Max Ernst, ‘Deux Oiseaux’, Executed in 1926., Freeman's

While confined to bedrest during an illness in 1925, Max Ernst is said to have noticed and studied the patterns emerging from wood grains and other natural surfaces in his home. This prompted experimentation in a new technique, "frottage" in which he rubbed surfaces with graphite or crayon and explored what images would suggest themselves. In 1926 he took this a step further by applying paint and scraping it away when it was nearly dry, leaving a textured surface which he termed "grattage." The present work, executed that same year and depicting a quintessential Ernst subject, is a fascinating look into the artist's evolving technique that was so influential to the surrealist movement as a whole.—Courtesy of Freeman's

Signature: Signed bottom right

Werner Spies and G. Metken, Max Ernst: Werke 1925-1929, Cologne, Germany, 1976, no. 1053 (p. 135, illustrated).

Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York.
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, Sale #4304, lot 957, November 9, 1979, lot 957.
Private Collection, Pennslyvania.
Freeman's, Philadelphia, "Modern & Contemporary Art," May 15, 2011, lot 44.
Private Collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (acquired directly from the above sale).

About Max Ernst

Closely associated with Dada and Surrealism, Max Ernst made paintings, sculptures, and prints depicting fantastic, nightmarish images that often made reference to anxieties originating in childhood. Ernst demonstrated a profound interest in Freudian psychoanalysis, which is apparent in his exploration of Automatism and his invention of the Frottage technique. The artist’s psychoanalytic leanings are evident in his iconic 1923 work Pietà, or Revolution by Night, in which Ernst substitutes the image of Mary cradling the body of Christ with a depiction of the artist himself held by his father. Much of the artist’s work defied societal norms, Christian morality, and the aesthetic standards of Western academic art.

French-American, b. Germany, 1891-1976, Brühl, nr Cologne, Germany