The National Museum of Western Art

update 21 February 2018

on display Permanent Collection

Max Ernst [Brühl, nr Cologne, 1891 - Paris, 1976]

Petrified Forest

Materials/Techniquesoil on canvas
Size (cm)81 x 99.6
InscriptionsSigned lower right: max ernst
Credit LineDonated by Yamamura Family
Standard ref.Spies 1160
Collection NumberP.1965-0005
Petrified Forest
(c) ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016, G0476

Along with birds, forests ranked as one of Ernst's most important subjects that he returned to over and over again throughout his life. "The Forest and Sun" series created between 1925 and 1928 formed the core of his Forest works, and this painting is part of this series. Ernst's image of a sun piercing through the dense growth of a desolate forest has frequently been linked to the landscapes of the German Romantics. Indeed, this painting shares a sense of mystical mood also found in German Romantics works. However, for Ernst the forest was not simply an unknown element that evoked a sense of unease. Rather the forest seems to evoke a somehow dualistic mutually compatible sensibility. "Joy and sadness," "freedom and captivity," "hope and unease," Ernst himself used these and other contrasting pairs of terms to describe forests. Ernst ably wielded his self-devised technique to paint this work that seems to invite a search for a mysterious internal landscape. Ernst called this technique "grattage". Ernst began to experiment with frottage during the Cologne Dada period (he himself emphasized 1925 in this regard). Frottage involves the use of various different objects; when a piece of paper placed over them their physical form appears when a pencil is rubbed over the covering paper. Grattage, a technique which gives the same effect as frottage, only on canvas, involves the painter scraping pigment onto the canvas with a palette knife, thus copying the form of the object placed beneath the canvas. Ernst likened this technique to the automatic writing in literature, and thus discerned a surrealist technique for painting. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.118)


Suzanne de Coninck, Paris; Galerie de Beaume, Paris; Donated by Haru & Tokutaro Yamamura, Nishinomiya.

Exhibition History

Gendai Bijyutsu no Souzousha Tachi: Showa 20nendai no Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Tottori Prefectural Museum, Tottori, 10 October 1989 - 9 November 1989, cat. no. 2
Surréalisme, The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, 13 July 1991 - 1 September 1991, cat. no. 61, col. repr.
Artists in Exile in America 1920's-1940's, The Tokushima Modern Art Museum Special Exhibition, 10 August 1993 - 19 September 1993, cat. no. 38, repr.
[Exhibition for Children] Exploring Mysterious Painted World, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 11 July 1995 - 10 September 1995
Modern Japanese Art-Between the East and the West, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, 1 November 1995 - 30 November 1995, cat. no. 49, col. repr.
Expressiveness of Materials, National Museum of Art, Osaka, 17 April 1997 - 22 June 1997, cat. no. 77
Tanka at the National Museum of Western Art: An Encounter between Poet and Art, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 25 July 2000 - 29 October 2000, cat. no. 64
The poet's eyes: Makoto Ooka and his collection, Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, 3 November 2006 - 10 December 2006, Ashikaga Museum of Art, Tochigi, 10 February-25 March 2007, col. repr.
Max Ernst: Figure x Scape, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya, 13 July 2012 - 9 September 2012, cat. no. 19, col. repr., Utsunomiya Museum of Art, Utsunomiya, 28 October - 16 December 2012


Annual bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. No. 1, 1967, Catalogue of the New Acquisitions. pp. 38-39, no. P-347. repr.
Les cent chefs-d'œuvre du Musée National d'Art Occidental. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1971 (Japanese), no. 28, repr.
Les cent chefs-d'œuvre du Musée National d'Art Occidental. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1975 (Japanese), no. 79, repr.
Spies, Werner (ed.). Max Ernst, Oeuvre-Katalog. Cologne, M. DuMont Schauberg/Houston, TX, The Menil Foundation, 1976, cat. no. 1160.
Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1978 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 83, repr.
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 121, col. repr.

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