I introduced this painting as follows in 2011 :
World War II was a great shock to the inhabitants of planet Earth. The surrealist artists, accustomed to metaphors and symbols, went to express an anguished vision of the world.
The personal circumstances of Max Ernst had become difficult. German citizens living in France were suspects and prosecuted. Bucolic life with Leonora Carrington was no more possible. In July 1941, he emigrated to the United States with the help of Peggy Guggenheim.
Like all masterpieces of surrealism, the oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm that comes for sale is blurring the issue. It has a tragic title, The Stolen Mirror (possibly by reference to his separation from Leonora) and a significant subtitle, Product of France.
Dated 1941, probably painted in Santa Monica, this panoramic view of a seaside bordered by a road evokes the decadence of France at war, except that the monuments are inspired by Angkor Wat, this temple which anticipates what our cities will be after the end of the living world.
The technique of decalcomania is used by Ernst to provide a petrified texture to the living beings. Monumental pillars are transformed into naked women, or possibly it is the reverse. They shelter living but decomposed birds. A couple of lovers in the meadow is in a similar altogether sharp and rotting condition.
SOLD for £ 7.6M including premium
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's en 2011.