Max Ernst

La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life]

About this artwork

This is one of a number of so-called 'jungle' pictures that Max Ernst painted in the late 1930s. His paintings of forests and tangled undergrowth derive from the rich Romantic heritage in German art. They also symbolise the fears and suppressed desires of the human mind. Looking at the picture more closely, the title becomes bitterly ironic. This jungle is actually ordinary undergrowth grown to enormous proportions, dwarfing a sculpture of a woman and animal living together in harmony. Instead of a paradise, the scene is a nightmarish one in which giant praying mantises do battle with other monsters in the entangled undergrowth.

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Max Ernst

Max Ernst

German-French painter Ernst was born near Cologne in Germany. After studying philosophy at university he turned his attention to art, and became the leader of the Cologne Dada group in 1919. He moved to Paris in 1922 to work with the Surrealists, adapting the techniques of collage and photomontage for use by the group. He worked in a range of media throughout his artistic career, producing work that was irregular, experimental and highly imaginative. The Gallery has an excellent collection of his work, including eleven paintings and collages as well as drawings, prints and illustrated books.

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