A Week of Max Ernst: Wednesday

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Rendezvous of Friends-Max Ernst 1922
On seeing this imaginary group portrait in Cologne recently I was struck immediately by the self portrait of Ernst, who is number 4 in the painting’s key and is sitting on Dosteyevsky’s (number 6) knee. Although Ernst is left of centre and has no special prominence in the composition the striking features, luminescent hair and pale skin draw your attention. Perhaps this explains the fascination that Ernst exercised over a number of beautiful, talented women throughout his life, including number 16 in the painting, Gala Eluard (late to become Gala Dali). For 1924 to 1927 Ernst was to be involved in a menage-a-trois with Gala and her husband, Paul Eluard, the poet responsible for the unforgettable Surrealist poem ‘The World Is Blue As An Orange’. Eluard is also represented in the painting, number 9 in the key, standing next to Raphael.

Atop a craggy cliff, under snowy peaks during a solar eclipse (signifying revolutionary change in art, politics and society) the members of the mouvement flou and their artistic forebearers gather. Andre Breton (number 13) wearing a red magician’s cape and touching the apparition in the sky is clearly the leader of the group and therefore assumes the role of  psycho-pomp guiding his followers through the previously uncharted realm of the unconscious, where they will emerge from to create a new reality, the SUR-REALITY.

Dreams of Desire 14 (Nusch by Dora Maar)

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Nusch Eluard-Dora Maar
Arguably the muse of the Surrealists, Nusch Eluard (Marie Benz) was the subject of works by Man Ray, Lee Miller, Dora Maar (see above and below) and Pablo Picasso. The poet Paul Eluard spotted her doing cartwheels down the street (she was an acrobat at the Grand Guignol theatre at the time) and was enchanted. They later married in 1934 and is the subject of his collection Facile illustrated with nude photographs of Nusch by Man Ray.

Nusch is the subject of several excellent photographs by Dora Maar, Picasso’s infamous weeping woman. It is rumoured that Nusch was  also romantically involved with Picasso and that the relationship was sanctioned by Paul Eluard ; Eluard was no stranger to open relationships having previously been involved in a menage-a-trois with his first wife Gala Eluard (later Gala Dali) and Max Ernst (see A Week of Max Ernst: Wednesday).

During WWII Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the occupation. She died of a stroke at the age of 40; a tragically early death that left the Surrealists and other artists who knew her bereft.

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