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Max Ernst

Les peupliers

oil on paper on wood
1939
38,5 x 28 cm / 15 1/8 x 11 in.
signed lower right

In 1938 Max Ernst left the Surrealist group and fled from Paris to Saint-Martin d'Ardèche, a small village in southern France near Avignon, with his new lover, the artist Leonora Carrington. In the old farmhouse the couple bought there, they created an entire work of art adorned with sculptures and paintings, where they worked together and entertained their artist friends. In 1939, a year marked by extreme events, Max Ernst painted "Les peupliers". The direct association of two poplars against the blue background of the sky, as evoked by the title of the picture, is only taken in with the first look at the work, but this is soon shattered and overturned by the bizarre, strange and confusing forms in which the paint winds, curls and forms signs and symbols. The idyll was cut short by the outbreak of war in 1939. Max Ernst was interned in the notorious camp Les Milles, was released and then detained again; he escaped twice and finally fled to the USA via Marseille, Madrid and Lisbon during 1941 and 1942. The present work is one of a whole group of paintings in Ernst's oeuvre that contain rather similar stele-shaped structures and forms, created using the technique of decalcomania. “Les Peupliers” stands for the short reprieve, maybe even happiness, which Ernst found in southern France.

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