With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
After being one of the leading figures in the Dada movement, Max Ernst arrived in Paris in 1920, at the invitation of André Breton. The pictures and collages of that period play along the lines of the hijacking of meaning and unusual, poetry-creating comparisons and juxtapositions.
In 1925, in Pornic, he by chance discovered the frottage or rubbing technique with the help of a sheet of paper laid over an old floor, and drawn on with graphite. Based on this principle broadened to painting, the canvases, set on surfaces with varied reliefs, are covered with pigment spread by knife, bringing out the configurations beneath (grids, string, wood) by scratching.
The Forest, made using this technique, is presented like an impenetrable fence. Beneath the black pigment, raked with a knife, there shows through the relief motif of grainy wood as well as the tracery obtained by string placed between the planks and the canvas. The colours (green, red and orangey-yellow) were applied beforehand, creating, through transparency, rich textural effects. The blue of the sky was added last of all, using the traditional brush technique. The moon’s disk, whose position in front of and behind the trees forms a visual aberration, lends the whole a hallucinatory character, which the artist managed to procure throughout his oeuvre, introducing viewers to the world of the unconscious and its mysteries. This work belongs to a long series of more than 80 works titled Forest, produced in 1927-1928.
Max Ernst, Brühl (Germany)
The Forest, 1927
© Musée de Grenoble