Ernst: a suggestive subjectivity

On 09 January 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

With this portrait, Max Ernst acclaims Leonardo da Vinci, whose treatise inspired his painting.

Max Ernst (1891-1976), Project for a monument to Leonardo da Vinci, 1957, oil on canvas signed, dated, titled and countersigned, 130 x 97 cm.
Result: €833,000
Adagp, Paris, 2019

In this portrait, you will have recognised Max Ernst's work painted in tribute to Leonardo da Vinci. The picture, which slightly exceeded expectations by garnering €833,000, evinces the artist's admiration for his august Renaissance predecessor: the author of a treatise on painting that inspired generations of artists. His theory concerning the stains giving rise to a wealth of images opened up endless horizons for the modernists, particularly the Surrealists and one of their most prominent figures, Max Ernst. He explored the subject while studying Philosophy at the University of Bonn, and this aroused an interest in the drawings and paintings produced by patients in a psychiatric hospital. His curiosity for Outsider art inspired the avant-garde artist to experiment with "frottages" himself in 1925, according to "Leonardo's lesson". In line with the Surrealist Manifesto published a year earlier, he also subscribed to André Breton's idea that "confusion is precisely what awakens the mind to new intentions".

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