Tuesday, 23 December 2014


This month I have chosen a wonderful landscape by Max Ernst
It is called The Last Forest

Oil on canvas, 114 x 146 cm. Private collection

The Last Forest was painted between 1960 and 1969 - quite a long period for a picture to evolve. We have an earlier version. This too is called The Last Forest but has a subtitle:  
On Tuesday the Moon puts on its Sunday Best:

This early attempt lacks the density and cohesion of the final version. Both paintings, moreover, are very unlike earlier workings of this theme

Take, for example, his magnificent Epiphany of 1940

Here figure and landscape of tortured rocks merge against a threatening sky. The sun (or is it a moon?) is a mere blip on the horizon

The painting shown above is called Totem and Taboo and is dated 1941. Here the rocks are cruel and unforgiving and the sun a pale imitation of itself. It is a post-holocaust landscape, war ravished and sterile

Many similar paintings from these war years have a brutality entirely lacking in the much later, far more tranquil Last Forest

During this later period in his life Max Ernst had remarried and was living happily at Seillans, in the lovely Provence region of southern France

His wife was Dorothea Tanning, a major artist in her own right. I hope to look at her work in a later posting on this blog

Max Ernst's graphic work at this time also reveals an elegant, sometimes whimsical tranquillity - as in this lovely oil and wood collage of 1965, called Sanctuary

The painting under discussion - The Final Forest - reveals, moreover, an entirely different technique from the war paintings

Instead of the decolcomania technique of the war years, Ernst is here using a far more painterly, almost impressionistic style

Even closer inspection reveals the masterly way in which Ernst creates form and contrast by adding layer on layer of freely applied paint in warm, vibrant 'patches'. The yellows and blues are typical of Provence and appear on walls and shutters in most villages of that region

In short, Ernst has created here a landscape that is not only beautiful and serene but one that reflects the calm mood of a great artist towards the end of an astounding, often turbulent career

The Last Forest by Max Ernst

The illustrations for the above article are taken from Edward Quinn's Max Ernst - a limited edition of 750  published by Thames and Hudson in 1977

If you would like to see a range of Max Ernst's work, then click on the link below:


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