Artwork Detail

L’oeil du silence (The Eye of Silence)
German, 1891–1976
Oil on canvas
43 1/4 x 56 1/4 "
University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, 1946
WU 3786
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
A leading figure of the European avant-garde after World War I, the German Dada and Surrealist artist Max Ernst painted this hallucinatory landscape while in exile in the United States during World War II. Ernst incorporated into the composition of his artworks elements of chance to liberate the unconscious. In this work he used the technique of decalcomania, in which a layer of paint is applied to a smooth surface, such as a piece of glass, and then transferred onto another surface. Here the impression onto canvas left arbitrary patterns and textures, some of which Ernst reworked to resemble exotic land formations, plants, architectural fragments, and the uncanny “eyes of silence” referenced in the title. Together these elements evoke a Europe in ruins and the artist’s own experiences of violence, internment, and dislocation. [Permanent collection label, 2019]