Monday, 19 May 2014

Max Ernst (2/4/1891- 1/4/76) - Profanation of Spring

Even today Surrealism captures the imagination, with surprising force. Max Ernst, German painter, artist and poet was one of its primary forces. I am a great admirer of his work. In his painting Profanation of Spring painted in 1945 with its rich, bizarre portrayal he displays his fascination with the natural environment. Bulging-eyed insects. larval forms and subterranean anthropods, lurking in a dense web of decaying vegetation and murky humus.
Unlike Rousseau's jungle -like charm though  it had far more deeper, sinister implications, as Jon Russell  described  his paintings  of the 1940's (in Max Ernst: Life and Work, New York , 1967) it was to become one of his 'portraits of dissolution, panoramas of a world gone soft,'
Events of the day also weighed heavily on Ernst's thoughts, during this period. Nazi Germany had surrendered unconditionally to the allies on 8 May 1945. One might optimistically think that this  springtime victory over the forces of darkness as the auspicious beginning for a season of rebirth and renewal in devastated Europe. During the final weeks of the war, however, and following its conclusion, with the horrors of the death camps, and the sheer magnitude of Nazi genocide that became apparent to all, this may be the desecration of the life-affirming symbolism of spring to which Ernst alludes to in his title.
As the spectre of fascism lurks over Europe again, Ernst reminds me not to forget, as Spring smiles and awakes, the sense of foreboding menace and its jackboots are still stamping their feet, and raising their ugly voices. Deep in the undergrowth, sadly visible again.

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