Modern and Contemporary Art
PrevNext1 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Full-size image not available for download. Please contactRights and Reproductions.
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Full-size image not available for download. Please contactRights and Reproductions.
Artist: Max Ernst, German, 1891–1976

Papillons (Butterflies)

1932

Oil on canvas

65.1 x 81 cm (25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in.) framed: 75.6 x 91.6 x 3.2 cm (29 3/4 x 36 1/16 x 1 1/4 in.)
Gift of Collection Société Anonyme
1941.455
Influenced by Surrealism’s emphasis on unconscious or automatic procedures for art-making, Max Ernst developed frottage, a drawing technique in which canvas or paper is laid over a textured material and rubbed with a pencil to create a spontaneous, irregular surface. Ernst’s Papillons and La forêt (2002.15.21) both employ grattage, a variation on this rubbing technique that employs oil paint. In Papillons, after placing the canvas over a rough surface and covering it with multiple layers of paint, Ernst scraped away the outermost layers to reveal an arrangement of butterfly forms. La forêt is part of a series of forest images from the late 1920s, most of which include a solar disc and a bird trapped among branches. The dark forest was a popular image in nineteenth-century German Romantic art, and it was adopted by the Surrealists as a metaphor for the imagination.
Culture: 
German
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Status: 
Not on view
Provenance: 

Julien Levy Galleries, New York, to 1937; Katherine Dreier, 1937–41; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

Henrietta Means, “Surrealism and near Abstract: Blobs of Color, Unrecognizable Objects Are Shown at Art Gallery,” Charleston Evening Post (September 5, 1946).

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

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

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

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

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: Wurttembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, 1970), Comp. cit.

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

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

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

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

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

Max Ernst, exh. cat. (Berlin: Berlin Nationalgalerie, 1979), 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. (Saint-Paul, France: Fondation Maeght, 1983), 69, Comp. cit.

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), 269, no. 260, ill.

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

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

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

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

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.