Like other European Surrealists, Max Ernst came to the United States during World War II. Following his brief marriage to Peggy Guggenheim, Ernst met and married painter Dorothea Tanning. In 1946 they moved to Sedona, Arizona, where they had previously spent time. Ernst famously cited that he recognized Sedona because he had been painting it all his life. This particular work is an interesting exchange between the very Euclidian geometric forms that are found throughout his work (cones, circles, triangular perspective) and the masks of the Native Peoples of the southwest which he found so compelling. In fact, two years before this work was done, Max Ernst completed a work featuring a head much like this one but wearing a doctoral tam, called Euclid. Yet in this work, made in 1947, the rigid head he gave to Euclid has become more totem- or animal-like, speaking to the new influences of his life in Sedona. An obviously related, larger canvas from the same year employing this exact form set in a forest of vines and triangles called Design in Nature is one of the centerpieces of the Menil Collection in Houston.
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