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Forest and Sun

Dark atmospheric painting of sun, obscured by clouds between two tree groves.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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  • Dark atmospheric painting of sun, obscured by clouds between two tree groves.




Max Ernst
French, born Germany, 1891–1976

About this artwork

Among his many recollections of childhood, Max Ernst often recounted his fear and fascination with the forest that surrounded his home. He wrote of feeling “delight and oppression and what the Romantics called ‘emotion in the face of Nature.’” By expressing his thoughts in these terms, Ernst linked himself with the spiritual landscape tradition of Romanticism, which conceived of an invisible realm at work in the natural world.

This dark and mysterious forest scene dates to one of the most creative periods of Ernst’s career. Spurred by the Surrealist leader André Breton’s proclamation of “pure psychic automatism” as an artistic ideal, he developed the innovative technique of frottage, his term for the method of reproducing a relief design (like the surface of a piece of wood) by laying paper or canvas over it and rubbing it with a pencil, charcoal, or another medium. In Forest and Sun Ernst used this technique to create a petrified forest, which he imbued with a sense of primordial otherworldliness. By scraping away almost-dry paint on the canvas (a process he called grattage), the artist produced the encircled sun at the center of the composition. Ernst painted six variations of the forest and sun theme. As in the other five canvases, the tree trunks suggest a letter in the artist’s name: in this case, a capital M.


On View, Gallery 395


Modern Art


Max Ernst


Forest and Sun

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1927


Oil on canvas


Signed, l.r.: Max Ernst


66 × 82.5 cm (26 × 32 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Bequest of Richard S. Zeisler

Reference Number



© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Extended information about this artwork

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