Anthropomorphic Figure (Plaster Man) Artist: Max Ernst (German, 1891–1976)


Modern and Contemporary Art

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

The German-born Max Ernst was one of the leading advocates of the subconscious in art. Early in his career, Ernst was part of the Dada movement in Germany, and he later became one of the pioneering members of Surrealism in Paris in the 1920s before immigrating to the United States in the 1940s. Exploring different media—painting, collage, and sculpture—as well as techniques, Ernst often transformed the human body to create hybrid creatures. Anthropomorphic Figure (Plaster Man) is a tremendous example of how Ernst used texture and manipulated the object’s surface to conjure up humanoid forms. Here, he reworked plaster-covered panels used in Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film L’Âge d’or (The Golden Age; 1930), in which Ernst played the part of a bandit, to create a painted relief representing a robot-like figure.


Gouache on modelled plaster over plywood


27 15/16 × 21 9/16 × 1 in. (71 × 54.8 × 2.5 cm)
framed: 33 3/4 × 27 1/4 × 2 1/2 in. (85.7 × 69.2 × 6.4 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Collection Société Anonyme

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Gift of the artist in 1937 via the intercession of Marcel Duchamp; in possession of the Societe Anonyme since its 1931 exhibition
  • Ruth L. Bohan et al., The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, ed. Jennifer Gross, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006), 114, 173, fig. 22.
  • Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Milan: Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, 1996), 91.
  • William A. Camfield, Max Ernst: Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism (New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1993), Comp. cit.
  • Max Ernst, das Rendezvous der Freunde, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Museum Ludwig, 1991), Comp. cit.
  • Norbert Nobis, Max Ernst: das Graphische Oeuvre, exh. cat. (Hanover, Germany: Sprengel Museum, 1990).
  • Robert L. Herbert, Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney, The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984), 268, no. 259, ill.
  • Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Saint-Paul, France: Fondation Maeght, 1983), Comp. cit.
  • Wulf Herzogenrath, Max Ernst in Köln: Die Rheinische Kunstszene bis 1922, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Kunstverein, 1980), Comp. cit.
  • Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Berlin: Berlin Nationalgalerie, 1979), Comp. cit.
  • Edward Quinn, Max Ernst (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1977), comp. cit.
  • Werner Spies, Max Ernst: Oeuvre-Katalog, 6 vols. (Cologne, Germany: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1975–1976), Comp. cit.
  • Pontus Hulten, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 1975), Comp. cit.
  • Diane Waldman, Max Ernst: a Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1975), 46.
  • Uwe M. Schneede, Max Ernst (New York: Praeger, 1973), 116–30, Comp. cit.
  • Gaston Diehl, Max Ernst (New York: Crown Publishers, 1973), 39, 95, ill.
  • Max Ernst, Ecritures (Paris: Gallimard, 1970).
  • Werner Spies, Max Ernst, Das Innere Gesicht, exh. cat. (Hanover, Germany: Kestner-Gesellschaft, 1970), Comp. cit.
  • Max Ernst: Gemaldge, Plastiken, Collagen, Frottagen, Bucher, exh. cat. (Stuttgart, Germany: Württembergischer Kunstverein, 1970), Comp. cit.
  • John Russell, Max Ernst: Life and Work (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967), Comp. cit.
  • Sam Hunter, ed., Max Ernst: Sculpture and Recent Painting, exh. cat. (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1966).
  • Helmut R. Leppien and Carola Giedion-Welcker, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Wallraf-Richartz Museum, 1962), Comp. cit.
  • William S. Lieberman, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961), 36, Comp. cit.
  • Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), 114.
  • Ernst Max, Max Ernst: Beyond Painting and Other Writings by the Artist and his Friends (New York: Schultz, 1948), Comp. cit.
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

figures (representations)


Signed l.r. "max ernst" and dated l.l. "1930"

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