Max Ernst, German, 1891 - 1976
Untitled, ca. 1920
Photographic reproductions with pencil mounted on paperboard
2 3/8 × 5 7/8 in. (6 × 14.9 cm)
Work on paper (Drawing)
CA 5602

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
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“Glue does not make a collage,” wrote German artist Max Ernst in 1936, more than fifteen years after his first experiments with that technique. Instead of understanding collage literally, as a process of assembling a picture from pasted-together scraps, he described it as “the chance encounter of two distant realities on a plane that does not suit them.” This untitled work seems to exemplify that description, as a monstrous mechanical bird, composed of a biplane and the arms of a human woman, fills the sky, while two men carry a third below. The background image, including the plane, comes from a commercial book on airplanes published in 1912. The artist cut out the three men from a page in a Cologne teaching aids catalogue, one of Ernst’s favored source materials, which depicts the proper arm holds for carrying a comrade with a fractured arm. Ernst himself served in the artillery regiment on the western and eastern fronts in World War I. In this and several other collages from around 1920–21, the war seems to encroach. Here, the human body is cut apart, reconstituted as a mechanical hybrid, and posed in an uncertain relationship with three small, vulnerable men below.