Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Fallen Halo

Max Ernst was born on April 2, 1891. He was probably one of the most inventive, prolific artists of the 20th century. In earlier posts, I have shown some of his early dada collages which became the precursor of surrealism. He invented techniques which involved painting canvases and then pressing them together and letting the resulting chance configuratations of paint provoke his subconcious to hallucinate the final subject of the painting. He discovered a technique provoked by staring at the chance patterns in tile, wood and then rubbing them with graphite pencils to fix and compose his subconcious associations.
But, as a dadaist in the 1920's he was able to use his talent as a conventional figurative painter to convey ideas and concepts that provoked in a way that was accessible to the mass of viewers. This 1926 painting, The Blessed Virgin Chastising The Infant Jesus was a direct quote from the style of the renaissance painters like Giotto, who first discovered the evocotive use of perspective to highten the emotional focus of the subject of their work.
The painting itself was very controversial at the time and if exhibited in the window of New York City gallery today, could probably garner the same the response. It
si cute in a touchingly hut very offensive way. It crosses the line between controversy and kitsch in a way Jeff Koons could never dream of. I love the little halo of the infant Jesus fallen to the ground.


mud_rake said...

Apparently Mary bleached the boy's hair or he spent too much time in the chlorinated pool.

Who do you expect are the people in the window.

A fascinating piece, to say the least.

microdot said...

Could the three men represent the disciples who discovered the empty tomb? Or the servants of Pontius Pilate that whipped Christ at the stake? I don't know, unfortunately. As I continue my research I'll be looking for other paintings with the "three men" to see if I can decode the artists' intentions.
Ernst deliberately played with classical references in the painting.
Some find links to Bottocelli...
The blond hair of course is the classical aryan european depiction of a white blond baby Jesus. Ernst painted this in Germany in 1924 and was quite aware of what he was doing and who he was provoking.
Many of his works were included in the imfamous pre ww2 exhibition of "Degenerate Art" by the Nazis. Most of the work in the exhibition were destroyed.
Consider the fate of the great German dada constructionist, Kurt Schwitters.
More on Ernst is quite a saga. Much of his work that survived WW2 was smuggled out of Europe by a crafty Marcel Duchamp who set up a phony operation as a "cheese exporter" to America.
Ernst was imprisoned twice during the war. He was in france and was imprisioned as German national at the out break and then later as a subversive artist by the Germans after the occupation.
He had to marry Peggy Guggenheim to get a visa to leave Europe...and then it was a real spy story through Portugaul....
A real saga of the 20th century

Engineer of Knowledge said...

Hello Muddy and Microdot,
Ohoooo Baby Jesus getting spanked....dada artwork makes me so horney.

Hey, how about the three men in the window could be the Three Wise Men who followed the star to the manger?

Just a thought.