Friday, 31 January 2014

Alice in 1941 by Marx Ernst

Alice in 1941 (Oil on paper mounted on canvas - 15 3/4 x 12 3/4" - 40.0 x 32.3 cm)
by Max Ernst - James Thrall Soby Bequest; MoMANumber:1220.1979 

This painting uses the technique called Decalcomania. This process was developed by the Surrealist painter Max Ernst. You first spread thick paint on your support and then cover the paint with a sheet of paper or a piece of glass while the paint is still fresh. When you peel away the sheet of paper (or lift the pane of glass), it creates patterns in the paint.

I suspect that Ernst chose the particular support (Oil on paper mounted on canvas) because of the decalcomania technique. It is easier to obtain a good effect with the decalcomania technique when the support is laid flat on a hard surface. It would be hard to achieve a satisfactory result with a springy canvas on a stretcher.

Alice in 1941 - Detail

Alice in 1941 - Detail

The decalcomania created a wonderful effect of vegetation very close to moss, something that would be difficult and take a long time to paint. The randomness of the pattern adds to the natural effect.

Max Ernst then reverted to traditional technique and painted the sky a creamy white, as well as Alice’s face, neck, hand and leg. The way Ernst took advantage of the decalcomania technique brings a mistic edge to the subject. Alice seems to emerge from the vegetation in the background, yet still being connected to nature in an intimate way.

“Alice” is a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the character created by Lewis Carroll. The story has inspired another painting by Ernst (The Stolen Mirror).

Details for the MoMA museum

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497

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1 comment: said...

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