Max Ernst

Forest and Dove


Not on display

Max Ernst 1891–1976
Original title
Forêt et colombe
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1003 × 813 mm
frame: 1200 × 1012 × 66 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962

Display caption

Forests appear frequently in Ernst’s works and recall his feelings of the ‘enchantment and terror’ of the woods near his childhood home. Forests are a potent symbol in German tradition, and were also adopted by the Surrealist group as a metaphor for the imagination. In this work, a small dove, which Ernst liked to use as a symbol to represent himself, is trapped among menacing trees. The shapes are created using a technique he called ‘grattage’, in which paint is scraped across the canvas to reveal the imprint of objects placed beneath.

Gallery label, September 2013

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Catalogue entry

Max Ernst 1891-1976

T00548 Forêt et Colombe (Forest and Dove) 1927

Inscribed 'max ernst | 1927' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 32 (100 x 81.5)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962
Prov: With Galerie Van Leer, Paris; with Galerie Schulthess, Basle; Dr Robert Schnell, Zurich, 1947; with Galerie Suzanne Bollag, Zurich, 1960; with Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London, 1962; Friends of the Tate Gallery
Exh: Max Ernst, Galerie Van Leer, Paris, March-April 1927 (11) as 'Forêt et Colombe'; Max Ernst, Kunsthalle, Bern, August-September 1956 (40) as 'Forêt des Arrêtes'; Natur und Kunstform, Kunsthalle, Basle, September-October 1958 (not in catalogue); Max Ernst and Etienne Cournault, Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London, April-May 1962 (5, repr.) as 'The Forest'
Lit: Werner Spies, Sigrid and Günter Metken, Max Ernst: Werke 1925-1929 (Houston-Cologne 1976), No.1195, p.208 repr. as 'Forêt et Colombe'
Repr: Uwe M. Schneede, The Essential Max Ernst (London 1972), pl.204 as 'Forest and Dove'; Simon Wilson, Surrealist Painting (London 1975), pl.38 in colour

Max Ernst was haunted from childhood by a feeling of enchantment and terror induced by the all-enveloping atmosphere of the forest near which he was born. Following his discovery of the technique of frottage in 1925 he made many paintings in which he explored these hallucinations. Some of the pictures in this series include the rising or setting sun; this is one of a number in which the only sign of life is a solitary bird.

Although it was acquired under the title 'The Forest', the artist confirmed in 1970 that it was first exhibited at the Galerie Van Leer in 1927 as 'Forest and Dove'. Arp told Dr Robert Schnell, a former owner, that he remembered it being painted in Paris.

Published in:
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, pp.209-10, reproduced p.209

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