Max Ernst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Fantôme animale unites Max Ernst’s experimental development of his artistic technique with his long-standing preoccupation with the otherworldly. The rectangular pictorial plane is divided into a series of tessellated shapes articulated through chromatic and textural juxtapositions. Nestled within the geometric composition of the work, the variegated blue-and-yellow head of the titular animal emerges from the depths of an inverted black triangle. With its rounded body and pointed face, the creature evokes the avian imagery which appears throughout Ernst’s oeuvre. The geometric quality of the painting illustrates Ernst’s sustained interest in exploring the properties of space through visual motifs derived from scientific and mathematical discourses. This impetus is overtly evidenced in the title of his earlier work on canvas, Euklid (1950), offered concurrently by Phillips in our London Evening Sale. The shared compositional qualities of the two works highlight the strategies developed by the German artist to convey his deep interdisciplinary knowledge through his idiosyncratic imagery.


    Max Ernst with Euklid (1950), photograph by Viktor Schamoni. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni. 
    Max Ernst with Euklid (1950), photograph by Viktor Schamoni. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni. 

    Executed in rich earth tones punctuated with bursts of red, blue, and yellow gold, the present work appears to be illuminated from within, highlighting the complexity of its surface where layers of paint have been scratched away to reveal the texture of the wood beneath. The technique recalls Ernst’s employment of grattage, a process in which a canvas primed with several layers of paint is laid on top of an object and scraped with a sharp tool to transfer the texture of the object onto the surface of the canvas. In the present work, the canvas is removed to facilitate direct contact between the artist’s brush and the grain of the wood beneath. Recalling the process of grattage, Ernst then accentuates the texture of the wooden material by scratching into the painted surface. Fantôme animale stands as a powerful testimony to the artist’s career-long commitment to evolve his working practice through experimentation.


    Collector's Digest


    •    This unique collection of Max Ernst works comes directly from the personal collection of renowned filmmaker Peter Schamoni. The two worked closely together on several collaborative projects, including the short 1966 film Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astromomie. Representing the depth of their personal and professional relationship, the collection also includes works that were made especially for these film projects and were gifted directly to Schamoni by Ernst.


    •    The collection reflects key moments in the artist’s career and personal life, encompassing a range of works in a variety of mediums from the 1920s through to the 1960s. It also highlights Ernst’s consistent interest in scientific modes of inquiry and discovery, with works borrowing ideas from the disciplines of mathematics and astronomy.


    •    Exhibited extensively and previously on long-term loan to the Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, the works were also included in the internationally renowned 2013 exhibition Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni.


    •    A highly significant artist of the 20th century avant-garde, Max Ernst’s works are frequently included in definitive accounts of Dada and Surrealism, and his works are held in the most important institutional collections worldwide.

    • Provenance

      Gifted by the artist to the present owner in 1963

    • Exhibited

      Kunstverein Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Villa Böhm, Abfälle vom Werk Déchets d'œuvres Max Ernst Originale und Grafik aus der Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 9 - 23 December 1978 (illustrated, n.p.; erroneously dated 1955)
      Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst / Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 24 February – 23 June 2013, pp. 112, 177 (illustrated, p. 113)

    • Literature

      Werner Spies, Sigrid Metken and Günter Metken, eds., Max Ernst Œuvre-Katalog. Werke 1954-1963, Cologne, 1998, no. 3372, p. 168 (illustrated)

Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni


Fantôme animale

signed 'MAX ERNST' lower right
oil on panel
22 x 16 cm (8 5/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
Painted circa 1958.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £69,300

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021