Max Ernst 1891-1976
N05289 La Ville entière
(The Entire City) 1935
Inscribed 'max ernst' b.r.
Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 19 3/4 x 24 1/8 (50 x 61.5)
Purchased from the Redfern Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1941
Prov: With Galerie Van Leer, Paris; with Redfern Gallery, London, 1937
Exh: Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Redfern Gallery, London, June 1938 (31) as 'The Citadel'; French and English Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Redfern Gallery, London, July 1938 (24); Summer Exhibition, Redfern Gallery, London, July-September 1939 (146); French and English Paintings, Redfern Gallery, London, November 1939 (61); The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (28); A Selection from the Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, CEMA touring exhibition, September 1942-September 1943 (13)
Lit: Werner Spies, Sigrid and Günter Metken, Max Ernst: Werke 1929-1938 (Houston-Cologne 1979), No.2218, p.340 repr. (dated 1935)
Repr: John Rothenstein, Modern Foreign Pictures in the Tate Gallery (London 1947), pl.100; Uwe M. Schneede, The Essential Max Ernst (London 1972), pl.291
This is one of the most developed of a series of about a dozen paintings on this theme which Ernst seems to have begun in 1935 and which culminated in two large pictures of 1936-7 called 'La Ville entière’, one 97 x 160cm in the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice and the other 97 x 146cm in a Paris private collection, both of which have a larger expanse of sky, indications of an ancient ruined city in the distance and vegetation in the foreground. Ernst said in 1953 that this particular work was painted in 1934 while he was staying with Sir Roland Penrose at the Chateau de Pouys (Gers) in the South of France, and was executed in his host's studio, but it would seem that he was mistaken about the year.
It has also been known as 'The Citadel', though this is not the original title. The artist said that it should be called 'La Ville entière’ (not 'Study for "La Ville entière’
'). However, as Uwe Schneede points out, 'The "Entire Cities" are not entire at all, but ruined citadels' (op. cit., p.147).
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.210, reproduced p.210