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Modern and Contemporary Art
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Artist: Max Ernst, German, 1891–1976

Anthropomorphic Figure (Plaster Man)


Gouache on modelled plaster over plywood

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

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.

On view
20th century

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.

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.

Collection of the Société Anonyme: Museum of Modern Art 1920 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1950), 114.

Sam Hunter, ed., Max Ernst: Sculpture and Recent Painting, exh. cat. (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1966).

Gaston Diehl, Max Ernst (New York: Crown Publishers, 1973), 39, 95, ill.

Diane Waldman, Max Ernst: a Retrospective, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1975), 46.

Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Milan: Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, 1996), 91.

Edward Quinn, Max Ernst (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1977), comp. cit.

John Russell, Max Ernst: Life and Work (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967), Comp. cit.

William S. Lieberman, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961), 36, Comp. cit.

Uwe M. Schneede, Max Ernst (New York: Praeger, 1973), 116–30, Comp. cit.

Wulf Herzogenrath, Max Ernst in Köln: Die Rheinische Kunstszene bis 1922, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Kunstverein, 1980), Comp. cit.

William A. Camfield, Max Ernst: Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism (New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1993), Comp. cit.

Helmut R. Leppien and Carola Giedion-Welcker, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Wallraf-Richartz Museum, 1962), Comp. cit.

Max Ernst: Gemaldge, Plastiken, Collagen, Frottagen, Bucher, exh. cat. (Stuttgart, Germany: Württembergischer Kunstverein, 1970), Comp. cit.

Max Ernst, das Rendezvous der Freunde, exh. cat. (Cologne, Germany: Museum Ludwig, 1991), Comp. cit.

Werner Spies, Max Ernst, Das Innere Gesicht, exh. cat. (Hanover, Germany: Kestner-Gesellschaft, 1970), Comp. cit.

Norbert Nobis, Max Ernst: das Graphische Oeuvre, exh. cat. (Hanover, Germany: Sprengel Museum, 1990).

Pontus Hulten, Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Paris: Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 1975), Comp. cit.

Ernst Max, Max Ernst: Beyond Painting and Other Writings by the Artist and his Friends (New York: Schultz, 1948), Comp. cit.

Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Saint-Paul, France: Fondation Maeght, 1983), Comp. cit.

Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Berlin: Berlin Nationalgalerie, 1979), Comp. cit.

Werner Spies, Max Ernst: Oeuvre-Katalog, 6 vols. (Cologne, Germany: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1975–1976), Comp. cit.

Max Ernst, Ecritures (Paris: Gallimard, 1970).

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 such records is ongoing.