Ernst, Miro, Tate Liverpool and a slice of cake

That is a title that has never been used before!!  Tate Membership means I skip between London and Liverpool…a lot, so I get my money’s worth.

First tip is to have the chocolate and orange mousse cake in Tate Liverpool with 10% off. That put me in the mood for a fun day with Haring, Op Art and the subject of this post – Max Ernst and Joan Miro!

The Tate Liverpool has one of the best permanent collection displays I have seen; connected through artist and artworks under the title ‘Constellations’.  I love the way art connects through time and through connections, so I ‘get’ this method.  Tate Liverpool: Constellations

The beauty of this curation of highlights is that it is not static, but fluid in such subtle ways; adding and taking away works, changing a constellation and always having something to surprise you.

Saturday, I wandered in and saw there had been some reorganisation and a new constellation:


The two paintings that I hadn’t seen before and almost tripped over my heels to get to, were:

Women and Bird in the Moonlight (Femmes, oiseau au clair de lune) by Joan Miro from 1949-50



Men Shall Know Nothing of This “Les Hommes n’en Sauront Rien”  by Max Ernst from 1923:

Men Shall Know Nothing of This 1923 by Max Ernst 1891-1976

Miro first.  The palette of this struck me and no, it wasn’t because of the chocolate cake! It’s warmth and gentleness oozed off the canvas.  Miro and I have a funny relationship and it was only when my beautiful beauty consultant explained about the colour wheel did I truly ‘get’ him.

The shapes and figures gently interact with one another, kindly and without any confrontation.  Miro demonstrates how humans and nature can work together without one destroying the other.

Turning round, there was a Hans Bellman ‘doll’ -that should have a post all of its own! But over on the wall behind the stand, was the Ernst painting.  You just know its Ernst with its symbolism beating you round the head.  Great he is, subtle he’s not!  But you do have to love the silver haired rascal!

I looked this up as I had no idea what any of the symbolism could mean.  His titles are enigmatic and smack of being too clever sometimes, but this one struck home.

The label says that on the reverse is a poem: ‘


The crescent (yellow and like a parachute) prevents the little whistle falling to the ground. This whistle, because people are taking notice of it, thinks it is climbing to the sun. | The sun is divided into two so that it can spin better. | The model is stretched out in a dreaming pose. The right leg is bent (a pleasant exact movement). | The hand hides the earth. Through this movement the earth takes on the importance of a sexual organ. | The picture is curious because of its symmetry. The two sexes balance one another.

This Tate description sheds some light on what Ernst was portraying here:

At the top of the painting there is a mysterious ‘sun’. From it rays descend to circling astral bodies – ‘the earth’ (covered by a disembodied hand) with attendant planets. Above, the lower halves of a man and woman copulate in space. An upturned ‘crescent moon’/’parachute’ supports a ‘little whistle’. From an arid desert of viscera and stones rise two strange protuberances, strongly suggestive of ambi-sexual phalli. All this takes on a distinctly Freudian character.

There is full detail here in the catalogue entry, of how this links into Freud’s writings.

Get you to Liverpool and drop by to see these – nothing beats the real thing!


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