Scope and Content of Collection
Note on Cataloging
Title: Ernst O. E. Fischer collection of Max Ernst
Date (inclusive): 1912-1974
Collection number: P900001
Fischer, Ernst O.
30 flat file folders)
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
Abstract: A collection of prints by leading Dada and
Surrealist artist, Max Ernst, assembled by Ernst O.E. Fischer and comprising
164 sheets. Approximately 66 additional pieces in bound books are now part of
the Library's core collection. It constitutes a comprehensive selection of the
artist's graphic oeuvre and includes a number of unique examples.
Language: Collection material in
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Ernst O. E. Fischer collection of Max Ernst prints, 1912-1974, Getty
Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. P900001.
Acquired in 1990.
The processing and cataloguing of this collection was completed by
Brian Parshall, June 1997. Books from the collection, many containing original
prints by Ernst, were transferred to the Getty Research Institute Library. The
dealer's inventory contains a complete list of the books and prints in the
collection. One print listed on the dealer's inventory (item #229, "Geheimnis
der Leibe" 1971) was not found when the collection was processed.
Max Ernst, a leading Dada and Surrealist artist, was born in Brühl,
Germany on April 2, 1891. He co-founded the Cologne branch of the Dada movement
in 1919 with Johannes Baargeld ("Johnny Money" née Alfred Grünewald) and
mounted the first Dada exhibition in Cologne that same year. His interest in
technical and technological experimentation in all mediums is perhaps most
evident in his graphic work. Ernst had little formal instruction in the arts,
other than from his father, a self-taught amateur artist. Ernst chose instead
to study philosophy and art history at the University of Bonn, beginning in
1910 until his enlistment in the army in August, 1914. In his graphic work,
following a small series of linoleum cuts from 1912 and a recently discovered
(1985) woodcut from 1917, he entirely abandoned traditional relief printing,
the preferred medium of the Expressionists, in favor of intaglio and
planographic methods. These methods enabled him to employ collage elements
through the use of transfer and photographic technologies in combination with
the more traditional techniques.
Ernst's collages differed in several respects from those of the
Cubists, whose aims were tied to a formalist aesthetic, as well as from the
more politically charged work of Berlin Dada artists such as John Heartfield
and Richard Huelsenbeck. Ernst sought to conceal the collage origins of his
images by reproducing them photomechanically. He used black-and-white wood
engravings reproduced in magazine and catalog illustrations, carefully trimming
each image to produce a tightly integrated overall effect. This method
emphasized the primary importance of the contradictory qualities of the
juxtaposed images over formal considerations, in keeping with the basic tenets
of Surrealism spelled out by its foremost apologist, Andre Breton.
In 1941 Ernst arrived in the United States. In 1946 he married
Dorothea Tanning in a double marriage ceremony with Juliet and Man Ray in
Beverly Hills. He became a citizen of the U.S. in 1948. He returned permanently
to live in Europe in 1953 and became a citizen of France in 1958. The
overwhelming majority of Ernst's prints date to the last twenty-five years of
his life, when he associated with a small number of master printers, primarily
in Paris. He died there on April 1, 1976.
Scope and Content of Collection
Max Ernst has been recognized as one of the most significant of the
artists associated with the Dada and Surrealist movements of the first half of
the 20th century. In his graphic work, Ernst continued the innovative approach
that characterized his drawing and painting; his invention of
frottage (literally "rubbing," from frotter, "to
rub") in 1925 appeared in his printmaking as well. While Expressionist artists
were reviving the woodcut for its aesthetic properties, the overwhelming
majority of Ernst's prints were achieved by intaglio and planographic
processes, often incorporating photographic methods.
Separate sheets, frontispieces to books, and illustrations for books
written by Ernst and others bring Ernst's total print production to over 500
works. The present collection, assembled by Ernst O. E. Fischer, is comprised
of 164 separate sheets. The collection is therefore far from complete, but
constitutes a comprehensive selection of the artist's graphic oeuvre and
includes a number of unique examples. Approximately 66 additional examples
exist in bound books acquired with the collection and transferred to the
Arranged chronologically in consecutively numbered folders.
Note on Cataloging
Ernst's interest in technical experimentation presents a number of
problems in cataloguing his graphic work, since he continually blurs the lines
of separation between the graphic arts, drawing, and painting. These problems
are perhaps best spelled out by Werner Spies in his essay, "On the Graphic
Work," in Spies and Helmut R. Leppien,
Max Ernst Oeuvre Katalog: Das Graphische
(Cologne: Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg and the Menil Foundation,
Houston, Texas, 1975) IX-X. The separation of individual prints from book
plates has been problematic as well; that established by Spies/Leppien ("S/L")
and Spies/Metken ("S/M") [Spies and Sigrid and Günther Metken,
Max Ernst Oeuvre Katalog II: Werke
III: Werke 1925-1929 (1976);
IV: Werke 1929-1938 (1979);
V: Werke 1938-1953 (1979), (Cologne:
Verlag M. DuMont Schauberg and the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas, 1975-79)]
has been maintained here.
Genres and Forms of Material