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Max Ernst

/Works and biography

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Little Machine Constructed by Minimax Dadamax in Person
(Von minimax dadamax selbst konstruirtes maschinchen), 1919–20
Hand printing (?), pencil and ink frottage, watercolor,
and gouache on paper, 49.4 x 31.5 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 70
© Max Ernst, by SIAE 2008


Executed in Cologne the year Dada was established there, it belongs to a series of about fifty works dating from 1919–20, based on diagrams of scientific instruments, in which Max Ernst used printer’s plates to reproduce preexisting images. The impressions, once altered by traditional coloristic and modeling effects, occupy a position between found object and artistic product, like his collages. In both subject and style the series can be compared with Francis Picabia’s mechanomorphic drawings and paintings. Ernst shared with Picabia an interest in typography, printed images, and language; many of the forms in the present work can be read as letters. They function as well to describe a mechanical structure that can be seen as a symbol of sexual activity. Ernst’s machine is a fantasized solution to the psychological pressures of sexual Performance, as announced in the humorously heroic inscription at the bottom of the sheet.

credits: Hangar Design Group