Stiftung Hermann F.
Reemtsma, Max Ernst Traumlandschaften, 13 June - 12 December 2004,
no.37, pp.71 and 115, illus. Brühl, Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst / Die
Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 24 February –23 June 2013, pp.94 and 176, illus.
Dr. Jürgen Pech has confirmed the authenticity of this work, which will be included in the supplementary volume of the complete work of Max Ernst now in preparation, edited by Prof. Dr. Werner Spies in collaboration with Dr. Jürgen Pech and Dr. Sigrid Metken