Max Ernst - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Maximiliana


    The title for this special collection of Max Ernst works offered across Phillips Fall Sale Season is taken from a short 1966 film collaboration between Peter Schamoni and Ernst, Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astromomie (Maximiliana and the illegal practice of astronomy). The film and the 1964 book collaboration between Ernst and the poet-publisher Iliazad on which it was based takes as its subject the German amateur astronomer and lithographer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821 – 1889), whose discoveries were not properly recorded because his practice as an amateur was deemed to be ‘illegal’. Suffering persecution and humiliation, Tempel nevertheless discovered an asteroid which he named ‘Maximiliana’, a symbol around which Ernst and Schamoni would orient their deep friendship and many collaborations together.



    'The joy in every successful metamorphosis conforms […] with the intellect’s age-old energetic need to liberate itself from the deceptive and boring paradise of fixed memories and to investigate a new, incomparably expansive areas of experience, in which the boundaries between the so-called inner world and the outer world become increasingly blurred and will probably one day disappear entirely.'
    —Max Ernst

    From his early days as a Dadaist Max Ernst demonstrated a deep interest in the precision and specificity of scientific and technical instruments, a line of artistic enquiry that he explored on a technical and thematic level. Executed in 1930, Matin et soir pushes fascination this into new territory with the playful inclusion of a pyrometric watch, a conical tool used in the ceramic firing process to ensure consistency in the kiln’s temperature. Specifically used to measure heatwork, or the relationship between time and temperature, the pyrometric watch stands as a visual metaphor for the passage of morning into night referenced in the work’s title. While the alchemical qualities of the firing process would have undoubtably appealed to Ernst, the cone itself undergoes a transmutation of sorts during its use, softening as it reaches maturation, its tip bending and rounding down as we see in Matin et soir. A key theme running through Ernst’s entire oeuvre and fundamental to Surrealism, the present work uses a characteristic quick-wittedness to explore ideas around mutability and metamorphosis, condensed in the figure of his bird-familiar, Loplop.


    Presenting Loplop 


    Still from Peter Schamoni’s documentary Max Ernst: Mein Vagabundieren – Meine Unruhe, 1991, featuring an edited photograph by Arnold Newman, 1942. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni

    Although the sturdy rectangular form propped up on two, flat feet that dominates the composition shares the bulky silhouette of a ceramic kiln with which Ernst would have certainly been familiar, in fact the motif appears again and again in Ernst’s works from the early 1930s, significantly in his Loplop Presents series. All featuring variations of a beaked creature peering over a rectangular canvas, Ernst produced several of these works through the 1930s, when Loplop, ‘Superior Among Birds’ emerged as a concrete figure in Ernst’s work, and as an avian avatar for the artist himself.

    The totem symbol of Ernst’s Surrealism, Loplop was part avatar, part shamanic guide, presiding over the leaps into the unconscious and juxtaposition of strange, dream-like images that preoccupied his work during this period.


    Left: Max Ernst, 'Loplop présente les membres du surréaliste, 1934, Private Collection Photo credit Bridgeman Images © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021
    Right: Max Ernst, Loplop Introduces Members of the Surrealist Group, 1931, Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2021. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021

    Birds had long held powerful sway over Ernst’s imagination, the artist often recounted the apocryphal tale when, on a cold January morning in 1906, his beloved childhood cockatoo expired at the very moment his sister's birth was announced. Forever conflating these two momentous events, the young Ernst believed that his bird’s life had been given over for his sister’s, a foundational moment for the artist’s close personal identification with the animal, and his ‘voluntary if irrational confounding of the images of human beings with birds and other creatures’.i'Above the clouds the midnight is wandering. Above the midnight the unseen bird of day is soaring. A little higher than the bird the ether is growing and the walls and the roofs are floating away.' —Max Ernst A protean character, shifting between male and female, bird and human form, Loplop made his debut in 1929 with the first of three innovative collage novels, La femmes 100 tetes, where reproductions of popular 19th-century engravings were carefully cut and recombined in startling new forms. By the time the present work was executed the following year, Loplop was a fixture, as the artist describes: ‘By 1930, after having furiously and methodically composed my novel La femme 100 tetes, I was visited almost daily by Loplop, Bird Superior, a private phantom very much attached and devoted to me.’ii


