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At the Crossroads (En Rade)

Max Ernst

Artwork Details

At the Crossroads (En Rade)
Max Ernst
oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 22 15/16 x 1 in. (49.53 x 58.26 x 2.54 cm);19 1/2 x 22 15/16 x 1 in. (49.53 x 58.26 x 2.54 cm);14 7/8 x 18 1/4 in. (37.7 x 46.2 cm)
Gift of the Estate of Maxine W. Kunstadter in memory of Sigmund Kunstadter, Class of 1922


March 28, 2009
The controlled geometric style and luminous palette of At the Crossroads corresponds to the period when Ernst lived in Sedona, Arizona (1946–1950). Whereas many of his Surrealist paintings are hallucinatory in their quantity of minute detail, this one employs an elementary pictorial vocabulary of rectilinear planes and lines. Upon close inspection, it reveals an extraordinarily complex structure: the space of the canvas is not only fractured, but the layering of tone-on-tone color gives a countervailing sense of depth. At the same time the highly stylized liner forms of the birds, which are also outlines of three particular groupings of shapes, reassert the flatness of the picture, so that there is a constant shift between surface and depth.
Max Ernst was something of an ambassador for Surrealism. He was a founding member of the Surrealist group in Paris, and among those who escaped to New York as city after city in Europe fell to Hitler’s army. At the time he was married to Peggy Guggenheim, whose gallery Art of This Century (1942–1946) was a hub of avant-garde activity. Ernst’s Surrealist works, steeped in Freudian metaphors, private mythology, and childhood memories, were among the paintings on view at the gallery that had a profound impact on the direction Abstract Expressionism would take in the second half of the 1940s.

Subject Matter:

With its radiant palette of gold and trio of birds, this work suggests an evolution or transformation

Physical Description:

Three birds, executed with spare line and simple form, are set within an abstracted landscape of bright yellows and oranges.

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