Surreal it is, surreal it ain’t

I have just finished the book, ‘Surreal Lovers: Eight Women Integral to the Life of Max Ernst’ by Margaret Hooks and discovered that the man was somewhat detestable when it came to the women in his life!  The book is an excellent read and I really recommend it!!  

Knowing about the lives of the artists does impact on how we see the paintings, so really I shouldn’t like his work, but I do, however, that makes me wonder why.  So, I had a look at Magritte and Dali in terms of their surrealist imagery and think I know what it is.

Dali, I like in small doses. I think his art is pretentious a lot of the time but there are pockets of brilliance. However, that reflects his personality too and I can’t see him as a truthful artist or as truly surreal – he tries too hard!

Salvador Dali; Soft Construction with Boiled Beans
(Premonition of Civil War), 1936  ©Philadelphia Museum of ArtPhiladelphia

Magritte is a total sweetheart and I love his art because he is playing with words, images, ideas but he wants to make us laugh – an ideal man, if you need to know things like this!  He said about his art- “It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery.” Isn’t that brilliant? 

So where does that leave Ernst? When I was halfway through his love affairs and relationships, I came to see him as a cruel man. He playacts at being rebellious, living a Bohemian lifestyle and he chooses women who actually do have the same ideal, despite the times. But what does he do? He reverts to the Kinder, Küche, Kirche mentality and this destroys the women who are in love with him. I think it is this aspect of his psyche that makes his art scary and thrilling as well as something you want to explore further. You don’t have to like them to admire their art, is clearly the lesson here.  If that was the case, there would be a lot of blank spaces to stare at! 


Max Ernst; The Antipope, 1941-42, ©The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976
Max Ernst; Attirement of the Bride (La Toilette de la mariée), 1940, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976

One thought on “Surreal it is, surreal it ain’t

Comments are closed.