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The Entire City

also known as La ville entière

Artist: Max Ernst
Created: c. 1934
Dimensions (cm): 145.0 x 97.0
Format: Oil on paper laid on canvas support
Location: Tate Gallery, London, UK

The Entire City

Max Ernst created the art work entitled ‘The Entire City’, or in its French name, ‘La ville entière’, using a technique that he called “scraping”. He would place a piece of canvas over wood or another textured surface, and literally scrape paint across it, causing various shapes to emerge, which Ernst would then apply to his paintings. Many surrealists used this method of painting as it would add a uniquely natural element to their art.

‘The Entire City’ brings the viewer into the realm of Max Ernst’s mind, and provides a rare glimpse at the artist’s gloomy state of existence during World War 2, when Nazism took over his home country of Germany. The dark contours of the fallen city emphasize the dire circumstances of the era, while the illuminated ringed moon offers a glimmer of hope to the inhabitants. Ernst was arrested by the Gestapo, but later escaped, seeking refuge in the United States with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, a sponsor of the arts. He found happiness in realism again, and established a new life in America. It is fitting that the dark side of Ernst’s life during the war period manifested itself in ‘The Entire City’.

Analysis and Reviews

Werner Spies said it best when he described the artist’s methods in his book ‘Max Ernst: A Retrospective’ - “The expressive possibilities of collage seem so simple that one is tempted to think that anyone could employ them to equal effect. Yet when one reviews the works of this early period - the printer's plate prints, say, those compositions made with the aid of old line blocks found in a printer's shop - it becomes obvious that Max Ernst's brilliant accomplishment consisted of having developed a syntax by which the employment of this found material could be controlled. For all their independence from traditional artistic techniques and the imitation of nature, it is surprising how much stylistic unity these works evince.”

‘The Entire City’ is currently located at The Tate Modern, in London, England.


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