Max Ernst

The Gramineous Bicycle Garnished with Bells the Dappled Fire Damps and the Echinoderms Bending the Spine to Look for Caresses (La Biciclette graminée garnie de grelots les grisous grivelés et les échinodermes courbants l'échine pour quêter des caresses)

1921

Medium
Gouache, ink, and pencil on printed paper on paperboard
Dimensions
29 1/4 x 39 1/4" (74.3 x 99.7 cm)
Credit
Purchase
Object number
279.1937
Copyright
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Department
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
Max Ernst has 200 works online.
There are 14,893 drawings online.

Ernst was fascinated with microscopic images, which were first broadly distributed in the early twentieth century. Here, he created an overpainting on the ambitious scale of traditional oil painting by using a commercially available teaching chart. Ernst inverted the underlying diagram probably illustrating mitosis in the cells of a gramineous (grassy plant) specimen, and painted in a black ground. He combined these animated organic forms with what appear to be machine parts, while the inscription "The gramineous bicycle garnished with bells the dappled fire damps and the echinoderms bending the spine to look for caresses" lends amusing sexual connotations to the hairs, orifices, and protrusions of these microorganisms.

Gallery label from Dada, June 18–September 11, 2006

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Tristan Tzara, Paris. Acquired from the artist
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Tristan Tzara, 1937

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