    Max Ernst in his library, Huismes, 1963, photograph: Viktor Schamoni. Courtesy of the estate of Peter Schamoni 

    The Artist, and Metamorphosis

    'A painter is lost if he finds himself. Max Ernst considers his sole virtue to be that he has managed not to find himself.' —Max Ernst Embodying hybridity and metamorphosis, Loplop carries with him a kinetic energy that animates the present work. Breaking through the body of the bold, static, and flattened planes of colour dominating the composition, his familiar beak twists to the left, while a strange, curved line emerges from the protrusion of the pyrometric watch. Impossibly tail-like, Loplop, it would appear is undergoing a metamorphosis of his own, measured by the pyrometric watch.

    Unique in its biomorphic elements, Matin et soir departs from usual presentation of Loplop. The figure itself seems to morph between bird, mammal, human, and machine forms, Matin et soir speaking not only to alchemical and temporal change, but to the unstable and shifting nature of art and identity itself, reminding us, in André Breton’s words of other possible worlds ‘where former lives, actual lives, future lives melt together into one life; the life utterly depersonalised.’iii

    Exhibited widely and included in the artist’s major 1979 retrospective in Munich, Matin et soir is a striking example of Ernst’s work from the 1930s, remaining in Ernst’s personal collection until it was acquired by Peter Scahamoni in the 1970s.


    Max Ernst Among the Stars:  Astrophysicist Ravit Helled examines 20th century breakthroughs in planetary science alongside contemporary works by Max Ernst.


    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.

    i Max Ernst, ‘Biographical Notes’, cited in Max Ernst (exh. cat), Zurich, 1962, p. 23. 
    ii Max Ernst, quoted in Cahiers d’Art, Max Ernst Edition, Paris 1937, p. 24
    iii André Breton, introduction to Max Ernst, La femme 100 tetes

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Le Point Cardinal, Max Ernst, Œuvre sculpté 1913-1961, 15 November - 31 December 1961, no. 7, n.p. (illustrated with the artist's mount)
      Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Max Ernst, 24 January - 15 March 1970, no. 48, p. 148
      Kunstverein Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Villa Böhm, Abfälle vom Werk Déchets d'œuvres: Originale und Grafik aus der Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 9 - 23 December 1978, n.p. (illustrated with the artist's frame)
      Munich, Haus der Kunst; Nationalgalerie Berlin, Max Ernst. Retrospektive 1979, 17 February - 15 July 1979, no. 197, p. 289 (illustrated with the artist's mount)
      Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster; Kunsthaus Zürich, Relief. Formprobleme zwischen Malerei und Skulptur im 20. Jahrhundert, 22 August - 2 November 1980, no. 113, p. 200 (illustrated with the artist's frame)
      Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, DüsseldorfMax Ernst sculptures maisons paysages, 6 May - 28 November 1998, no. 29, pp. 64, 309 (erroneously illustrated without the artist's frame, p. 65)
      Münster, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Max Ernst läßt grüßen: Peter Schamoni begegnet Max Ernst, 27 September 2009 - 10 January 2010, p. 24 (erroneously illustrated without the artist's frame, p. 25)
      Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Entdeckungsfahrten zu Max Ernst Die Sammlung Peter Schamoni, 24 February - 23 June 2013, pp. 72, 176 (erroneously illustrated without the artist's frame, p. 73)

    • Literature

      John Russell, Max Ernst. Life and Work, London, 1967, no. 52, p. 350 (illustrated with the artist's mount, p. 321)
      Edward Quinn, ed., Max Ernst, London, 1977, no. 200, pp. 172, 441 (erroneously illustrated without the artist's frame, p. 173)
      Werner Spies, Sigrid Metken and Günter Metken, eds., Max Ernst Œuvre-Katalog. Max Ernst Werke 1929-1938, Cologne, 1979, no. 1685, p. 62 (erroneously illustrated without the artist's frame)

Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni


Matin et soir

signed 'max ernst' lower right; dated '1930' lower left
oil and pyrometric watch on wood, in artist's frame
24.4 x 18 cm (9 5/8 x 7 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1930.

Full Cataloguing

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡♠

Sold for £226,800

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021