Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



Man's Inhumanity to Man

Europe in turmoil


The painting which I did after the defeat of the Republicans was L'ange du foyer (Fireside angel). This is, of course, an ironic title for a clumsy figure devastating everything that gets in its way. At the time, this was my impression of what was happening in the world, and I think I was right.

Max Ernst, from his writings, 1948



The scene of destruction: The Basque town of Guernica у Luno after the bombing of 26 April 1937


Sergeant Yoldi was appalled: "There was nothing to be heard but the crackle and roar of flames. No one spoke and even the cattle trotting aimlessly through the streets made no noise. We were all dumb with horror. I had known Guernica before the war — there was nothing left of it. It had been a little town with red-roofed, white-walled houses. Now its streets were strewn with charred animal carcasses." On 26 April 1937, just twenty-four hours before Sergeant Yoldi arrived in Guernica, the town had been bombed by the German Condor Legion. This became the most famous of the Spanish Civil War atrocities, horrifying a world which had not yet grown used to air attacks on defenceless cities. The war began in July 1936, when General Francisco- Franco led a revolt against the Spanish Republic. The Spanish Left had won a parliamentary majority but was unable to restrain those among them who were deter-mined that their turn in power should be used to destroy the Right. Franco's revolt became a civil war, and Franco received the support of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany, which went so far as to send troops — using the Spanish war to try out new weapons and tactics. The Republicans were supported by volunteers from all over the world, as well as by Stalin's Soviet Union. Horrifying and sadistic atrocities were committed by both sides — Pablo Picasso, who was a Spaniard, made Guernica the subject of one of his most famous paintings. After Franco's victory the German painter Max Ernst created his spectral L'ange du foyer (Fireside angel), an apocalyptic monster bursting with destructive energy, a King-Kong-like Angel of Death spreading fear and terror.

Ernst was born in 1891 at Bruhl near Cologne, and as a painter he was quite "degenerate": or this is how he was described by the propagandists of the Third Reich. In 1921 Ernst moved to Pans, where he threw himself into sculpture, print-making and film as well as painting. There he became a participant in the French Dada movement, a short-lived movement from 1916 to about 1922 which declared that all established values, morals and aesthetics had been rendered meaningless by the catastrophe of the World War I. Later, in 1924, Ernst became a member of the Surrealist movement which followed Dada and was considered one of its most innovative members. The Surrealists still touted the importance of chance in their work, as did the Dadaists, but added to it more control and theories borrowed from psychoanalysis, emphasising the subconscious and the importance of dream imagery.

In 1937, the year he painted L'ange du foyer, Ernst learned that the National Socialists had confiscated his early work, which he had left behind m Germany. It was soon destroyed in the National Socialist effort to "purify" German art. We may suppose, then, that when he painted this work, Spain was not the only thing worrying him. When World War II began, the French interned Ernst at Aix-en-Provence as an "enemy alien", but friends interceded for him. He was released and ordered to leave France. He went to the United States of America with the help of the art connoisseur and collector Peggy Guggenheim, who he later married.


Max Ernst
L'ange du foyer (Fireside angel)

Max Ernst
L'ange du foyer (Fireside angel)


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